Four years ago, as I was starting to work on MySites 1.0, I was living in Tampere. It was a pretty lonely thing. I knew of no other startups in the city. I was involved in IGDA (the International Game Developer Association), because the gaming industry was so much more organized (they had monthly meetup in Helsinki with ~20 people) and it was the closest thing to my interests.
I would take the train to Helsinki every 2 weeks, because there was this young guy Ville who was doing Open Coffee. We’d be something around 6-10 people, chit chatting about cool startup stuff we saw on Techcrunch, Mashable etc. Cool startups of the day were Jaiku, Sulake, Irc-Galleria, and soon Scred and Zipipop.
ArcticStartup didn’t exist. In fact, practically one blogged about the Finnish startups. TV or press coverage was beyond our wildest dreams (heh, it still is </sarcasm>). I’d ask feedback from my schoolmates in TAMK, some of which worked at Nokia and were interested in that stuff. I’d talk to my teachers, ask them for contacts. Some people would tell me I was completely insane and I should aim at being the biggest startup in Tampere. There were no entrepreneurship societies.
Our role model was Nokia. They were clearly the world leaders in mobile and were opening to 3rd party developers with Symbian. Finland was one of the leaders in Symbian, actually. Irc-Galleria and MySQL hadn’t exited yet.
Today, we gathered with a group of 100 people in what used to be 6 months ago an empty hangar in the forest, to talk with Tom Keller from TechStars and Alan Moore, co-author of Communities Dominate Brands, in spite of the rain and the opening of the World Cup.
In two weeks, we’ll be running our very own version of Y-Combinator, called Summer of Startups; I’m honored to be one of the coaches there and I’m looking forward to helping the newcomers.
We’ve come a long way.
PS: Don’t just stand there, please comment!