Silicon Sauna - A Hotbed of Innovation

  • heikki-vesalainen
  • By Heikki Vesalainen

TrademarkNow, has been recognized twice as a rising star among Nordic companies in the Silicon Sauna. A recent article in the Finnish publication Talouselama highlighted the 20 most promising new companies in Finland, and TrademarkNow made the list.

In the first 60 days of 2016, TrademarkNow, a Helsinki-based legal technology company, has been recognized twice as a rising star among Nordic companies in the "Silicon Sauna" by both Talouselama and a recent ComputerWeekly.com article identifying TrademarkNow as one of the seven standout Nordic startups on the rise.

TrademarkNow grew out of the technology/entrepreneurial scene now burgeoning in Helsinki. TrademarkNow employees and managers often refer to the city's tech/startup community as 'Silicon Sauna'. Ironically, the first version of TrademarkNow's online cloud-based platform, now used by trademark attorneys around the globe, was first coded at Startup Sauna, an accelerator program and free co-working space to help promising early-stage start-ups in Helsinki.

Why is Helsinki becoming a 'Silicon Sauna' - a hub of technology startups and entrepreneurship? Heikki Vesalainen, TrademarkNow co-founder and Chief Architect, traces Helsinki's current tech roots and his own initial involvement in tech to the early 1990s demoscene. Demos are computer art programs that showcase digital art and music. At the time, demos competitions took place in Helsinki and across Finland in which teens would compete to code and design the best demos. And, many of today's globally successful Finnish game companies (Rovio, Supercell, etc.) can trace their origins to the 1990s demoscene.

But the region's climate can't be ruled out as an influence either, "during winter time, you really don't have anything else to do than code something really cool" said Matti Kokkola, TrademarkNow co-founder and CTO.

Two key components of tech hubs are venture capital funding for young startups and available, gifted tech talent. Helsinki's Silicon Sauna tech scene has both of these.

"Finnish-based funding has been important to TrademarkNow since the beginning. Lifeline Ventures, a Helsinki-based VC, was our first investor providing pre-seed funding that allowed us to form the company and develop our platform. Following that, we were accepted into the Young Innovative Companies program and received funding from Tekes, the Finnish government funding agency for technology and innovation" said Mikael Kolehmainen, TrademarkNow co-founder and CEO, "Lifeline Ventures and Tekes allowed us to get our start, and continue to be important partners to TrademarkNow."

In addition to the burgeoning tech startups that are starting in Helsinki, and the programmers and coders who are building those companies, Nokia left its mark on the Silicon Sauna. Nokia attracted many programmers and software engineers and that large pool of IT talent is now helping build the young startups of Helsinki's Silicon Sauna.

Anna Ronkainen, TrademarkNow co-founder and Chief Scientist, is a great example of the unique talent in Helsinki's Silicon Sauna. With more than 15 years' experience in linguistic software development, Ronkainen studied both artificial intelligence and law. She routinely guest lectures at Finnish and American universities about the intersection of artificial intelligence/machine learning and the law. And, most recently, Ronkainen started Helsinki's Legal Tech Meetup whose inaugural meeting will be in March.

Helsinki's 'Silicon Sauna' has been the perfect location to fuel TrademarkNow's growth. We've now expanded the company with offices in Ireland and New York City. However, our company's roots are in Helsinki. "It has the perfect combination of venture capital funding and technology talent to help our company's rapid global growth" said Mikael Kolehmainen, TrademarkNow co-founder and CEO. "We're excited by the innovation in Helsinki. We routinely meet with and hear about many dynamic startups that have gotten their start here in the Silicon Sauna."

Photo Credit: Lucjan Morawski

by Heikki Vesalainen.