More CNN on Helsinki

Following on the popular Helsinki Snow How piece, CNN’s Richard Quest went on to make three more short pieces about the city I currently call home.

Helsinki’s Underground Master Plan includes a bit about an innovative new server farm I highlighted in Heating by Bytes that uses the excess heat from the computers to heat the city.

Expanding Helsinki’s Horizon covers the on-going construction in the old harbor of the city that will almost double the surface area in downtown Helsinki via the Horizon 2030 plan.

Helsinki’s Battle Against the Darkness is about how the inhabitants of the city cope with the dark, Winter days.

Helsinki “Snow-How”

7-minute video on CNN about how Helsinki handles it’s annual snow removal operations. The last time Helsinki’s Vantaa airport closed because of snow was in 2003 and that was for just 30 minutes.

Heating by Bytes

File this one under Green.

Sometime in the near future, district heating in Helsinki will be supplemented by heat thrown off by local data centers. This will enable them to cut back on greenhouse gases produced by more traditional methods to heat the water that is pumping through radiators across town.

In a first of its kind experiment, the city of Helsinki will look at piping the waste heat produced by a data center, specifically the underground Academica Data Centre, to run under buildings and provide much needed heat for the residents. In a further move to enhance the greenness of this data centre, it is also going to be cooled by the icy waters of the Baltic Sea. This is one of the unique features of this system – the pump can both heat and cool water. This efficacy means that the output energy is five times more than the input energy. This directly translates into five times cheaper power. . . They can heat around 500 houses [and also save] around $ 563,000 annually for the company in power bills.

Pretty nifty.

Source: The Data Center Journal

Finnish Independence Day

The Finns had a rough go of it winning their independence from the USSR. It was just 70 years ago so the wounds are still fresh. The commemoration is more of a memorial in honor of those that served in the bitter civil war than the Norman Rockwell-like celebration that I am so used to in the United States.

Perhaps it’s the passing of time but I think it’s more the Finnish character that cuts out the pomp and circumstance of the independence day parade. Look at the Finnish flag. No noisy Stars and Bars, just a simple, austere blue cross.

Sisu indeed.

The Startup Scene in Helsinki

Arctic Evening
Arctic Evening - March 2009

I was lucky my trip to Helsinki overlapped with a meeting of Arctic Startup, an occasional meeting of high-tech entreprenuers. The event was held in the Dubrovnik Lounge, a cozy event space in downtown Helsinki which had room for about 100.

It reminded me of other Web 2.0 events that I’ve been to outside of silicon valley in Tokyo and on the East Coast of the US. A gathering of the faithful who spend their days virtually tapped in to what is going on in the valley come together face-to-face to compare notes and talk about the latest news and gossip. Everyone wants to know how things are in the Valley and if it’s really like what they’ve read. The organizers do a great job of bringing everyone together and encouraging people to help each other out and share stories of what works connecting people.

The evening’s event centered around a panel discussion about the state of VC funding in Finland and I was suprised to learn how active the Finnish government is in helping get startups off the ground. It’s difficult for a nordic startup (there were visitors from Sweden and Estonia) to secure VC funding from overseas so their best bet is to use the University system to build a prototype and secure an grant from the “tekka” (I know I’m spelling this wrong) that has become more open to funding alternatives to the pure R&D projects they have traditionally funded.

I met with Indrek Vainu from Estonia who implored me to let people I know that there’s government grants available for businesses that establish themselves in Estonia. As long as you can bring $2M to the table, the Estonian government will match that amount as a grant, doubling your runway. The application process takes some time but it’s worth it. Indrek consults on helping with the application process so if you’re interested in getting in touch, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

I also learned about the rather infamous case of Riot On, a mobile entertainment startup in early 2000 which famously swindled its investors and ended up giving startups a bad reputation that they’re still trying to overcome. There’s a great documentary about that crazy time and how it all went down. You can see the whole thing on Joost.

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