When Finnish investors and startups think about the US market, usually what comes to mind are New York and Silicon Valley. However, in the big US markets, there are other locations which can be more feasible for startups to begin their US launch. Patrick Visser, the co-director of FinnZone, now explains what possibilities Michigan, US, offers for Finnish startups.
Patrick, why Michigan?
Michigan has the most people of Finnish ancestry in all of the U.S., and in the world. The Finns who came to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.), Michigan, decades ago for work named it Amerikan Lappi and Kuparisaari, and said it reminded them of Finland. Back then, the U.P. was limited mostly to mining and forestry.
Today, the U.P. retains all its beauty, attracting thousands of tourists from around the world, but has added a diversified base of technology SME’s, advanced manufacturing, and engineering companies. The region is becoming a destination as people seek a better career and lifestyle balance. The cost of living is about one-third of Silicon Valley and the east coast.
We are trying to change perceptions in Finland that the U.P. is just a far-away location with only mining and forestry, and this heritage of Finnish immigration from many years ago. We have technology SMEs raising significant venture investment and even private equity, such as Orbion Space Technology ($10M), SightLine, Neuvokas and ThermoAnalytics. Michigan Tech University is a leading research and educational institution.
Any Finnish success stories?
FinnZone recently acquired a new client, Mesensei– a Finnish-based software company, led by Tuukka Ylälahti, CEO. FinnZone will help with a pilot project in the U.P, the first for Mesensei in the U.S. for its new “Community Design” technology product. FinnZone and Seppo Aaltonen of Varjo are in discussions regarding a pilot program for their AR/VR equipment and solutions with Baygull Studios, Michigan Tech University and possibly Finlandia University.
In late spring or early summer, FinnZone will be hosting a delegation in the U.P. of up to seven SMEs from Finland led by JAMK Institute of Bioeconomy and sponsored by Business Finland. The companies range from med-tech to mobility, advanced wood products and others. FinnZone has been working with Marko Luoma of XPort and Markku Paananen of JAMK to strategically plan the visits.