Introducing Nordea – Finalist of MSF 2020

Meet Nordea, one of the four finalists in this year’s Most Startup Friendly Company in Finland competition, with Vesa Riihimäki, Head of Startup & Growth and Teija Nousiainen, Deal Flow Manager, telling more about their startup activities.

Nordea is a leading Nordic universal bank. We are helping our customers realise their dreams and aspirations – and we have done that for 200 years. We want to make a real difference for our customers and the communities where we operate – by being a strong and personal financial partner. Nordea has 9,3 million household customers, 530 000 Small & medium sized companies and 2650 large corporates & institutions as customers. Nordea’s Startup & Growth has a Nordic wide presence and is focused on serving scalable high growth companies. 

Startup & Growth unit

Nordea has a long history with startups. In 2012-2014 Nordea was delivering key content for Nokia Bridge program. That gave us understanding of small pre seed tech companies and their logic and the financing dos and don’ts. In 2015-2017 we ran first a Finnish accelerator, then two times a global/Nordic one. Key target was to learn to cooperate with startups, adopt the culture – at all organisational levels – and be prepared to live with the raising fintech ecosystem, competition and bring Nordea’s business development to next level via partnership strategy.

In 2018 we moved forward after 3 years of Accelerators. We launched Nordea Ventures CVC and our Open Banking & Digital Banking organizations focused more on growth stage startups in relation to partnerships. In addition, several Intrapreneurship programs were also executed. Nordea Startup & Growth was initially structured 2013 and became nationwide unit 2017 – three other Nordic countries started similar units in 2018. Today Nordea Startup & Growth serves over 3500 startups and has excellent global venture network.

Nordea has been Slush’s main partner for several years, also this year.

Services beyond banking

In Nordea we collaborate with startups in two ways. First, we have 3500 startups/growth companies as our customers and our Startup & Growth units in all Nordic markets are focusing on helping the companies to grow. The Startup & Growth unit was first established in Finland in 2013. At that time Nordea’s business banking saw that there was a need for a specialized unit that would concentrate on the needs of startups/scaleups as their way of doing business varied from traditional companies’ needs.

The target from the beginning has been that we offer services beyond banking, provide a own contact person from day one and also finance startups, which is not typical for incumbent banks. The strategy has been a success and after these years Nordea Startup & Growth is a well-known and active player in the startup ecosystem, our market share in Finland is 80% and the customer satisfaction is in high level. After having the good experience from Finland, the Startup & Growth units were also established in other Nordic markets in 2018.

The other way Nordea is collaborating with startups is by partnering with fintechs in developing Nordea’s services and investing in startups. Nordea Ventures (Nordea’s CVC) has done several fintech investments within few years. As Nordea is highly digital bank and the demand for digital services is continuously increasing, we are also closely collaborating with numerous startups and making partnerships with them to develop our services. 

This year the Investor speed date event was held as an online version. There was one event for startups looking for seed-phase funding and another event for scaleups raising their A/B round. In those two events 100 VCs (Global, European, Nordic) and 100 startups/scaleups participated the event and 300 1-to-1 meetings were carried out between the startups/scaleups and VCs. The feedback was really positive and participants found it beneficial. Nordea continues organizing these Investor Speed dates also in the future and next ones are during spring 2021. Startups/scaleups can send their applications to the events from here

Specialized for startups

First of all, when thinking about the Startup & Growth business, we see that by serving the high growth companies and specializing to their needs we are able to grow their business, Nordea’s business and also help societies as growing companies brings growth to economies. Then when thinking about how the startups benefit by choosing us as their financial/banking partner – is that we can offer our services and expertise to them that goes beyond the traditional banking services. We have worked with thousands of companies within the last seven years – so we know the pains of quickly growing companies and for instance we offer Deal Flow Management services that no other bank does. 

Then again when we think about the development side and why Nordea collaborates with fintechs – it is quite obvious that as the speed of change is increasing all the time and more fintechs are coming up with good solutions, Nordea wants to collaborate with the most promising ones so that we can offer our customers the best services and customer experience. And of the question why a fintech should collaborate with Nordea. We are a Nordic bank with millions of household customers and over half a million corporate customers, so there is a great customer base who to offer your services to. Also, we are a trusted and financially stable bank so good partner to build your business with.

