Helsinki Notes

IMG_4755I was in Helsinki on the 17th and 18th of November to participate the EBAN Winter University & Slush, hosted organized by FIBAN, Finnish Business Angels Network. In this important gathering of the angel investment community, I was a panel member of the first day’s fireside chat on best practises and lessons from the angel ecosystem in Europe, with Ari Kothonen of Finland and the Vice President of EBAN. The panel was moderated by Michael Culligan of Ireland, who is an EBAN Board Member and National Director of Halo Business Angels Network of Ireland. Two VPs of EBAN – Ari & I – tried to give the audience a perspective from Finland and Turkey in this 30-minute fireside chat.

This was my first time in Helsinki, and because I had always wanted to visit Helsinki, I was very happy that Finland was hosting this important event – it would be a great reason for me to visit. Why did I want to visit Helsinki so much? People who have read my best-seller book will perhaps recall how I was buying pen-friend adresses and selling them in Turkey when I was a secondary school student in the 1980s. There was an organisation called IYS – International Youth Service – that was matching up young people all over the world by providing them with adresses. This organisation was based in Helsinki and I was looking forward to receiving addresses from them because I had customers waiting for them. I was ordering 20 addresses and selling them one-by-one to my classmates. So, Helsinki as a special place in my memory as a city that helped me make pocket money in the past.


In 2013, Finland’s population was around 5.5 million, with the majority living in its southern regions. In terms of area, it is the eighth largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a parliamentary republic with a central government based in the capital Helsinki, local governments in 336 municipalities and an autonomous region, the Åland Islands. About one million people live in the Helsinki area, which produces a third of the country’s GDP. Other large cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Lahti, and Kuopio.

Finland has a highly industrialized mixed economy with a per capita output equal to that of other European economies such as France, Germany, Belgium or the UK. The largest sector of the economy is services at 66%, followed by manufacturing and refining at 31%. Primary production is 2.9%. With respect to foreign trade, the key economic sector is manufacturing. The largest industries are electronics (22%), machinery, vehicles and other engineered metal products (21.1%), forest industry (13%) and chemicals (11%).

Finland has timber and several mineral and freshwater resources. Forestry, paper factories, and the agricultural centers (on which taxpayers spend around 3 billion euros annually) are politically sensitive to rural residents. The Greater Helsinki area generates around a third of GDP. In a 2004 OECD comparison, high-technology manufacturing in Finland ranked second largest after Ireland. Knowledge-intensive services have also ranked the smallest and slow-growth sectors – especially agriculture and low-technology manufacturing – second largest after Ireland. Overall short-term outlook was good and GDP growth has been above many EU peers.

Finland is highly integrated into the global economy, and international trade is a third of GDP. The European Union makes up 60% of the total trade.  The largest trade flows are with Germany, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, the Netherlands and China. Trade policy is managed by the European Union, where Finland has traditionally been among the free trade supporters, except for agriculture. Finland is the only Nordic country to have joined the Eurozone.


The Helsinki metropolitan area generates approximately one third of Finland’s GDP. GDP per capita is roughly 1.3 times the national average.

The metropolitan area’s gross value added per capita is 200% of the mean of 27 European metropolitan areas, equalling those of Stockholm or Paris. The gross value added annual growth has been around 4%.

83 of the 100 largest Finnish companies are headquartered in Greater Helsinki. Two-thirds of the 200 highest-paid Finnish executives live in Greater Helsinki and 42% in Helsinki. The average income of the top 50 earners was 1.65 million euro.



EBAN is the pan-European representative for the early stage investor community, gathering 146 member organisations in 41 countries today. Established in 1999 by a group of pioneer angel networks in Europe with the collaboration of the European Commission and EURADA, EBAN represents a sector estimated to invest 7.5 billion Euros a year and playing a vital role in Europe’s future, notably in the funding of SMEs. EBAN fuels Europe’s growth through the creation of wealth and jobs.

EBAN’s 5 Pillars of Activity

  • Setting professional standards, training, and certification
  • Benchmarking, research and networking with peers
  • Lobbying
  • Raising awareness and capacity building
  • Cross-border syndication and co-investment support

EBAN Membership Benefits

  • Staying on top of trends in the early stage investment market
  • Building new relationships and new business opportunities by networking with peers
  • Getting answers to your day-to-day challenges: don’t reinvent the wheel, we might have the solution!
  • Access to our resource center, statistical data reports, policy publications, and monthly newsletter
  • Special opportunities to participate in EBAN and other relevant events in the industry
  • Certification for networks and trainings for BAN managers
  • Sharing of information on investment trends, industry opportunities and best-practices techniques
  • Promoting the growth of your organisation and contributing to the legislative and fiscal environment expertise

EBAN Helsinki 2014 Flyer webEBAN Winter University

The Winter University – the annual learning-focused gathering of the European Business Angel Network – is the privileged setting to learn from the best and to extend your professional network with experts who can directly contribute to your performance as an angel investor or to the success of your organisation. Every year, one of the EBAN members hosts the EBAN Winter University. This year, FIBAN hosted it in Finland, last year it was AAIA – the Austrian Angel Investors Association in Vienna, and the year before, it was TBAA – the Business Angels Association of  Turkey, hosted in Istanbul.

