Helsinki Business Hub, is the international trade and investment promotion and talent attraction agency for the capital of Finland. With their 90 Day Finn Program, hosted at Epicenter Helsinki, they are attracting the best international talent, founders and investors to Helsinki’s entrepreneurial scene. Finland’s need for more international talent, connections and investments are the three core pillars behind 90 Day Finn, according to Johanna Huurre, Director Invest in at Helsinki Business Hub.
Helsinki Business Hub, owned by the City of Helsinki, work to help foreign companies set-up their business, grow and develop in Helsinki, and work with international investors to find quality deal flow from Finland. They work to spread the good word about the great business possibilities Helsinki offers and help on a very practical level international investors, companies, and top talent to find the opportunities they are looking for.
The initiative behind 90 Day Finn
90 Day Finn is a program to attract the best talent, founders and investors to Helsinki. The people behind the program believe that the best way to know what Helsinki is about is to experience it yourself. From this belief, 90 Day Finn was born. In the program, tech professionals, entrepreneurs and investors from all around the world are invited to live in Helsinki for three months.
“Finland needs more talent, entrepreneurial spirit, diversity, international business connections and of course international investments. With the 90 Day Finn program we wanted to combine these” – says Johanna Huurre.
The original idea for this came in the middle of the global pandemic, when the way of working and people’s values were affected by the new normal. When the program was launched, the hope was that a few people might want to try a completely different experience by relocating to Helsinki. However, in only five weeks’ time, Helsinki Business Hub had received over 5000 applications from people all around the world that wanted to test life in Helsinki.
For selected participants the program offered relocation services to make the transfer as smooth as possible. During their three month stay, they follow a program that includes both business and free time events. Every 90 Day Finn participant also has their own HBH buddy who connects them to the local ecosystem according to their individual needs,
The idea behind the program is also that attracting investments, companies, and talent to Finland all go hand in hand and can benefit from each other a lot. With 90 Day Finn, Helsinki Business Hub wanted to test this idea in reality: is it possible to attract talent, entrepreneurs, and investors at the same time? According to the applications, the result is a true yes.
“Today’s tech talent can be tomorrow’s entrepreneur and investor, so in a small country like Finland, we aim to use all the synergies as much as we can” – explains Johanna.
The program has also gotten quite a wide international attention both in media and in tech communities which also has worked to strengthen Finland’s brand as an innovative country. As a result of the 90 Day Finn, many countries have already contacted Helsinki Business Hub, wanting to know how they can create something similar. The hope is that this program shows that by doing something differently, Finland can stand out in the global competition.
“Because of 90 Day Finn, Helsinki has been able to take a pioneer role in a new way of working with talent attraction.” – says Johanna.
The selection process
The selection committee at Helsinki Business Hub read each single application and mainly evaluated the reason why people wanted to come to Helsinki. The only hard criteria that the selecting committee had was that the applicants had the right to stay in Finland for 90 days and that they had some connection to the tech sector.
“It was important to find a group of people of different backgrounds and profiles. Because of this we now have a diverse group including investors, entrepreneurs, academic representatives, and other well-connected people” – says Johanna.
A total of 60 applicants were interviewed and 13 were finally chosen to participate in the program. The entire group is about 30 people when also counting the families.
Finland – a business and family decision
The reason behind applying differs a lot among the participants. Some came to explore if Finland could be the right place for them to establish a business or if it could be a good entry point for them to expand. Others wanted to learn more about the talent pool of Finland related to their businesses and some are looking for companies to invest in.
However, 90 Day Finn also provided a strength on the family side of things.
‘’I believe the family side has not gotten the attention that it should in talent attraction. If a family of a business owner or entrepreneur doesn’t settle into a new country, it, of course, affects the business side as well. For successful talent attraction, the process for the family also has to work”. – says Johanna.
The work-life balance is one of the strengths that the work culture in Helsinki offers, and this became one of the key ingredients in the program when making sure the entire families behind the businesses got taken care of as they relocated. Because of this, 90 Day Finn became a unique program that could attract a wider range of entrepreneurs.
Expectations vs. reality
This program was made in an agile way and with a pilot attitude. The aim was therefore not that all the participants would permanently stay in Helsinki but rather that it would be a nice plus if they would.
“Our thinking was that after this program, we would hopefully have Helsinki ambassadors around the world telling about their experiences” – says Johanna.
However, the reality exceeded the initial expectations. Many of the participants and their families want to stay longer than the 90 days. Two companies have already been established in Finland and there are many business opportunities that are now being explored with the participants.
“Hopefully this group will have a special tie to Finland in the future as well and we can make many more projects with them in the long run. In addition we of course have a pool of 5000 applicants, which we also want to attract to Finland” – says Johanna.
The second season is already in planning. Learn more about Helsinki Business Hub.