Nordea really recognizes the importance of startup ecosystem, and we want to help the ecosystem to flourish and we do our part: Nordea has leveraged the growth of startups/growth companies with over 500 million euros and made several LP and CVC investments during the years. 

You need to find a way to include the startup cooperation into daily tasks of your people – in all organisational levels. This way it becomes part of DNA of company culture and stays in the focus and takes the corporation’s business into next level. 

“We Grow Startups” – an online panel Nordea organized as part of Slush. Nordea brought together the actors of the startup ecosystem to discuss the current state and future of the Nordic startup ecosystem.

Want to be part of the future with Nordea?

In the future as already today Nordea’s target is to be the preferred banking partner for startups/growth companies and venture partners. We bring the best value for scalable businesses and venture partners. We are also actively cooperating and partnering with the ecosystem and driving our business and product development at leading position.

Our Startup & Growth team in all Nordic countries is really happy to help so please feel to contact us and we’ll help you out. 

Vesa Riihimäki, Head of Startup & Growth & Teija Nousiainen, Deal Flow Manager


Tribe Tampere is awarding annually the Most Startup Friendly Company in Finland. In 2020 the award was handed out for the third time. The award aims to recognize exceptional achievements, which especially industrial corporations have done to foster startup collaboration methods and improve innovation and competitiveness. Tribe Tampere is convinced that the award will stimulate collaboration and investments in startup companies, and boost internal startup culture development in industrial companies in Finland.

Introducing Konecranes – Finalist of MSF 2020

Meet Konecranes, one of the four finalists in this year’s Most Startup Friendly Company in Finland competition, with Startup Project & Partnership Manager Katariina Palvas, telling more about their startup activities.

Konecranes is a world-leading group of Lifting Businesses™, serving a broad range of customers including manufacturing and process industries, shipyards, ports and terminals. Konecranes provides productivity enhancing lifting solutions as well as services for lifting equipment of all makes. With our knowledge, products, services and solutions we seek to maximize the positive contributions to our different stakeholders and the surrounding society. We create value for our stakeholders on multiple fronts: through circular economy, digitalization and our deeply rooted safety culture. In 2019, Group sales totaled EUR 3.33 billion. The Group has 18,000 employees in 50 countries.

Story of the startup unit

Konecranes has worked with startups since 2015. We are constantly looking for opportunities to leverage our scale to create new business. Solving a specific technical or business-related problem with digital technology often requires a very focused set of talent and skills. These capabilities are increasingly found in startup organizations, who today also have access to capital and tools previously available only to large corporations, such as cloud computing. Therefore, we believe startups can do outstandingly in solving specific business challenges by leveraging digital technologies. Startups inspire us enormously with their innovative and agile way of creating technical solutions, some of which can disrupt the whole industry. That is why we are committed to collaborating and combining the best of both worlds.

Olli-Pekka Nieminen, Manager, Data & Digital Business Transformation, Katariina Palvas, Manager, Startup Project & Partnership, and Jussi Eskelinen, Manager, DX & Business Design at Station F, Paris 2020.

Startup collaboration is organized by Konecranes’ DX & Business Design team, which facilitates the cooperation between business owners and startups using the most recent outside-in perspectives and methods. The Digital Accelerator unit, which our team is a part of, is dedicated to increasing the execution speed of digital initiatives across the company and spurring new, transformative ideas that drive business growth. We have also formed lean processes and several teams, including marketing, communications and legal are continuously engaged in supporting startup activities.

One of our strengths is our clear, structured pilot process. We are able get the buy-in of business owners right from the beginning. They are engaged already in the scouting phase and in making decisions on which startup to pilot. After the pilots, they are also heavily involved in expanding the collaboration to a more commercial phase. All this is done with our team’s support, but our business owners are also very independent in carrying out the projects with startups. They clearly acknowledge the business value and potential in the co-operation, something which we are very proud of as a company. 

