Join the movement

Will Cardwell

In the footsteps of Pioneers

What do Peter Thorwerste (1649), Karl Otto Fazer (1891), and Gustav Paulig (1876) have in common? For one thing, they created some of the most powerful and long-­lasting companies in today’s Finland (in the parentheses are the foundation dates of their respective companies).

Add James Finlayson (1820), Georg Franz Stockmann (1859), Nikolai Sinebrychoff (1819) and you get companies that in 2015 conservatively account for 35,000 jobs and over 5 billion euros in revenue. So they all qualify as part of the club of great Finnish businessmen and industrialists.

Except none of them were Finns, at least originally ­ in other words, they were immigrants.

Fast forward a couple hundred years. Finland clearly needs a few more modern iterations of these stories. While it is the most innovative country in the world according to the World Economic Forum, it is also the slowest growing of the top 10 most innovative countries. What is the problem?

I have a hypothesis. It may not be that popular yet, but I think it will prove out over time. Finnish firms tend to be pretty homogenous. While Finns are great as entrepreneurs and managers ­and the skills for pretty much any role are out there in the Finnish community ­ most co­founding teams in Finland are made up of Finns (and even 30­50 year old male Finns). Which drove me to start collecting a list of today Fazer’s, Paulig’s and Stockmann’s ­ the immigrants who have founded growth companies with a chance to grow to be significant employers in Finland in the not so distant future.

Thus far I have discovered 54 companies aspiring to be global growth companies that are immigrant co­foundered during the last 3 years. They span nearly 30 countries. My best estimate is that they have brought in well over 20m euro’s of Finnish and foreign private investment already, and account for well over 250 jobs.

Here is my point. If you consider that over 40% of Fortune 500 companies today are founded by immigrants or their children, and that due to digitalization more than 40% of 2025 S&P 500 list (a US benchmark of “normal listed companies”) have not been founded yet (based on the book “Exponential Organizations”), then it is not a stretch to believe that at least a few of the companies from this list of ambitious immigrant­founded startups will have a huge impact on Finnish employment in the coming 5­10 years.

So perhaps the Finlayson’s, Synebrychoff’s and Thorwerste’s of the future will have names like Olawale (Irofit Oy), Singh (Callstats Oy, Santacreu (Puzzlephone Oy), or Novatny (720 Degrees Oy), and THEY will be the cure for Finland’s growth crisis.

Anyone who can add to the list of Immigrant-­founded startups, please visit here.

Will Cardwell is a partner at Courage Ventures group, an integrated advisory and seed funding firm based in Espoo. He will talk about global growth using global talents and stories from Finland at Twinkle 2015

Will Cardwell


With a heavy heart

Published on
November 14, 2017
Twinkle Network

Despite the extraordinary effort from a dedicated team that fought until the end, we have to inform you TWINKLE 2017...

Read more  

TWINKLE 2017 is here!

Published on
August 1, 2017
Yacin Dehairi

Twinkle Association’s biggest event is here! And this time the theme is “Creativity and Innovation through Diversity”. At TWINKLE 2017 you will have the chance to interact with companies, organisations, talents, embassies and renowned speakers to network, dialogue, inspire, and do business in a new way.

Read more  

How diversity can be an engine of creativity and innovation

Published on
June 21, 2017
Imaneh Ameli

Diversity seems to be a buzz word in the business world these days, and scholars are talking about how diversity can boost the engine of a company in order to be more productive, creative and innovative. Before going further, let’s define diversity:

Read more  

Globelics Academy and Twinkle Association linking SMEs to markets in Global South

Published on
May 16, 2017
Mika Raunio

Internationalization and entering to foreign markets is not easy task to do for the small companies. Especially when target markets are culturally, institutionally, economically and geographically very distant in from the home base of the company. In other words, when they are currently fastest growing economic areas, in Africa, Asia or Latin-America, in “Global South”.

Read more  

What’s up, TWINKLE?

Published on
March 27, 2017
Viivi Savelius

It has been a while since our last blog post but TWINKLE is here full of energy and passion and will shine here more actively starting on now! Before telling about the plans that TWINKLE has for this year, let’s go quickly through what happened during the end of last year.

Read more