From mobile phones to mobile games.
Finland has found there's life
after Nokia in a bustling startup scene that's produced hugely popular
game apps from "Angry Birds" to "Clash of Clans."
Mobile gaming is
fast becoming the Nordic country's new flagship export industry, with
revenues expected to double to 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) this year.
150 game developers were showcasing their ideas to global investors
this week at the annual Slush conference - a hotspot for startups in
Europe. The conference, which ended Thursday, has tripled in size from
2012, with investors representing venture capital funding worth more
than $60 billion.
"The whole startup thing here is amazing," said
New Zealander Duane Atkins, a former Nokia engineer who founded a
startup of seven people in Helsinki providing software for social
Many Finns hope startups in general and game developers
in particular will preserve Finland's position as a high-tech hub as an
era ends with the sale of the phone division of Nokia - once the
industry bellwether - to Microsoft.
Although still small compared
with Nokia, which in its prime had annual revenues of more than 30
billion euros, the games industry employs some 2,200 people in more than
180 companies nationwide.
According to UBM Tech, a global
business information and data company, Finland ranked third in a survey
this year of 300 leading European game developers who were asked where
in Europe they thought the best games would come from five years from
now. Only Germany and Britain - much bigger countries - ranked higher.
Finland's neighbor Sweden ranked fourth.
One of the most
buzzed-about Finnish game developers is Supercell, creator of "Clash of
Clans" and "Hay Day" - top-grossing apps for Apple's iOS software in
more than 100 countries.
Supercell started making the games for
tablets in 2011 with half a dozen people. Last month, the company
announced it was selling a 51 percent stake to Japanese investors for
Supercell chief Ilkka Paananen said Finns have
focused too much on Nokia, a company that became a symbol of the small
nation's successes and failures.
"There will never be another
Nokia, and there shouldn't be. We need to spread knowhow much more
broadly," Paananen told The Associated Press, adding Supercell wants to
invest in Finnish startups to help newcomers who show promise.
have so much talent here that there's no reason why we can't make this a
new Silicon Valley," he said. "It won't be the same as in the U.S. but
nevertheless a regional hub - just as it seems to be already becoming."
older company in the fast-changing industry, where success is often
counted in months rather than years, is Rovio Entertainment, whose
"Angry Birds" became an instant smash hit after its release in December
2009. At Slush on Thursday, Rovio's chief marketing officer Peter
Vesterbacka announced that the game has been downloaded 2 billion times.
in 2003 in Espoo near the Nokia headquarters, Rovio has turned into an
international franchise that employs more than 700 people worldwide,
including in the United States, China, Japan and Britain.
smaller startups are hoping for similar success at the annual Slush
event, which has also caught the attention of senior political leaders.
Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, accompanied on stage by the deputy prime
minister of neighboring Russia - a major investor in startups - opened
the event by appealing to the audience "to open their minds to new
Antonio Conati Barbaro, the head of Alleantia, an Italian
firm that provides cloud-based software for computers, said he believes
Finland - a country of 5.3 million with long, dark winters - is the
right place to sense trends in the industry. Last year, the Finnish
government spent more than 135 million euros on startups.
visited many startup meetings in Europe, but this is a must," he said.
"And you can see the Finns are taking startups seriously."