Your success is our success

Konecranes’ goals for startup collaboration are simple: we work together to enhance our offering for existing customers, take new tools that enhance our own business processes into use and partner to grow new business in new customer segments. Konecranes can become a startup’s commercial partner, trusted customer, or both – all our startup activities are driven from real business needs and are based on a proper customer relationship.  All the pilot projects are commercial, which means we will always pay for them. We offer a world-class brand and reputation, a network of 17 000 experts, commercial paid partnership and collaboration, the possibility of co-creating new products and services, investor references and collaboration with a corporate partner of one of Europe’s largest startup campus, Maria 01 in Helsinki.

Olli-Pekka Nieminen and Jussi Eskelinen from Konecranes, with local colleagues from China at Slush Shanghai 2018.

Win-win collaboration

All our startup collaborations follow one core principle: they are built on transparency and trust to create a win-win relationship. This can be seen in our commercial way of working with startups (paid projects) and our willingness to support startups’ long-term success by, for example, offering investor references, coaching and advice. Working with us can help startups offer disruptive solutions to scale up faster. Our aim is to strengthen our collaboration with world-class tech startups and learn new, innovative ways to create business value for our customers.

A try and fail mentality is encouraged to get things going. We also see it as crucial to create value for the startup as well. To get things to the next level internally and to get people to commit to the processes and pilots, it is important to communicate the benefits of cooperation from the perspective of all stakeholders. 

Key achievements

There are plenty! We have done dozens of pilot projects over the years with startups globally and they are equally important in their own way. One of this year’s highlights is our Accelerator Program, which is organized with startup entrepreneurs and targets our own employees. This has created another excellent way to boost innovation and customer-centricity at Konecranes, in addition to the pilot projects with startups. 

Aleksi Miettinen, Innovation Specialist of Innovation Management team pitching at our Accelerator Program at Maria01 2019. Photo by Tapio Auvinen.

As Maria 01’s corporate partner, we created a program to bring the best practices from startup entrepreneurs to accelerate our own ways of working. In 2020, we organized a three-month-long remote Accelerator Program for our own employees, enabling them to live their startup dream in an intrapreneurial setting. Coached by startup entrepreneurs and venture capital investors, our teams innovated new business solutions and developed their projects like a startup, using lean methods. Reflecting Konecranes’ global footprint, we had nine teams formed from experts in 10 countries who pitched their solution to an audience of over 100 business owners and the top management of Konecranes in a virtual event.

Want to be part of the future with Konecranes?

We believe we are one of the most reachable Finnish corporation among startups. We give startup collaboration a high priority and have created a dedicated website for it, Konecranes for startups. It is visibly linked from our main website, something very rare among Finnish stock listed companies. On the page startups can find what we offer, what we look for, how we work with them, and whom from our side to contact. All this is based on the research we carried out among startups regarding what they look for in corporate relationships and what they find challenging. One topic was that startups struggle to create the first contact to a corporation. We solved this problem!

Katariina Palvas, Startup Project & Partnership Manager


Tribe Tampere is awarding annually the Most Startup Friendly Company in Finland. In 2020 the award was handed out for the third time. The award aims to recognize exceptional achievements, which especially industrial corporations have done to foster startup collaboration methods and improve innovation and competitiveness. Tribe Tampere is convinced that the award will stimulate collaboration and investments in startup companies, and boost internal startup culture development in industrial companies in Finland.

Introducing Fortum – honorable mention in MSF 2020

Meet Fortum, who received the honorable mention in this year’s Most Startup Friendly Company in Finland competition, with Manager, Investments & Partnerships Valkea Growth Club, Tony-Frank Holmström sharing his insights about their startup activities.

Fortum is a leading clean-energy company developing and offering solutions for our customers in electricity, heating, cooling, as well as solutions to improve resource efficiency. We also provide services for the power generation industry and solutions for consumers so that they can be smarter in their energy choices. Fortum is driving the change for a cleaner world.

