Rebirth of the startup ecosystem in Tampere, Finland7.6.2023
An active startup community, cooperation of public actors and their determined support for the startup path; research and test areas... The Tampere region's startup ecosystem has very promising ingredients.
The Startup Tampere ecosystem has an excellent basic setup and the region’s strengths are well examined. The region is characterised by a low hierarchy of ecosystem actors – people tend to be only one or two phone calls away.
– We have a lot of interesting test areas, a desire to do development work together with the public, private and academic sectors, or involve residents and users if needed, says Niina Immonen, Director at Business Tampere, responsible for business service development and business environment.
Right now, the region's startup ecosystem is doing reasonably well, estimates Timo Antikainen, Director of Business and Economic Development at the City of Tampere. The total number of startups in the region is monitored regularly. It has somewhat decreased since 2021, which is a phenomena experienced all over the world.
– The good employment situation obviously causes paid work to attract potential startup founders, and the uncertainty of the global situation has an effect, too, Antikainen says.
Startups of the Tampere region
However, in the Tampere region the number of startups has been decreasing less that in many other regions of Europe. Rapid changes are also quite normal in the startup world: the situation this summer does not necessarily indicate what happens next year.
At the moment (June 2023) there are about 120 startups at different stages and almost 40 scaleup companies in the ecosystem of the Tampere region. In addition, there are teams that develop promising startup ideas with various incubators and accelerators.
In Tampere, the Hervanta district typically houses technology-oriented companies, in the Kauppi area the emphasis is on health tech, while in Mediapolis concentrates on audiovisual productions. Companies whose product development does not require special laboratories are gathered in Platform6, the startup house in city centre.
In the Tampere region, startup-oriented operating culture unifies research, universities and companies. For example, Polar Night Energy tested its sand battery technology for the first time in the Hiedanranta district, Tampere.
– Innovations and the associating operating culture are creating valuable ground for the development of new solutions. They are often related to major global challenges such as climate change, says Immonen.
According to Immonen, the importance of the Tampere University is really great, because research-oriented companies are usually university spinoffs. They have usually the biggest growth potential, too.
– For example, strong expertise in signal processing is constantly spawning new startups in the region, as well as health technology, says Immonen.
Tampere, Finland – supporting the ecosystem
The Tampere region is known for its traditional industry, which is going through its twin transition at a good pace. The startup ecosystem is the renewing force for the regional economy. A lot of work has been done to ensure that the region’s larger so-called ’locomotive companies’ would be able to make use of the specialised expertise of startups.
– The startup field is where new growth companies are born. Without it, there wouldn't be, for example, Finnish gaming companies that have become international successes, says Antikainen.
The City of Tampere invests a total of approximately 1.2–1.5 million euros per year in the development of the startup ecosystem. The city's largest investment is paying rent for the startup house, smaller sums are used e.g. for growth programs and development projects.
There is also a region-wide support network for the startup ecosystem. The Tampere Region Startup Alliance consisting of several public actors was launched at the beginning of 2020.
The new rise
There was a time when Nokia and Microsoft generated strong teams of experts for the Tampere startup ecosystem. Both companies had their own programs encouraging those who had been laid off to begin their startup path.
A significant part of those teams are now region’s growth companies. Or then they have been recruited by international companies that have established offices in Tampere – precisely because they were attracted here by the local expertise.
– In 2017, Business Tampere set out to consider whether the startup ecosystem could be restarted in cooperation with Finland's largest cities. At the same time, the idea of a startup house began to take shape by the city of Tampere, recalls Immonen.
– The impulse to establish a startup house came when we met representatives of small startup-related groups in Tampere. Their opinion was that it was necessary to join forces and find a home for the community, says Antikainen.
The startup representatives founded Tribe Tampere ry, and examples for a startup house were explored in Maria 01 in Helsinki. The city went looking for a suitable premises, and when they were found, the community renovated them to their liking. Later the startup house moved, and the current Platform6 (P6) opened at the end of 2020.
Platform6 helps startups in early stages
Started in the middle of global covid pandemic restrictions, the first year of Platform6 was quite challenging. Building a startup hub is a lot about interaction with people, visits, events and happenings.
At the moment (June 2023) Platform6 has 78 startups, while it started with 32. A large part of Platform6 members are resident, having either an office or a desk in the house. Virtual membership is also possible for those companies who prefer to work remotely and still need access to the community and its networks.
– Platform6 works with early-stage startups, and is industry agnostic. Our startups vary from typical software enterprises to health tech and gaming. Lately we have seen the increase in energy related startups, says Alexandra Santos, CEO at Platform6.
Platform6 helps startup founders to feel familiar with all the ways of operating in the startup world and to navigate the available services. From a startup founder’s perspective, the peer support provided by the Platform6 community is really important, especially for the first-timers. Also, companies graduated from P6 are eager to stay tuned and help the next P6 generations.
– We are building a structured path for companies, helping them with legal and financial matters, bringing investors and corporations to Platform6. We are also educating founders with the startup basics in workshops, trainings and events, says Santos.
– Platform6 works well, because the companies there grow faster than the region's startups on average. So, as a conclusion, the community, services and peer support provided by P6 are helping startups for better development, says Antikainen.
Even if someone is not ready to actually found a startup yet but still interested, they are welcome to join community events organised by Tribe Tampere.
Building an ecosystem takes its time
In the current situation, a lot of effort is put on building pre-startup teams (see Dock or Demola.) Platform6 is the City of Tampere’s key project for early-stages support and the economic development agency Business Tampere focuses on the scaleup phase.
The startup ecosystem in Tampere is still being built but, according to Santos, the right ingredients are there, so it needs time to grow.
– Ecosystem is a long-term game. When you do something right today, you’ll see successes in the next five to ten years, says Santos.
Author: Päivi Stenroos