Finns help startups reach New York

A new programme called Nest New York provides young companies with everything they need to set up shop in Silicon Alley.

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A new programme called Nest New York provides young companies with everything they need to set up shop in Silicon Alley.

Petra Söderling logs in to a social networking website and posts a picture of her company’s new office. “Top floor plus rooftop!” she writes. She has good reason to use an exclamation point: Few brand-new Finnish companies can boast of a Manhattan address.

Söderling obtained the space through Nest New York, a programme designed to help young technology companies gain a foothold in the important American market. The programme is backed by an impressive list of partners including Aalto University in Finland and the New York City Mayor’s Office.

“We offer coworking space in the heart of the New York tech centre Union Square,” says Ismo Rantala, the head of the project. “But we also offer all the necessary business service partners, such as business and immigration lawyers, public relations partners and whatever starting companies need. In addition, we have an accelerator programme, where a company can get mentoring, help with venture capital, and even pilot customers.”

Capital of digital marketing

|||Photo courtesy of Petra Söderling

Petra Söderling of Mobile Brain Bank found office space in Manhattan and other services for her company through Nest New York.Photo courtesy of Petra Söderling

At the heart of the project is a dual need: Many of the high-tech companies in New York have difficulty finding talent, while Finnish technology firms must break into an international market to expand. It was a perfect match for Söderling’s company, Mobile Brain Bank, which offers mobile application engineers to business customers looking to outsource development.

“It is an ideal market for Mobile Brain Bank’s services,” says Söderling. “I chose New York because it is the capital of digital marketing and finance, and also because many large companies have a presence there.”

She enjoys being able to book meetings downtown without having to find her away around New York’s concrete canyons. She also receives other services from Nest New York.

“I had a clear idea of what type of services I needed, and the guys were able to offer good providers to fill those needs,” says Söderling. “I have set up a US company, opened a bank account and am looking into immigration policies and housing through their services. Through Nest’s contacts I have been able to find customers and leads for sales representation.”

Individualised services

Companies interested in participating in the programme have to meet specific criteria. Rantala says that revenue and size don’t matter, but the company has to be ready to enter the tough New York market. They have to believe that the company has a chance to succeed and that Nest New York can help. Each company is different, so the service can be individualised.

|||Photo: david.nikonvscanon, flickr.com, cc by 2.0

Green light, big city: Nest New York aims to give companies a foothold in the tough conditions of the Big Apple.Photo: david.nikonvscanon, flickr.com, cc by 2.0

“Sometimes this might mean just offering a desk,” explains Rantala. “Sometimes this means a full-time commitment to building the company. In this case we talk about possible equity purchases or investments to make it interesting and successful for both sides.”

Fees vary upon what the young firm needs. If it only wants office space, it could rent a desk for 500 dollars per month. If it wants the full accelerator programme, fees are agreed upon separately.

Demand has been high. Rantala says they have already served about ten companies and have ten more currently in the programme, with an additional twenty expected during the autumn. Queries are coming in from other northern European nations as well as Finland. Interest has been so great that Nest New York is now looking at setting up a similar operation in Palo Alto, California.

Rantala notes that Finland “brought the world cell phones, the sauna, our education system and xylitol [a natural sweetener that does not cause tooth decay]. Maybe the Finnish, hard-working Nest model will be the next big thing to nurture future success stories.”

By David J. Cord, September 2012

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