Brave new world of wellbeing


As Finland aims to be an international health and wellbeing leader, the possibilities for boosting personal health through self-care have never been greater.

Ancient Roman poet Virgil penned these words of wisdom: “The greatest wealth is health.” Today, thousands of years later, his sentiment rings true – perhaps more so than ever before.

Around the world health and wellbeing sectors have radically changed due to the surge in self-care products in health tech and superfoods, the quest for cost-effective solutions in response to public healthcare cutbacks, and the rise of wellbeing as a proactive lifestyle choice.

Health and tech

Finland is the first country in Europe to totally revamp its healthcare system, according to Christian Lindholm, co-founder of HealthSPA start-up cluster and a digital communications industry veteran who has led companies ranging from Fjord to Yahoo.
Lindholm and his HealthSPA co-founders Sébastien Gianelli, Pekka Sivonen and Kenneth Salonius see an opportunity in health-related technology in Finland. 
“There are 400 companies operating in the Finnish health tech sector with a turnover of about 3 billion euros,” says Pekka Sivonen, a third generation entrepreneur and founder of Digia, a publicly listed mobile software company.
“We want to establish Finland as a hub for health and wellbeing,” says Sébastien Gianelli, who in 2012 joined Lindholm at Koru, a software company focused on wearable smart devices.
HealthSPA’s mission is to bridge small start-ups with large established international companies such as GE Healthcare, Nokia and Samsung. “Big companies are looking for fresh ideas, which is what start-ups offer. In turn, large companies can provide infrastructure and funding that new ventures often need,” says Kenneth Salonius, a young entrepreneur in the health and wellbeing field.
At Slush, one of Europe’s leading start-up events held every November in Helsinki, the health stream has been the biggest-of-all theme areas during the last two years. 

Health = happiness

Finland has an international track record of exceling in areas such as technology and wellbeing – last year the country of 5.4 million ranked eighth in the OECD’s Better Life Index, moving up four places from the previous year.
The strong telecommunications history makes pairing health and wellbeing with tech a natural fit, according to Gianelli. “Look at gaming companies Supercell and Rovio, and cyber security and data expertise with F-Secure and Linux, for example. Data hosting is also world-class with companies such as Yandex and Google setting up centers here,” he says.
Behind all the high tech is a way of life that favors simplicity and a connection to nature. “The Nordic lifestyle is made up of many things including the world’s purest food and clean nature, which are part of a winning formula for health,” says Sivonen.

Ones to watch

Will the rise of the quantified self – self-knowledge through self-tracking with technology that allows people to monitor and improve their health and wellbeing – transform the accessories market this year? 

A number of Finnish companies are exceling in the wearables (clothing and accessories that incorporate technology) market. They include heart rate monitor Firstbeat; motivational diabetes management system MODZ; training and performance management solutions company Omegawave; and Navigil personal safety trackers for eldercare. 


Natural ambition

“We want to be the Red Bull of natural superfoods,” says Tero Isokauppila, founder of Four Sigma Foods, which specializes in extracting the powers of mushrooms into sachet-size portions of energy-boosting drinks.
As Isokauppila points out, Asians have used mushrooms for thousands of years. Of the 150,000 known species of fungi about 300 have been shown to have medicinal properties, he explains, adding that: “medicinal mushrooms have given us pharmaceutical medicines such as penicillin.”
Isokauppila, currently based in New York City, grew up foraging for mushrooms and berries with his mother in Tampere, Finland, where his family has farmed since the 1600s. ”I really feel strongly about educating and innovating: mushrooms are vital to the ecosystem and in many cultures they’re overlooked,” he says.
Four Sigma Foods’ Instant Chaga, said to have the same amount of antioxidants as 18 kilograms (45 pounds) of carrots, recently made the glossy pages of the American edition of Vogue. The company’s products are sold in more than 20 countries and available at organic grocery stores such as Whole Foods in the US, Canada and the UK.


Launched in January 2015, Ambronite is a practical all-natural, organic meal-drink that uses 20 real-food ingredients ranging from oats and apples to spirulina and sea buckthorn. Many of the ingredients are sourced from Finland.
“We wanted to use only the most nutrient dense ingredients in their purest form in our drinkable meal,” says Ambronite co-founder Simo Suoheimo.
The idea behind Ambronite – which recently crowdfunded more than 100,000 euros – is not to replace meals, but to provide a healthy option when you are strapped for time. 
“Wild nature has always been my source of inspiration and balance,” says Suoheimo.
Text by Katja Pantzar
Photo by iStock
A longer version of this article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (February 2015).


Published January 29, 2015

Category: Corporate Responsibility