Finland’s Opportunity to reclaim former glory

by Florian Jensen

Last Friday marked a massive change in Finland. The by far largest Finnish company announced that it would drastically change its direction. Stephen Elop decided to jump from a “burning platform” into the unknown, but realized that by doing so he could not take everyone with him. Nokia’s decision to adopt Windows Phone 7 as primary operating system and terminate all long-term development of Symbian will result in many Nokians having to look for new jobs. But it’s not just the Nokia employees that will suffer, but also the countless contractors that worked for Nokia. The Minister for Economic, Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen, expects 20,000 jobs across Nokia’s sites in Finland to vanish: “You’re talking about 20000 people, it’s a big number”. One of those sites is Oulu. Nokia’s R&D facility in Oulu is currently the home of approximately 2000 engineers, of which 1500 have been working on Symbian and MeeGo. Most of them will face their jobs being axed.

Having been to Nokia in Oulu, I have met some of the most amazing people I know. And it is one of them who has come up with a rather nifty idea. Kristian Luoma, Product Manager turned Entrepreneur decided to do something about this situation.

What would happen if an extreme incubator would be set up in Oulu, where these bright minds can work together on the next big thing. Nokia started out as a small Finnish company and became the world’s leading mobile phone manufacturer with an annual revenue of €42.45 billion. What would stop the Finns from reclaiming former glory?

If there’s something that every Entrepreneur I’ve met has said to me, it was: Dream big! Achieve the un-achievable! “Oulu Fifty” is a vision for a programme with the insane goal of producing fifty start-ups in twelve months. That’s roughly 1 start-up per week! It would be a programme giving these talented people all the tools they need, such as shared office space, legal advice, exposure, chances to get in touch with VCs and much more. The goal is to create a vibrant community that fosters innovation and spins out seedable companies.

“Oulu Fifty” would run innovation and idea exploration sessions which would be open to anyone to attend. It would regularly have hackfests to perform rapid prototyping. It would seek out to consumers to vote on the best ideas – every week. It would educate its members on technology and other necessary skills – by mentoring and by leasing inspiring speakers to visit the campus occasionally.

This could be an amazing opportunity for both the Finnish government which is strongly encouraging entrepreneurship and the Nokians. But such a programme requires a few things to be successful. On one hand, “Oulu Fifty” would need support from the industry. Getting Entrepreneurs and VCs involved that would be willing to visit. On the other hand, this programme would need financial support to pay for facilities as well as a limited staff running the programme which would approximately be €0,5 million for 1 year of operation.

I personally love this idea, but all the credit has to go to Kristian Luoma who dreamt up this idea. This programme could bring Oulu back to the forefront of technological innovation and save the by Nokia abandoned local community. I sincerely hope that there is a future in this idea, but we will see what happens in the next few weeks.

Just in case you have €0,5 million lying around, and want to support this programme, do contact me: florian at florian jensen dot com

3 Comments to “Finland’s Opportunity to reclaim former glory”

  1. I think this is a fantastic article, and successfully shows how a combination of belief, passion and drive can truly benefit not just individual people, but whole countries!
    I don’t have any money to back the idea but where do I sign to show my support? : )

  2. Awesome! We’ll work on the page and have tools for showing support!

    -Kristian

  3. Brilliant idea. TBH I’d love to talk to someone high up in Intel. Every phone on the market is crap for one reason or another and it’s irritating me that no one seems to understand the combination of software and hardware needed to dominate the platform. It’s not hard – look at Apple and look at how fast Google caught up. I could draw some nice diagrams and concept art and walk them through the whole process. Fuck i’d do it for free just as long as i could get a free handset once they make them.

    Elop is a total dick btw and this whole ordeal shows you just how few actually run these large companies. In retrospect this was always Nokia’s problem – the people that made the decisions didn’t give a shit about innovation and just cared about their own bank accounts. I’m sure that they are really enjoying their villas and private yachts and are very happy about just fucking not just their company but also the Finnish economy. Then again when your about 300 years old there isn’t much more you really want.

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