Fortum’s Innovation and Venturing unit

The mission of Fortum’s Innovation and Venturing unit is to build new significant high-growth businesses in close collaboration with business divisions, ensure renewal and growth opportunities through high-performance internal and external venturing, as well as learn and pilot new business models and technologies together with world-class partners and ecosystems.

The Innovation and Venturing unit at Fortum is responsible for ideating, incubating and accelerating new business at Fortum. We build and drive forward a funnel of activities, starting from great ideas all the way to successful growth businesses. Together with Fortum’s business units, we learn from the outside world and co-develop initiatives, making us competitive in the decades to come. Fortum Innovation unit supports all Fortum divisions to identify and validate ideas and accelerate the implementation of new solutions. Touchpoints for startup collaboration are:

Startup pilots – Introducing and facilitating startup pilots across Fortum to meaningfully impact operations and drive strategic transformation.

Fund Investments – Collaboration with selected VC Funds to find relevant startups and to translate research into actionable strategic analysis.

Startup Investments – Selective equity investments in growth companies building on Fortum’s strategy.

Valkea Growth Club – Supporting digital clean energy ventures on their growth journey – Offering support in the forms of expertise, development opportunities, funding and premises.

Valkea Growth Club team members

Benefits for both parties

Benefits for our company of having this unit are diverse. We learn from the outside world and co-develop initiatives making us competitive in the decades to come, piloting with startups allow purposeful access to valuable innovation and drives forward organizational development. Our goal is to build a cleaner future through transforming the energy industry. We’re finding startups with ideas about how this can be done and giving them what they need to do it.

Collaboration with us is very beneficial for the startup as well. The startup will get world class brand and reputation to support their goals, a network of our 8 000+ experts to guide their way, an access to our customer base, VC network and new markets and support from sparring to funding and investor referrals to concrete business advice.

Innovation is the key

It is hard to pinpoint one specific achievement but in general the work that we do at Valkea to support the growth of the startups and the advice we can give to them is something that we are proud of. Hopefully through this hard work we can achieve a valuable and healthy startup. The work of the innovation team at large is truly world class and the team is just amazing!

Innovation is part of the strategic priorities at Fortum and it is part of our DNA. We believe innovation is crucial for any company to survive and to be successful. That is the reason why we are putting so much resources behind our innovation activities and why we want to be even better next year. We have achieved a lot but you can always improve, and 2021 will be exciting for us. There are a lot of ideas we have in store for next year, and building a larger partnership network and wider ecosystem are just a few points on the agenda.

Want to be part of the future with Fortum?

Want to have a chat with us about innovation or startups, and discuss potential collaboration opportunities? We are looking forward to hearing from you! Please reach out to frank@valkea.club.

Think about what it is that your corporation wants to achieve with it all. Do you want to learn or just make financial investments. We want to learn and be actively involved in most startups we invest in to bring the wealth of knowledge back with us. Make sure you share information every day and with everyone. Involve colleagues and management. Have an open culture so any ideas are welcomed. That way you have a great chance to succeed with your corporate innovation and venture activities.

Tony-Frank Holmström, Manager, Investments & Partnerships Valkea Growth Club, Fortum


Tribe Tampere is awarding annually the Most Startup Friendly Company in Finland. In 2020 the award was handed out for the third time. The award aims to recognize exceptional achievements, which especially industrial corporations have done to foster startup collaboration methods and improve innovation and competitiveness. Tribe Tampere is convinced that the award will stimulate collaboration and investments in startup companies, and boost internal startup culture development in industrial companies in Finland.

Introducing Stora Enso – Most Startup Friendly company 2020

Tribe Tampere is awarding annually the Most Startup Friendly Company in Finland. In 2020 the award was handed out for the third time. The award aims to recognize exceptional achievements, which especially industrial corporations have done to foster startup collaboration methods and improve innovation and competitiveness. Tribe Tampere is convinced that the award will stimulate collaboration and investments in startup companies, and boost internal startup culture development in industrial companies in Finland.

Meet the winner of 2020 Stora Enso, with VP, Digital, Antti Vuolli telling more about their startup activities!

