On Beijing Week, the access to the Chinese market took a step forward right away on the first day of the event. Beijing Week was a three-day event organised by Helsinki, Beijing and the partners of the cities.
The best thing about the event became evident immediately to two participating Finnish startups: companies quickly found each other and started planning a joint entrance to the Chinese market.
One of these, JigLab, makes artificial intelligence solutions, while the other, Valohai, focuses on platforms for the solutions. They are as if made for each other.
JigLab's Petri Hassinen and Valohai's Eero Laaksonen praise the event in general, too. Co-operation and networking is extremely important for companies in their early stages.
"When cities, universities and polytechnics and numerous others work together, big things start to happen. The significance of cities is growing and they are increasingly driving things forward", ponders Hassinen.
The power of co-operation between cities was praised several times in the opening addresses of the event. City Manager Sami Sarvilinna is certain that Helsinki and Beijing will find more new common themes, when the Winter Olympics in Beijing approach.
City Manager Sami Sarvilinna says that Beijing Week is a good addition to the development of the co-operation between the cities of Beijing and Helsinki. This event could be arranged again – while maybe not this big every year.
One part of the event is winter sports, which was the theme of a separate seminar arranged on Wednesday. As if on cue, Helsinki's appeal as a winter sports city was increased by a snowfall.
Sarvilinna reiterated the city's goal of being the most functional city in the world, which means, for example, a better quality of life and improved opportunities of success for companies.
Xiangyang Lin, Deputy Secretary General of Beijing, emphasised the sister city partnership and praised how the friendship has started to resemble a happy family.
The People's Republic of China's Ambassador to Finland Chen Li noted that it is due to these kinds of events that the co-operation between the cities can be developed to a whole new level.
In her speech, Dongling Zhang of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Science and Technology described why the Finns ought to become interested in China. The Government is very interested in increasing co-operation outside the country borders and to cater for this it has, for example, made some facilitating adjustments to the taxation and regulations for foreigners. In Beijing, those who come to the city receive help with sorting out the paperwork as well.
A partnership contract ensures that the joint business opportunities in Helsinki and Beijing can be developed further in the future.
Evident demand for Finnish know-how
Wednesday provided a lot of information about the market, artificial intelligence, smart and clean solutions and health and welfare technology in China. And of course, the prerequisite for Finns on this market.
Torsti Tenhunen elaborated on some realities of the country: in 2015, there were 12,000 new startups per day, now that figure has probably increased to 15,000. Tenhunen works, among other things, for the Finnish Business Angels Network and Spinnaker Ventures, which invests in growth companies.
"The competition is fierce. That is why companies need to focus, find their own exact niche."
But, on the other hand, the possibilities are gigantic: By 2030, two thirds of the people belonging to the middle-class live in Asia, while only 21 per cent live in Europe and North America. In other words, the Chinese market is incomparable.
"I have said that China is like another planet. Those entering the market need to understand how it works. It is also important to choose a specific geographical area. For example, Beijing is like a country of its own, the same goes for e.g. Shanghai.
Tenhunen encourages smart companies to enter the country, as there is a distinct need for Finnish expertise, and Nordic expertise in general, in China.
Business Finland's Director of Digitalisation Pekka Sivonen told how artificial intelligence has been the subject of research in Finland for 55 years. OECD statistics show that we are the leading users of open data in the world.
We have a fresh national example of the utilisation of artificial intelligence: Finland is building, and soon using, the citizen's virtual assistant Aurora, through which Finns can talk directly with the public authorities.
An important part of the Beijing Week were the pitching and matchmaking events, short startup presentations and quick meetings between investors and companies.
During the matchmaking part of the event, investors and startups made quick acquaintances. Aitokaiku's Jarno Eerola tells facts about his IT company. Contact information was exchanged actively at the matchmakings.
The pitchers presented AI applications, each quite inventive, whether it was about video advertising, identification or smart city solutions. A total of 18 pitchers had been chosen.
Chaos architects' Natalia Rincón's turn to pitch and convince the jury that the company would make it on the Chinese market.
The jury chooses the pitchers for the next phase. The judges from the left Shilong Zhu, Andrea Di Pietrantonio, Stanley Lu, Pia Erkinheimo, Jay Huang, Touko Kontro and Torsti Tenhunen behind Erkinheimo's back.
The programme of the first day impressed the participants. Howden's Fangbing Wang thinks that the event was a very important networking opportunity and she had already established numerous new contacts.
Rukakeskus' Yuan Lin attended the event to find new ideas for the tourism sector and said that she had also found some.
Fangbing Wang and Yuan Lin attended the Beijing Week to get contacts and ideas. Some were received even during the first day.
Advanced Medical Technologies' Dengqiang Jia and Qing Liu were among the very pleased participants.
Dengqiang Jia and Qing Liu were impressed with the level of the Chinese participants at the event.
They found the level of the pitchers to be incredibly high. The observation was a positive one, as they are looking for Finnish business partners to China.
Text: Kirsi Riipinen
Photos: Ilkka Ranta-aho
The event on social media
Beijing-Helsinki Science & Technology Startup Forum 2018