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A leading start-up conference in Northern Europe and Russia, Slush was held at Helsinki's Cable factory in November last year."In a post-Nokia era, startups are emerging among an "empathetic generation" as a means not to get rich but to solve social problems.

Finnish gaming companies are having a moment. Just look at Rovio (Angry Birds) and Supercell (Clash of Clans), the rise of which has coincided with the unravelling of the once-unbeatable Nokia.

This surge in successful start-ups reflects an emerging culture of young entrepreneurship in Finland. Startup Sauna, a co-working hub and Slush, a start-up conference now said to be the largest event of its kind in northern Europe, are new staples of the Finnish entrepreneurial scene. And thousands of young Finns are beginning to identify themselves as entrepreneurs.

Finland is changing. What exactly has happened to foster a culture of young entrepreneurship in this frequently idealised "welfare state"?

Lack of 'secure work' in Finland

My colleague Noritoshi Furuichi and I set out in May this year to seek some answers. We interviewed more than 30 individuals, from secondary school students and young entrepreneurs to well-known role models and scholars. We were interested in what our interviewees thought of entrepreneurship and how they viewed the relationship between Finland's welfare state and entrepreneurial behaviour.

Elina Uutela, 24, is a communication studies undergraduate at the University of Helsinki who works as a host at the Helsinki Think Company, a hub for academic entrepreneurship. She launched her first content production company at 17 and went on, in 2011, to serve as the chief of operations for the expanding startup conference Slush. This event has engaged Silicon Valley icons and investors to inspire a new generation of techies across northern Europe. It brought Uutela in close contact with the Aaltoes, or the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, a student-run entity at Finland's Aalto University that has been recognised as a key catalyst of Finland's startup craze.

According to Uutela, from the perspective of young adults at least, there is no such thing as "secure work" in post-financial crash Finland. In a fluid, competitive context where proud symbols of the nation's economic identity (such as Nokia's chunky mobile phones) could vanish overnight, entrepreneurship appears to be a better option.

Entrepreneurs can enjoy a stronger sense of control (however constrained in reality) over their work compared with company employees. Though a certain fear of failure still lingers, Uutela said the personal risks of launching a new venture in the context of free university education and a supportive entrepreneurial community have become minimal in practice...

THE GUARDIAN 8 September. TUUKKA TOIVANEN
Lehtikuva / Roni Rekomaa

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Finland in the world press

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