Here is the list of EBAN Winter University Governance:

  • Baybars Altuntas, Chairman, Turkey
  • Prof Francisco Banha, Vice President of the EBAN Institute, Portugal
  • Selma Pradonovic, EBAN Training Committee Member, Austria


FiBAN is a Finnish, national, non-profit association of private investors that aims to improve the possibilities for private persons to invest in unlisted potential growth companies. The association’s work is based on the activity by private investors and cooperates with networks supporting high-growth goals.

The FIBAN network is today one of the largest and most active business angel networks in Europe, with over 400 approved members and over 100 events held in 2013. FiBAN is a member of the European Business Angels Network (EBAN) and was chosen as the “Business angel network of the year 2012”.


  • A non-profit private investors association with over 400 approved angel members.
  • Sector-based matchmaking of companies and investor angels.
  • Encourage the formation of syndicated investments.
  • Early-stage private investment trainings and research.
  • Private equity investors association with an investor-driven approach.

Enjoy learning more about FIBAN by watching the following video:


Slush is the focal point for Eurasian startups and technology talent to meet with top-tier international investors, executives and media. The two-day event takes place every fall in the wintery Scandinavia amidst one the most dynamic tech ecosystems in the world. Slush 2014 took place on November 18-19th in Helsinki, with more than 10,000 attendees.

In the past three years, Slush has grown from a local 300-person event to become one of the leading tech and startup events in the world, reaching 7000 attendees from 68 countries in 2013. Slush is a non-profit event organized by a community of first-time entrepreneurs, students and professional music festival organizers, backed by founders of Nordic success stories such as MySQL, Rovio, Supercell and Skype.

EBAN Helsinki Winter University

17 – 18 November 2014, Marina Congress Center

Address: Katajanokanlaituri 7, Helsinki

For the full programme, visit the following link:

1st Day – 16 November 2014, Sunday

I met with Kenan Colpan, the Director of Istanbul Technical University’s Techno Park, the best technopark in Turkey, with a government investment of 50 million dollars. ITU Seed is the acceleration center within the technopark and because I have visited many acceleration and incubation centers in Europe, I can easily say that this is the best in Europe. The ITU Innovation Center is going to host delegates and entrepreneurs of the European Business Angels Investment Forum on Tuesday, the 16th of December. Kenan has also organised a short tour of the innovation center for participants of the forum.

It was a nice 4-hour flight from Istanbul and we chatted until we arrived in Helsinki. Thanks to Ari, a 2015 model Mercedes-limo was waiting to pick me up from the airport. Because Kenan’s hotel was near mine, I invited him to join us in the car, along with Iulian Basu, the President of the  Romanian Business Angels Association, whose flight had just arrived. Iulian was also staying in a hotel close to mine.

I stayed at the Radison Blu Plaza while most of the EBAN people stayed at the Helsinki Hilton. The two hotels are very close to each other in the downtown part of the city. My short report about the hotel: The location is perfect, but the hotel service rates minus 10. But if you don’t mind paying 200 EUR with no service expectation, of course it is OK. The hotel’s breakfast room is something special, that is all. Would I stay in the same hotel again? No, thank you.

After I placed my baggage in the room, I took a short walking tour around the hotel. I had just 2 hours until the board meeting at the Glo meets Kluuvi– and it was only a 5-minute walk from my own hotel.

I arrived in Helsinki wearing a T-shirt, although my wife had warned me about the possibility of cold weather in Helsinki. She was right! It was zero degrees Celcius and I really froze. It is difficult to adapt to cold weather immediately after a 4-hour flight. I put on everything under my shirt that I was able to find in my bag and ventured out of the hotel.

IMG_4730The board meeting started at 4pm and ended at 6pm. It was a regular board meeting, done 2 times a year.

After the board meeting, there was a special dinner for the key people of the Winter University, where I found an opportunity to meet with Luca Peyrano, the Director for Europe at the London Stock Exchange.

After the dinner, it was reception time. It was a lovely reception that lasted until 10pm, with friends coming to Helsinki from all different corners of the world. The founding members of ABAN – the Africa Business Angel Network ­– were all there. If you want to learn more about ABAN, then please visit my Lagos Notes.

with Ana Barjasic – the Coordinator of Business Angels Week

After the reception, we moved to a party at the bar of the hotel. After a few hours, Paulo, Ricardo and Ana and I decided to go to the hotel on foot to get a better feel of Helsinki. By the way, it was 1a.m., and nobody was on the Helsinki streets except us. I hope we didnt disturb the Helsinki people too much, because we were speaking on the street at a shouting volume J. I am from Turkey, Paulo and Ricardo are from Portugal and Ana is from Croatia. How could we understand each other without shouting? J

After spending over 30 minutes to find our way to the hotel, I left them to the Hilton. Kenan and Deniz were at the lobby and after leaving others, I chatted a little bit with them.

