4.12.2017 klo 09:45

HEI Network made a survey about foreign entrepreneurs in Finland

Helsinki Entrepreneurs International published a survey about being an foreign entrepreneur in the capital region. Most entrepreneurs found it quite easy to start a business in Finland. Some found Finnish language challenging.

An open survey created and published by Helsinki Entrepreneurs International (HEI Network, a member of The Regional Organisation of Enterprises in Helsinki). The survey consisted of 10 questions targeted at foreign entrepreneurs in Finland and gathered 71 answers.

Time range: From April to July 2017. The most active month to respond was June.

Age groups: Nearly 40 % of the 71 respondents represent age group 35 to 44 years. Close to 30 % of the respondents represent age group 25 to 34, and another 30 % represent age group 45 to 54. Only one respondent was under 25 years of age, and 4 respondents are over 55.

Gender: 44 respondents are male (62 %) and 27 female (38 %).

Residence & experience as an entrepreneur

Nearly half (46.5 %) of the respondents have been in Finland for more than 10 years. About 34 % have been in Finland from 1 to 5 years, and about 18 % from 5 to 10 years. Only one respondent has been in Finland for less than a year.

However, 40 % of the respondents only had experience as an entrepreneur for less than 1 year and another 40 % from 1 to 5 years. Only one respondent had been an entrepreneur for more than 10 years. Many of the respondents had entrepreneurial experience from their home country or previous country of residence prior to arriving in Finland. These areas include Russia (commented by 4 respondents) and India (commented by 2 respondents), Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Italy, Peru, Senegal and Latin America.

Starting a company in Finland

Starting a company in Finland was considered quite easy by circa 35% and not hard nor easy by circa 27 % of the respondents. About 18% considered starting a company in Finland to be quite hard and about 11% quite easy. More than 8% felt that starting a company here was very hard.

Comments include difficulties with languages; information is mostly available in Finnish and Swedish, not so much in English. Those who received help (nearly 80 % of the respondents) from an accountant, a family member, a local entrepreneurs’ organization or other support unit (such as NewCo) obviously felt that starting a company was easier. However, many commented that it was challenging to know what to do next after registering the company and managing the first steps of bureaucracy. One respondent commented that it is hard “to find investment”. 9 respondents out of 71 (13 %) reported that they got no help at all in starting a company here.

Dealing with bureaucracy

While most (nearly 60 %) of the respondents felt that bureaucracy and paying taxes was fairly easy or not easy nor hard, 10 respondents (14 %) reported that dealing with bureaucracy and paying taxes was very hard and 30 % thought it to be quite hard. Internet services were considered an advantage as well as the services of a good accountant, although a good one providing service in English was hard to find.

“We are still struggling with it. Accessible information in English should not be in the way of businesses that can work fine with international clients and local clients with a worldly mindset.”

“Overall the bureaucracy in Finland is not too bad. What would have helped though is better information regarding what to report and when to report it. I ended up paying some fines at the start.”

“Many things are pretty straight forward. Then again, I work as a tmi so that is probably the most basic form of entrepreneurship. For the taxes, I immediately got an accountant to take care of that business.”

Language skills & other challenges

16 respondents out of 71 (23 %) reported to be fluent in Finnish and 20 % to be somewhat fluent or not sure. This means that nearly 60 % of the respondents need services in another language, preferably English.

“I use English as a main communication language with my customer which is quite common for IT consultancy. However, I use Swedish in my communications with authorities and it also works pretty well. I can not imagine doing business in Finland without ability to (at least) read and write in Finnish or Swedish as most of the official papers are sent in one of these two languages.”

“I think company registration and other services related to doin business in Finland should be provided in English as well as Finnish and Swedish, this will help Finnish companies go international faster.”

In addition to taxes and language barriers, other challenges mentioned in the comments include racism (even abuse towards foreign entrepreneurs); customer, business partner and employee acquisition; financial support; and negative/conservative business climate or “closed market”.

According to the respondents, entrepreneurship could be made easier in Finland for foreigners, for example, by a government-supported program and other support services in English, better access to capital and simpler accounting and tax processes.

“It would be much easier if there was a government supported program that works with all the necessary government agencies and administrations etc. that are involved in the process of becoming an entrepreneur to produce a single document that outlines all the important information. This can be in the form of printed documents and forms or as a single website, which makes the process clear and simple to understand and thus more encouraging for new people to become entrepreneurs and to offer a greater chance that they will become successful. (see: https://www.gov.uk/)”

“I would suggest to organise lectures about news in law and legislation, ones or twice a year, in native language. Online lectures also would be great, or youtube”

“Some important info about taxes is still missing in English.”

“Wide availability of dedicated grants and cheap loans will greatly boost innovative entrepreneurship. I hope that situation in this field will change with the growth of Finnish economy.”

Helsinki Entrepreneurs International – HEI Network

HEI Network brings together entrepreneurs interested in internationalization. We can internationalizate in many ways: by import, by export, and by networking with international entrepreneurs in Helsinki. Joining the group your will get HEI Networks E-newsletter. All entrepreneurs are welcome.


Picture: HEI Network board members Virve Juhola and Sarianne Reinikkala at YHDESSÄ – TOGETHER seminar telling about the survey and the results.