Part of the bioeconomy, Stora Enso is a leading global provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden construction and paper. We employ some 25 000 people in more than 30 countries and our shares are listed on the Helsinki and Stockholm stock exchanges. Our fiber-based materials are renewable, recyclable and fossil free. Our solutions offer low-carbon alternatives to products based on finite resources. We believe that everything that is made from fossil-based materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow.

Story of the startup unit

Stora Enso’s aim is to provide customers with renewable alternatives to traditional fossil-based products. We also have a long-term target to have 15% of the annual revenue coming from new products and services which didn’t exist in our portfolio three years ago. Consequently, we need to accelerate our innovation agenda. One key enabler is to innovate and implement new solutions together with fast moving and agile start-ups.

Stora Enso team selecting startups

Now we have integrated the startup collaboration to our innovation agenda. We have systematic approach in dealing with startups through our two programs, Stora Enso Accelerator and Combient Foundry Venture Client Program. The Accelerator program is a leadership program where Stora Enso employees work alongside startups over a few months period on specific themes – for example how to create a plastic free supply chain or how to leverage digitalisation. Not only do our employees and the startups learn from each other, but the program has also resulted in several continued partnerships. The Combient Foundry, Venture client alliance, is a joint program between several large Nordic companies aiming to find startups as business partners in a systematic way. 

The venture client model builds on open innovation, which requires the corporates to be quite open about their business challenges and opportunities publicly towards the startup ecosystems. The startups bringing the most suitable solutions to the table are then contracted to co-create and partner with us. The setup of Combient Foundry is quite unique as it involves several large corporates, which also means that the start-ups get exposed to many potential large clients at the same time. In addition to our startup engagement programs we build new corporate ventures through our breakthrough innovation process model, which allows the new ventures act more independently in their go to market. One example case is Box Inc – a B2B marketplace for renewable packaging.

Benefits of startup activities

First, we want to keep on innovating new products and services, thus helping us renew our portfolio. Secondly, working with startups has been tremendously rewarding and at the same time challenging the ways we work. Start-ups live by the day, so to become faster and more agile we have organized our ways of working to better support the collaboration. Moreover, we have created a set of internal instructions to outline how we engage with startups when comes to sourcing and legal matters, as well as a process with clear roles and responsibilities for how to facilitate the start-up programs internally.

For startups working with Stora Enso is a great opportunity to co-create and scale their business globally. Reference value of corporates like us help in getting to next level in business and potentially funding. If they get through one of our programs, it is one proof point of being one of the global top companies in the area of business. We typically get applications for each cycle from average 20-30 countries, thus going through the selection process is a major achievement. In addition, if startup is part of Combient Foundry program, exposure to other Combient companies, which can lead to new business opportunities. This has happened multiple times. For example, Overstory.ai first run project with Stora Enso, then soon after with other Combient companies, Husqvarna and Södra.

Antti Vuolli on stage presenting Combient Foundry

Highlight moments

One highlight is the overwhelming feedback we have received from both start-ups and our own business. For example, the one of the recent Combient Foundry program we received a rating of 9,4 out of 10 from the start-up participants, and at the same time the start-ups testified that their sales cycle had been shortened with an average of 91 days. Moreover, the time from first meeting to value is very short. A showcase of this this quick value generation is the collaboration with the start-up company Snap Support and a couple of Stora Enso paper printing customers. In that case we were able to convert an early idea about how to improve remote technical customer support into a working solution for our customers just 6 months later.

Want to be a part of the future with Stora Enso?

Working with startups is increasingly bringing us business results. We work with startups long term and it helps us to reach our goals together with the startups. We want to do it systematically as an integral part of our innovation agenda. Innovation never happens in isolation.

If a startup wants to collaborate with us, our recommendation is to apply through Combient Foundry cycles or Stora Enso annual Accelerator program. This is the most efficient way to deal with us. We have pre-defined the areas of interest and thus it is a mutually easy to focus on value creation.

Top management support is paramount to success. Be systematic in your approach and have clear business objectives for the collaboration. Be prepared to co-create and change your processes to support the collaboration. 

Antti Vuolli, VP, Digital, Stora Enso