The startup scene in Finland has flourished following the collapse of Microsoft-owned Nokia, according to one of the company’s former directors. 

Patrik Sallner, once Nokia’s director of insight and foresight and now CEO of MariaDB, told Techworld in London yesterday that Nokia has released more than 10,000 staff over the last decade, adding that many of the mobile giant's former employees have become startup CEOs or angel investors. 

©Flickr/Brad Scruse
©Flickr/Brad Scruse

“The good thing about Nokia’s demise right now is there’s a lot of experienced managers available,” said Sallner at a Nordic developer conference in Shoreditch, called Monki Gras. “Leaders of publicly listed companies and startups in Finland have their background in Nokia.”  

The Scandinavian nation, home to just five million people, has spawned startups such as Rovio, the company behind mobile gaming sensation Angry Birds, and venture-backed Kisoked, whose in-content advertising platform turns publishers' content into targeted ad placements based on contextual and behavioral data. 

Sallner  who has helped MariaDB raise €21 million (£15.8 million) from investors and secured Google, Wikipedia and Rackspace as customers  claims that ex-Nokia employees have been highly influential in building some of Finland’s best startups. 

Commenting on the strengths of ex-Nokia employees, the CEO, who spent 11 years at Nokia across a range of roles, said: “They grew up in a totally global tech company with very high ambitions and a very high growth rate. As a startup, you need to be planning to go global from the very beginning. You need to have high ambitions, you need to be able to deal with the growth. If you’re doubling employees every year it’s very challenging for a manager if you’ve never been in that environment before.  

“Regular companies add 10 percent [to their workforce each year] and that’s manageable but if you have to double size of the team it’s a totally different ball game. Nokia employees have seen that and lived in it. They know what it’s like to become a global leader."

He added that many former Nokia employees have a good understanding of legal, finance and HR, following the $5.44 billion (£3.60 billion) merger with Microsoft. 

Tech goliaths outsource R&D

But startups aren’t the only companies looking to capitalise on the abundance of talent coming out of Nokia. 

Large tech organisations from Silicon Valley and China have moved their R&D facilities to Finland in a bit to draw on the expertise of ex-Nokia employees. 

“We do have a lot of other international companies that moved into Finland and recruited,” said Sallner, before going on to cite Intel, Huawei, Samsung and Ericsson. 

The multinational tech companies are also attracted to Finland by the surplus of talented graduates.

Many of these graduates are coming out of Aalto University in Helsinki, according to Sallner. The university was created as a merger of three leading Finnish universities: the Helsinki University of Technology (established 1849), the Helsinki School of Economics (established 1904), and the University of Art and Design Helsinki (established 1871).

“It’s very innovation orientated,” said Sallner. “It’s been a very fertile environment because you have people studying technology, business and design, getting together.”