Raising a first funding round may feel like an endless stream of opportunities. Or more likely a deadly swamp that is trying to eat all your time and resources. In this article we try to demystify the process of raising external capital and walk through the different options startups have for getting funded in Finland. Here we are concentrating on the base case of collecting a funding round of 100-300k with 10-25% dilution. 

Location wise, you’re lucky to be positioned here, as Finland has become the most attractive startup hub in Europe, raising twice as much venture capital per capita as the second most attractive European country.

VC investments into European startups

In 2018 in Europe, by far the most popular funding source were founders’ personal savings, followed by investments by family and friends. These sources are often referred to as bootstrapping: bootstrap is a business with little or no outside cash or other support launches. In this article we concentrate on the money coming outside of founders personal pockets. The most prominent sources for first round external funding are here divided as follows:  

  1. Business Angels
  2. Early stage venture capital
  3. Accelerators
  4. Governmental funding
  5. Other opportunities

Financing source for startups, Europe 2018

However, before approaching the aforementioned parties, the first step in your financing round should always be to go through your friends and acquaintances. If you are able to find a person(s) from your personal network, who is willing to invest in your startup, you have a great start. The first investor is probably the most difficult to find. However, once you have your first investor onboard, it’s easier to attract other investors, for example business angels.

1. Business Angels

Finland has one of the most active business angel network in the world, Fiban. Through Fiban you reach an audience close to 700 business angels working and influencing in Finland. Every month Fiban receives tens of applications and the most prominent 10 get the opportunity to pitch in a Fiban pitching event. Didn’t get elected? Don’t worry, iterate, improve your case and try again. Not all the angels are present 24/7 and they might have just missed your deck – hence, you can always try to approach them directly through e.g. Linkedin. But don’t just shoot at anyone – try to find angels who share your values and vision. Too much supply? Choose the ones who can actually support you and your startup on your road to success.

Besides opening funding opportunities, Fiban also collects data about angel investing. Here you can find interesting info about angel investing including average round sizes, most popular industries, and average valuations in Finland.

In addition to Fiban, some big banks also have pitching events to match startups with their high net-worth customers. For instance, Nordea organizes Investor Speed Dating events.

Angels and VC’s often work together - it's your decision as a founder to choose the best investors in your team. 
Otso Laakkonen
Failed football player

2. Early stage VC’s

Finland has a good selection of early stage VC’s who invest in the very first funding round. Don’t know where to start? Maria 01 is a community of ambitious startups striving to innovate the world around them, and they have created a handy tool to get in touch with investors. Also Finnish Venture Capital Association has their own tool, where you can find the VC’s that match your needs. 

When contacting the VC’s, try to find the ones who share your values and vision, and who are in the correct size class with your startups phase. Be persistent. Even the best startups get plenty of rejections. However, try to learn from the feedback you get and reiterate your message. With just an idea, without a team nor a proper deck, your chances of getting financing are minimal. 

So what are the actual early stage VC’s investing in Finland? At least Icebreaker, Lifeline Ventures, Wave Ventures, Gorilla Capital, SuperHero Capital, Voima Ventures, Innovestor, Play Ventures, Butterfly Ventures & Aikainen (you can try here if you would be a good fit for us) are currently actively investing in Finnish startups. 

Angels and VC’s often work together – it’s your decision as a founder to choose the best investors in your team. 

3. Accelerators

In case you don’t feel you are ready for a financing round as of yet, it might be a good idea to join a startup accelerator program, such as Kiuas. Besides improving your business case, accelerators are great opportunities to build connections with your potential investors. For example, Kiuas has two programs: start & accelerator – start for the idea stage and accelerator for reaching product-market-fit. 

Kiuas has an impressive list of coaches from the very top of Finnish business elite. Many of the mentors are also involved in the operations of the most active VC’s – thus these programs are a great opportunity to build connections with them. 

When discussing accelerators, you can not fail to mention US based Y Combinator, which has helped dozens of top tier startups, such as Airbnb, Stripe and Dropbox. Another option is  Horizon: a European wide funding program for startups tackling climate change.

4. Government support

Finland has a good amount of government supported measures for startup funding. Business Finland is especially the go-to operator. Business Finland offers funding for research, product development and business development. 

Some, smaller measures such as Tempo and Innovation Voucher are possible to collect without private capital and can thus be used for preparing for a proper funding round. 

Business Finland’s R&D funding is often used to boost a financing round which has managed to attract private investors. R&D funding can cover up to 50% of the total costs of the project and is targeted for small & medium enterprises (SME’s) aiming for international markets. R&D funding can be raised as a combination of loan and grants. 

Business Finland and Finnvera have grants that are partly overlapping and sometimes after a negative decision from Business Finland, startups can apply for Finnvera’s development funding which is also targeted for SME’s aiming for international markets. Finnvera also offers Entrepreneur Loan for up to 100k euros.

For the best of the best, for startups that are aiming for rapid international growth, Business Finland has Young Innovative Company Funding. This funding is intended for startups that have been in operation for less than 5 years. This initial amount of funding for the first 6-12 months is 250k euros and is 100% grant.

Besides general support vehicles, Business Finland also has some special aids, such as Energy Aid for companies who are innovating to replace the old energy system with low-carbon alternatives and just recently BF published their new sustainable development aid program.

 Did you miss venture round because of covid? Tesi has their special program for the time of the crisis. Also the local Centre for Economic Development (Ely-keskus) offers support for startups and their business development projects.

Too many options? A good start is to become a customer of Business Finland. They will help you to uncover the support measures that work for your business.

5. Other opportunities

When talking about startup financing, we must talk about Slush, the world’s leading startup event. Even though physical Slush event was not arranged last year, historically it has been an effective matchmaker for startups and investors. During the pandemic, Slush has been developing their own startup tool and they are developing a new functionality for investor matchmaking set to go live in Q3 2021. Also, live Slush is making a comeback this year!

Business Finland is known as a go to medium when looking for government grants – this way Business Finland is able to reach hundreds (or even thousands) of startups a year. Luckily they have their own dealflow tool, where startups that are raising can make themselves visible for thousands of investors around the world. This platform is used by Business Finland’s global network of experts e.g. in London, Tokyo and Palo Alto.

A growing opportunity to raise funding is crowdfunding. Platforms such as Springvest let you upload your deck and raise funding through their platform. With these platforms it’s easier to get regular investors with limited capital to join the financing round. Another option is to ask for a loan from the bank. At least Nordea has their own startup department.

Haven’t yet decided if you want to raise capital or not? Read through our blog about advantages and disadvantages of raising external funding.  Need help in preparing for a financing round? don’t hesitate to contact us!

Categories: Funding

Otso Laakkonen

Founder @ Aikainen. Wanted to become a pro football player - didn't make it. Incomplete as a person and slightly overweight. Exited from VALA Group 2021. Now living the dream and trying to help impactful startups to grow and influence as much as possible.

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