A new initiative by the University of Helsinki and the City of Helsinki provides students and young people the physical space to meet prospective clients, brainstorm, and organize events. Helsinki Think Company, which has been active for just under a year, is a loosely affiliated association of entrepreneurial-minded students from a variety of backgrounds, mainly from the University of Helsinki.
I had the opportunity to visit the space in downtown Helsinki, and my first impression was that the space and its underlying philosophy are clearly a product of the new age of social and ethical entrepreneurship. Moreover, Helsinki Think Company seems like a product of Nordic culture that puts emphasis on tolerance and social interaction, with the onus on sharing.
Moreover, and perhaps atypically, Think Company is founded on an idea that seems to profess individualism and that views the government and the state -- typically an expansive actor in northern Europe -- as a hindering factor.
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I spoke with Matti Petteri Pöntiö, the president of the Helsinki Think Company board and a social and moral philosophy student at the University of Helsinki, who didn't seem to concur with this interpretation.
"I don't believe it has anything to do with thinking in terms of state interference," he said. "The main idea is that students and young people don't have to use their small living quarters to meet prospective clients. They can set up meetings here that might prompt future developments."
According to Pöntiö, the company has already produced a few successful startups, two of which he mentioned by name: Kaskas Media, which produces media content; and Kopla, a startup in the medical field.
"Some of these startups were born out meetings between like-minded people. For example, a few students came here for a Christmas party and met people who contributed to the launch and subsequent success of their company. People who come here believe in social entrepreneurship. Students come here to solve problems and source the crowd for ideas."
Unlike many other incubators, Helsinki Think Company believes that the eclectic pool of students from the university next door will create a new approach to entrepreneurship. Instead of associating all startups with high-tech, Think Company wants to bring together young minds from both ends of the scientific spectrum.
"When we talk about startups, people often automatically assume that we are involved only in the high-risk game of investing in high-tech startups. Our strength lies in the multi-scientific background of our community. We have a combination of sociologists, statisticians, and students from all kinds of backgrounds," Pöntiö said. "Helsinki Think Company is a gateway to the university where curious eyes can witness an intersection of the university's diverse pool of students."
It seems that the initiative is working. By providing a simple solution to a challenge that many young innovators face -- namely, lack of space -- Helsinki Think Company is able to attract a multitude of talents from a variety of sciences to come together and find ways to build successful startups, with each individual bringing something new to the table.
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