Nordic & Baltic Startups Hunting For London Expansions

Editor's note: this is a sponsored post by UK Trade and Investment

Whenever somebody asks me why Nordic/Baltic startups are performing so well, one of the main arguments tends to be the fact that they simply have no other choice. Coming from relatively small home markets, they simply have got to think global from day one. 

If you are in Finland for instance, you can probably conquer your home niche market in a matter of months if not weeks. This, forces companies to think about expansion early on and hence global success too.

So now that you have started your brand new startup and conquered your home market in a day or two, what do you do next? It may have felt easy to do so, but the real challenge is taking on the real world, which is full of competition, brilliant people and very large markets.

In a “NordicBaltic Tech in London” event that took place at the end of 2013 in London, some strong arguments were made in favour of either relocating or opening a second base there. The event was organised by UKTI Nordics and Baltics gathering over 50 companies from the Nordics and Baltics to have a look at what London has to offer.

During the event, the participants had a chance to look at some of the co-working spaces available such as the Level39, eOffice, Central Working and TechHub.

Later in the evening, they went to a fully-packed event at the Google’s Campus in the Eastern Part of London. As a bonus incentive to consider London as a potential place for their headquarters, all startups were met with reverse pitching from investors who were looking to invest in the Nordic/Baltic region and help them expand to new markets. Later, the startups had the opportunity to do some pitching of their own and hope to find a match.

We have previously written about some benefits that you might enjoy in London through the point of view of companies that have already established an office there. This time around, however, we really wanted to talk to those who were exposed to the idea just recently.

One of the companies present at the event was AltoGame, a startup from Helsinki making a 3D corporate learning and training game. When comparing London to Helsinki, Olli-Pekka Mäkirintala, Senior Partner at AltoGame commented: “We like to see ourselves as born global. In London there are corporate headquarters of global companies in our target group. Our disruptive offering (corporate innovation tool) requires this as in Finland corporates in general are not very open to new ideas.” This goes hand-in-hand with what we mentioned earlier, if you come from a small market, there is a good chance that you will simply have to think global from day one and plan your expansion accordingly. 

When you do so, however, you should consider other factors that might affect your decision: availability of capital, support, good personnel, the community, and more. It is an important decision and there are a number of alternatives, but London seems to be one of the easier ones to go to with a lot to offer.

According to Tiina Laiho, the CEO of Audrey, the dating site with real profiles: “The [London] market is so much bigger you have bigger selection of services, events, partners and capital investors available for start-ups. Every day there are a lot of opportunities to meet and network and talk to potential investors. Then again the competition is more harsh and there are companies from many countries which makes it very hard to stand out. Also everything is quite costly starting from office space, fees companies charge for different services and it is not always easy to choose/judge what event /meet-up really works for you.”

We have also talked to Jakub Majkowski, the CTO of Tellyo, the company trying to revolutionise the way we watch and share TV. According to Majkowsi, in London “...the startup ecosystem is pretty strong. There are many services: incubators, accelerators, many events as well as places to meet for people who want to follow entrepreneurship career. I believe the trip showed the power of the startup community. Having so many people involved in it gives many possibilities.:

London is definitely an attractive location, and yes, as we discussed - there are risks but also a lot of upside. Many treat it as a stepping stone towards the global markets, new investments or even talent search. If you do research, talk to organisations such as UKTI, that aim to help companies open shop in the UK and plan your expansion then you can avoid many of the pitfalls. For instance, you could try and attend the next introductory trip to the UK, just get in touch with Mari Aaltonen from UKTI.

Oh and coming back to AltoGame, they have already made the decision to expand and are currently in the process of setting up an office in London. According to Mäkirintala “London is much more international and open for new things - global and practical.”

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UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is the Government Department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. They also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s dynamic economy. Their extensive network provides market and sector specific information, location and office space guidance and practical help (e.g. company establishment, taxation and hiring personnel) to get your UK operation up and running. Their services for Finnish companies are confidential and free of charge.

More information on UKTI - www.ukti.gov.uk and on London’s Tech City -www.techcityuk.com or please get in touch with Mari Aaltonen

Top Image Courtesy Of Shuttestock // Business London

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