The differences of startup cultures: North vs. South

The differences of startup cultures: North vs. South

There are many cultural differences between the Nordic and the Southern countries. The rules, for example, are like steel in the north, while everything is bendable in the south. Both ways have their own pros and cons. If you live in a country like Turkey, where there are so many things happening simultaneously that you are unable to comprehend everything at the same time, it is very hard to focus on one goal. But at the same time, the ever-shifting business landscape sometimes lands the opportunities right on your lap. However, in the north you really work a lot and truly deserve your money.

That’s why the first thing a venture capitalist must learn in Turkey is that people matter most. Sometimes the wrong people can get investments because of a bright idea or because the business atmosphere is favorable. In order to prevent this from happening, institutions like e-tohum make sure that the right people lead the right projects with the right investors.

The e-tohum of Finland is Startup Sauna. Founded in 2010, Startup Sauna open sources seed acceleration to the most promising startups from northern Europe, the Baltic region and Russia. During the Startup Sauna program, the selected teams work intensively to develop their business model, technology and its applications, and early market entry. The teams graduating will be prepared to seek initial investments and first customers. Startup Sauna activities are funded by Aalto University and Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation – and its website is

Startup Sauna was created by Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, an independent, privately funded student and postgraduate-led community initiative. Aaltoes encourages high-tech, high-growth, scalable entrepreneurship, providing a tight startup community in northern Europe. Founded in 2009, Aaltoes believes in grassroots action, self-initiative and lean practices. Its website is

We met with two companies from the Sauna. The first one was Hakema. In 2013, Hakema launched a set of lead generation and management solutions to attract, convert and monetize website visitors in multiple ways. Its customers include online classifieds and marketplaces, for example real-estate portals or any website needing an inbound sales solution.

Their solutions generate and capture all the leads in one place, provide real-time tracking and analytics. Online visitors can conveniently contact sellers and also book times for scheduled phone calls or face to face meetings, all from the listing itself - never leaving the classified site.

The second company was Nordic Hug. NordicHug’s goal is to bring cleaning and disinfection up to 21st century standards. Instead of developing harsh chemicals that are harmful for people and the environment, its scientists are putting all their efforts into understanding nature and how it fights harmful bacteria.

NordicHug has developed an innovative, natural based formula that is highly effective against bacteria. Arctic Berry Formula contains Arctic cloudberry, a rare plant that grows in the Arctic and has wonderful natural antimicrobial compounds.

They are both great companies where great people pursue great ideas. But the main difference between them and Turkish entrepreneurs that I have seen so far is the fact that they aim globally. Because they have to. The inner market in Finland is so small that Finnish startups either make it globally or they don’t at all. Therefore, the chances of failure are much higher than the Turkish entrepreneurs, who can at least depend on the Turkish market. However, I believe that the comfort that a huge home market brings is a huge handicap for Turkey, preventing it from having global brands, as the money earned in the early stages usually satisfies the entrepreneurs and they let go of everything.