Maria 01 rolls out ambitious pan-Europe startup plan


Finland’s global reputation as an attractive incubator for early stage technology companies has taken a step forward following the roll-out of a 10-year plan to grow into Europe’s biggest “matchmaker” hub for venture capitalists looking to invest in innovate startups with international development potential.

The plan, from Helsinki-based Maria 01 for tech companies in the Nordic countries, will create a major startup hub that brings together tech startups with recognised venture capital firms and international investors.

The “meeting place” plan aims to build on Finland’s state-funded efforts to deliver the world’s best-functioning ecosystem for tech companies in their early growth stage.

The Maria 01 hub, in its present form, is home to over 180 startups and 1,500 members. It projects that by 2030, the startups in its domain will have a combined turnover of €15bn, compared with €1bn in 2023. Startups in the Maria 01 ecosystem secured €600m in funding in 2023, compared with €219m in 2022.

Its journey from being the largest startup hub in the Nordics to becoming Europe’s leading ecosystem is a challenge Maria 01 embraces, said chairman Jarmo Hyökyvaara.

“There will be lots of challenges,” he said. “The talent shortage is a potential obstacle in
. It is important to ensure the startup ecosystem keeps growing and supports
Finland ’s economic growth. We need to attract the best international talent to
. Without international talent, the Finnish startup ecosystem cannot keep growing.”

The initiative fits well with the Finnish government’s National Strategy of Technology Development (NSTD), which supports the establishment of specialised technology hubs in Finland. The end game for the country’s centre-right government is to partner with the private sector to position Finland as a dynamic and flourishing environment for tech startup hubs.

Maria 01’s growth plans include expanding its Helsinki campus from 20,000 to 70,000 square meters to grow the number of startups in its ecosystem to 600, while developing a community of 6,000 members.

The goal to become Europe’s leading startup and growth company ecosystem by 2034 is being pursued in a framework of strategic partnerships with like-minded organisations in
. These include the Finnish Startup Community (FSC), the Finnish Startup Foundation (FSF), Slush, Dash, Shortcut, Junction, the Finnish Venture Capital Association (Pääomasijoittajat) and the Finnish Business Angels Network (FiBAN).

The FSC comprises 200 innovate companies at different phases in their growth development, ranging from early stage startups to Finland’s 10 biggest growth enterprises. The FSC provides entrepreneurs and new tech companies with access to market experts and knowledge tools to enable them to grow and internationalise in their specific product area.

Established by 57 technology influencers, entrepreneurs and investors in 2012, the FSC provided a platform in
to promote a new generation of tech innovators. “The foundation was born from the ecosystem to give back to the ecosystem in a concrete way,” said FSC CEO Josefiina Kotilainen.

“Since 2012 the Foundation has been an integral part of the Finnish startup ecosystem by backing initiatives like Slush, Junction, The Shortcut and Maria 01.”

The FSC supported fast-growing Finnish startups such as Wave Ventures, Europe’s largest student-run venture capital actor that operates several investment funds capitalised at around €2m. Wave Ventures’ funds provide early stage seed financing to Nordic Gen Z founders with “world-changing ideas” that conform to the venture capital firm’s core strategy to help build the next wave of Nordic Gen Z unicorns.

Maria 01 considers its collaborations with Slush, Junction and Dash, which run multidisciplinary problem-solving hackathons and international tech startup events out of

, as pivotal to driving its momentum in Europe .

Startup events

Slush organises the world’s leading startup event, which draws 12,000 participants to
annually. For its part, Junction’s hackathon attracts over 1,500 hackers to
Finland for its annual founders-focused startup and tech gathering.

The startup ecosystem’s significance to Finnish society and economy cannot be over-estimated, said Hyökyvaara.

“Our estimate that enterprises in the Maria 01 ecosystem will have a combined turnover of €15bn by 2030 puts us on par with established industries like forestry and metals,” he said. “Attracting talent is an overhanging challenge against the backdrop of Finland’s evolving immigration policies.”

The post-Covid factor contributed to a decline in funding for startups in Finland in 2023, despite a rise in the number of experienced founders.

Maria 01’s Annual Impact Report (AIR), which measures the social impact of the campus’s startups, revealed that while new enterprises raised less money in 2023 than in 2022, more entrepreneurs are entering this space from traditional industries.

Moreover, the AIR found an increasing number of venture capital providers, including Lifeline Ventures, Voima Ventures and Greencode Ventures, are launching new and more customised funds to finance tech startups. 

Although funding raised by startups on the Maria 01 campus dropped by nearly €100m in 2023, the company saw a 20% rise in new startup applications. The industries most represented in this area were health technology and wellbeing, ecommerce and online marketplaces, artificial intelligence, gaming, and software as a service.


Although a decrease in funding was expected, Maria 01 was surprised by the elevated number of startups that applied to become part of its community in 2023, said Sarita Runeberg, Maria 01’s CEO.

“The standout development in 2023 was the large number of founders that have extensive experience outside the tech industry,” she said. “This may be a consequence of lay-offs in larger companies. That said, we are also seeing an overall change in attitudes towards work and life goals. Many more people think that the economic downturn and a possible layoff is the push they need to start pursuing a long-term dream of entrepreneurship.”

Founders with broad experience across different industries, and coupled with a deep understanding of the product-market fit for their innovations, are in a stronger position to create more realistic business plans and advance to market with their product at a faster pace, said Runeberg.

“This may well prove to be a significant advantage for tech startups in a somewhat unpredictable market environment,” she said.


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