Looking for new success stories

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Along with gaming success stories such as Angry Birds, Finland is home to many small growth companies that are aiming for international success by offering services to traditional industries.

Angry Birds is a Cinderella story unparalleled in Finnish business history. After Rovio released the iPhone app in late 2009, it has been downloaded millions of times. Last year Rovio received a 42-million-dollar injection of capital from a group of investors that included Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström and Accel Partners, one of the original investors in Facebook.

One of Rovio’s early supporters was Tekes, the Finnish Funding agency for Technology and innovation. Another Finnish organization turning ideas into money is state-owned finance company Finnvera, whose portfolio includes an estimated 130 companies.

While gaming and software companies can reach the world with the click of a mouse, the threshold is higher for firms that require a wide-ranging sales or maintenance network. Establishing a sufficiently broad network can easily cost between three and six million euros.

Success stories such as Angry Birds, however, can encourage investors to take chances on different kinds of companies.

The essence of liquids

One company supported by Tekes and Veraventure, which manages Finnvera’s early investments, is Numcore. The company was established when seven recent doctoral candidates teamed up to combine 3D-imaging and mathematical modelling for measuring liquid mixing ratios. A sensor is inserted into a process pipe, and the mass flow is imaged directly onto a computer screen. Customers can then fine-tune their manufacturing processes to boost quality and profits.

The most promising areas so far for the technology are the mining, food, chemical and oil industries. Numcore’s customers include several large corporations.

“Finland needs companies that serve basic industries, improve the competitiveness of local companies and create jobs,” says CEO and co-founder Anssi Lehikoinen.

Quicker drug development

After noticing how long drug companies spend on the clinical stages of pharmaceutical studies, Pasi Korhonen and Pekka Heikkilä made use of their background in statistics to develop a software product called eBEST Reports. The program can cut the reporting phase of patent studies from a month to a day. Korhonen and Heikkilä’s former employers, pharmaceutical companies Orion and Novartis, are now their customers.

Their company, StatFinn has received some funding from Tekes, while the rest of the growth has been covered through income financing. The company has been profitable since its founding. Corporate acquisitions and mergers are possible options as the company looks to speed up its sales and distribution.

“Extra funding would bring new jobs to Finland, because research in this area is very cost-effective here,” Korhonen says.

Tracking temperatures

Sensire ensures that perishable food is maintained at the correct temperature as it travels. The company’s automated wireless temperature monitoring system is easily installed and collects and transmits real-time data.

Sensire’s main partner is Itella, the Finnish postal corporation. The firm has more than 200 customers in Finland, and last year, its turnover exceeded a million euros.

“International growth may be realised through income financing, but we may also need external capital to do market research and build a partner network,” says CEO and principal owner Jukkapekka Asikainen. Landing a partnership with a global food chain could bump them up into another size class.

Text by Jouko Marttila
Photos by Rovio

Read the expanded article in Blue Wings (pp. 26-30)

 

Published April 16, 2012

Category: Market updates

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