2nd Day, November 17, Monday

I got up at 7.30am and was ready for the transfer by 8.30. The same Mercedes with same driver was in the front of the hotel at exactly 8.30am. Great! Finnish people are better than Turkish AirlinesJ I was at the Marina Congress Center by 8.45 and the event started on time. There were aproximately 400 participants from everywhere in the world and it was really an outstanding organisation. It was a good idea to combine this event with the Slush Days. The food was excellent and the organisation was perfect. The Nordic people are not like us. They work like a Swiss clockJ. For example, Ari asked my flight’s departure time 5 times in the same day. I couldnt answer this question because I didn’t know it and I generally check the flight times at the breakfast time on the day of the flight day. So it was too early for me to organise my next day but it was not early for Ari!J

IMG_4764After lunch, Kristina from South Africa invited me to take a walk outside the congress hall and see the city. It was a 20-minute walk in this cold weather but thanks to her I had the opportunity to see the city a little bit. I enjoyed the city and the marina.

After taking some photos, we went back to the congress center around 1p.m. While I was stirring my coffee, Dmitri of Co-Founders Magazine approched me and presented me with the first issue of this magazine. It is a really good magazine and I enjoyed reading many articles on the flight back to Istanbul.

Around 2pm, Michael Culligan, Ari Korhonen and I had a short meeting about our session that would be at 4pm. Before our session started there was an introduction, followed by a keynote by Michael Culligan and then our fireside chat in the main congress room.

IMG_4799It was a very nice fireside chat for about half an hour with an audience of over 100 participants.

Enjoy a few minutes from this session

IMG_4803After this session, at 5pm, we went to the founders meeting of ABAN, the Africa Business Angels Network that will be incubated by EBAN for the next 12 months. The founders of ABAN were all in the room, along with others from the Netherlands, Nigeria, Cameroon, and South Africa. Because I had been in Lagos last month, I knew most of the founders of ABAN  – Ben, David, Tmi and others. I made a short speech to summarize how we had come to this point, and then we congratulated the founders and moved to the General Assembly Meeting of EBAN.

The General Assembly meeting of EBAN started at 5.30pm and ended at 6pm.

Then we went up to the second floor for the Gala Dinner of FIBAN, where there would also be an award ceremony. I was seated at the protocol table just next to Jan Oker-Blum. Because he was the leader of the organisation team, it was my duty not to distract him whole nightJ. Ari and Ms Korhonen were at the same table.

IMG_4810It was an honour for our table to send the Best Angel Investor of Finland to the stage: Ari Korhonen. I’d like to congratulate my dear firiend Ari on this success. He deserves every award in life.

Riku made a fine speech as the host of this event. He is really a lovely friend with a great sense of humor. He is also a dragon on the Finnish version of the Dragons’ Den TV show. He made a great work at this organisation.

After the gala dinner, everybody went to the after-dinner party except me. I went straight to bed. It was time to catch up on the sleep that I had missed out on, starting from a recent visit to Slovenia, and now in Helsinki.

IMG_48223rd Day – 18 November, Tuesday

I got up at 11am. What a wonderful sleep it was! Because there is not even one sound in the city, you are able to sleep all through the night. My car was waiting for me at 11.20am and I was ready for lunch at the Slush Center by 12am.

After having a nice lunch, I visited Slush with Alexander Cabrillo and Peter Braun. Slush is a great event where you find dozens of speeches and concurrent sessions. Over 10 thousand startups were in the 10-thousand square meter area. Hudreds of angel investors and acceleration centers from every country of the world were all in Slush. I strongly recommend you visit this biggest startup event of the Nordic countries and one of the biggest of Europe.

Around 2pm, I was back in the rooms of Winter University. Following the very enjoyable speech of Paulo Andrez on Angel Investment 3.0, I made a short speech to invite participants to the European Business Anges Investment Forum to be held in Istanbul.

After speeches to thank Riku and Ari and all the FIBAN Team, it was time to leave for the airport.

I was picked up at 4.30pm and it was a lovely transfer, where I had a chat about Turkish resort areas with Jeanette Anderson from Sweden, who is the CEO of Connect Sweden.

Last words: I am declaring the Helsinki Airport the most enjoyable airport in the world. It is an extremely well-designed facility with beautiful colors. About the CIP Lounge: the whole airport is like a CIP Lounge!

Turkish Airlines departed on time at 18.25pm. By the way, I didnt know that Finland and Turkey were in the same time zone. I didn’t have to spend extra time to adapt myself to a different time zone.

IMG_4830More than 350 participants attended Monday’s conference and in total more than 400 people were in the programme. More than 70 speakers, panelists and contributors, including two ministers, two EBAN BA of the year, the chairman of Nokia and a total of 42 foreign speakers!

Thanks Riku, Thanks Ari, Thanks Jan, Thanks Ruel,,,

Helsinki is a superb city, especially with special friends like you…

See you next year at the Copenhagen Winter University!



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