Iterative improvements didn’t take us to the moon

The latest batch of projects funded by Rising North are both working on the strenghts of the Nordics while also addressing some of the known weaknesses. However, while we are busy making iterative improvements, another nation is ambitiously pushing for the stars.


Silicon Valley is the hands down #1 startup ecosytem in the world and in Europe London has carried the throne for a while (e.g. Atomico’s State of European Tech and Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report). This could, however, change at some point as other cities and regions are working hard to catch up.

During this spring a very unlikely contestant has risen to the scene and stepped up their game. Already before the new French president Emmanuel Macron took office, the country had been hard at work improving its startup culture. Macron didn’t just embrace the movement but put it into high gear declaring to make the country a “Startup Nation”.

A month ago the president launched the French Tech Visa, a program for founders, talent and investors interested to come to France to build the future. A similar intiative has also been in the works for years at least here in Finland but the outcome hasn’t even come close to what the French have created. Like everybody in the startup scene says, great ideas don’t really matter if the team can’t execute on them.

And France isn’t stopping with overhauling the visas. Last year Bpifrance, the country’s state investment bank poured a record 191M€ into local companies and recently announced a fresh round of 400M€ for future investments. The local ecosystem in Paris is also getting to enjoy the startup boom. Built with the help of the French billionaire and Iliad founder Xavier Niel, Marcon opened just two weeks ago Station F, an old railway station turned into the world’s largest startup campus. With two months in the office and already a number of achievements, it would be safe to say that Macron and the French are just getting started. London will be facing some serious competition.

Learnings from the French

The fact is that almost anybody can do iterative improvements but to do the leaps like the French, you also need the support from the very top. The leading politicians need to realise the trends, actively try to learn from best practices and turn the dinner and Twitter discussions into real actions. The worst thing isn’t failure, it is failing to take action.

Secondly, the private sector needs to take ownership of the communities they operate in. We can’t just wait for the public sector to do the work for us but rather we need to actively work on improving the world around us. We cann0t get comfortable in our ivory towers with our previous successes. There is always someone ready to run faster, to outperform the market leader.

Lastly, we need to embrace an open, diverse atmosphere. With birth rates at record lows and the population aging, we need to realise the potential of immigrants. Just in the U.S. a study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that immigrants had founded 51% of U.S. Billion-Dollar Startups. We can’t forget diveristy either. The Valley is famous for being a melting pot of people and cultures. The best teams have people from various different backgrounds all bringing their own ideas and opinions to the table to tackle challenges.

Stockholm is the only Nordic capital featured on the list of Top 20 startup ecosystems in the world.
— Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017 by Startup Genome

The clock is ticking and the competition is getting better on all fronts. The Nordics need to step up their game if the region wants to remain competitive in the future. At Rising North we are doing our small part to help the Nordic startup scene with financing new ecosystem initiatives. Today we are announcing the funding of five new exciting initiatives that will help to push the scene towards the right direction.

Apply to get up to 50 000€

Rising North is three-year project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and operated by the Finnish Startup Foundation. Applications sent to the fund are evaluated once a quarter with the next deadline being on September 15th. Projects organized jointly by at least three different Nordic organizations can apply for a grant of up to 50 000€. Previous projects and more information can be found at risingnorth.org.

The latest batch of funded projects

Nordic.AI Roundtables is a targeted series of roundtables, designed around the format of “Google Sprints”, in order to further the community building, coordinated marketing, PR, and internationalization activities of the AI ecosystem. Themes tackled will be issues within the AI ecosystem, including better solutions to working with public data, talent attraction/acquisition, data sharing between startups and corporates, and fundraising. The project is organized by the Nordic.AI (Denmark), Bakken & Bæck (Norway), and the Icelandic Institute for Intelligent Machines (Iceland).

Nordic MusicTech Nexus is working on realizing the global potential in Nordic music technology startups through a series of capacity building events and support schemes as well as by establishing a dedicated Nordic and pan-European investor network. The project will organize a series of online and live events in each Nordic capital to support the best Nordic music startups in the region and provide them with a clear track to elevate their business ideas to the next level by accessing relevant expertise, trade networks and finance. The organizers include STHLM Music City (Sweden), Music Norway (Norway) and Slush Music (Finland).

Sino Track is a startup induction program designed for Nordic companies that are interested in entering the Chinese market. The program offers a deep immersion into the Chinese market with themes such as market entry, legal and IPR issues, investment opportunities and marketing strategy. The program also provides companies with invaluable networking opportunities with local entrepreneurs and investors.The program will select 12-14 companies for the batch. The project is lead by Pivot5 (Finland) and the co-organizers include Result (Sweden) and the TechBBQ (Denmark).

FallUp was organized for the first time in 2015 and drew almost 2 000 students. This year the organizers are looking to make the event truly international.

Student Talks x FallUp is an open mic speaking competition for 300 Nordic university students and entrepreneurs, organized together by Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (Finland), Student Talks (Denmark) and Excitera (Sweden). The event is organized to emphasize the importance of speaking in entrepreneurship, motivate future entrepreneurs to learn to impact through words and to provide an opportunity to develop these skills and challenge oneself. By coming together, the Nordic entrepreneurship societies can support the learning and unique shortcomings of each other as well as create a culture of building up our future together as a united Nordic alliance.

Techbikers Nordic will bring over 60 investors, technologists and founders together to cycle 420 km for a one-of-a-kind event from Copenhagen to Berlin. This is a charity bicycle ride to promote increased collaboration between Nordic startups and to connect the tech ecosystems of the Nordics and Berlin. The event is organized by Nordic Makers (Denmark), Inventure (Finland) and Mapillary (Sweden).

Read more and apply by September 15th on our website.