By @SimonCocking. Great interview with Teemu Polo who we met at #Slush2016. All-around startup guy. Bilingual (corporate and startup) business guy with strategic, tactical and operational experience from both sides of the table.

What is your background briefly?

I’m a former Nokia business developer turned startup entrepreneur who after few turns ended up at Helsinki City developing the ecosystem and helping other entrepreneurs thrive. Already at Nokia I was responsible for working with startups to identify and license great innovations which was a great, global viewpoint for understanding startups, but as a CEO of a startup – and failing one – I learned much more, and feel actually being entrepreneur for some time matured me into the current role.

1 min pitch for what NewCo Helsinki does?

NewCo Helsinki helps early-stage startups get to the next phase, typically secure funding. Our core offering is our great, senior advisors – many of them with extensive corporate or entrepreneur background – and their unbiased support and connections. We also have for example funding up to 10000 euros for expert services for a company planning to expand abroad, and offer co-working space and meeting facilities in our beautiful 1800-century building in central Helsinki.

Why is Helsinki a good place for startups?

Helsinki has a unique combination of properties making this an excellent location to run a startup. Location is neatly between Asia and Europe, while we have long history of working also with Russia, St. Petersburg is only 3 hours by train. Finnish business angel network is the largest in Europe and also VC funding is very well available. Nokia and Microsoft – along other large corporations – have educated thousands of really internationally thinking global experts.

While startups in general are booming in Helsinki and it has become internationally acknowledged startup hub, for mobile gaming Helsinki is globally the place to be with the likes of Supercell, Rovio, and extremely welcoming gaming scene.

Last but not certainly least, lifestyle in Helsinki rocks. Everything just works, everybody speaks proper English and this is big enough city to be fun also in the free-time.

What types of sectors do your startups come from?

Varies, really. We require scalable business models from our customers, and typically e.g. licensing and tech-enabled businesses tend to be more scalable than resource-driven businesses. There are certainly quite a few web services, software as a service, but due to Nokia and strong hardware competences in the area there are also quite a few physical devices.

What tips would you give for companies looking to do well?

Start planning funding early. If company is running out of money in couple of months, the options tend to be seriously limited. Then concentrating on business, achieving actual customers and sales, typically helps on funding as well – not only because of the revenue received, but also investors and public funding mechanisms appreciate customer commitment, customer revenue.

How do you help / what services do you offer / what are the most common problems faced?

Achieving “fundability” is a loaded problem. The showstoppers can vary from missing critical team members, such as sales director, to unclear product-market fit, which means uncertainty of the products ability to deliver value to customers. Each acceleration customer is assigned a business advisor which makes a customer specific development plan. While core of our services is our internal, unbiased business advisory, we offer array of services from “In search of Team members” events to private coaching sessions with investors to complement our coaching.

Tips for scaling out of Finland?

Finland is very small market – no startup can become big by serving Finland alone – and therefore scaling out is a necessity. International chambers of commerces, invest-in/export organisations, and similar can be of tremendous assistance. Also large companies have different programs to attract great startups into their ecosystems.

In NewCo Helsinki we focus on identifying different opportunities, opening doors for discussions and directly supporting – also financially – helping going abroad by partially funding expert services and traveling expenses.

How was Slush, how does it help the Finnish startup eco system?

Slush is huge, it’s certainly the main event of the year. It brings the worlds’ best investors, most forward-looking large corporations and media to Helsinki for few days. Slush has been also great way to highlight Helsinki ecosystem as a whole, and introduce the visitors to the other great events, organisations, and opportunities in the region.

Anything we should have asked / you’d like to add?

We host Junior Game Jams, 8-15 year old kids, both boys and girls, total 22 of them, learning to code games. It’s just so cool to see the energy and excitement when kids are handed tools to do something themselves.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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