Timo-Pekka Uotila


Background – Nocca project


Nocca (Novel Opportunities for new Company Creation and Accelerated growth) innovation program is a joint project in the Baltic Sea region – in Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga – lasting two years. During the project (2019-2021), multidisciplinary activities and events were organized for university students in Finland, Estonia and Latvia where they had opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship, company creation and blue, green and silver economies ( website). Nocca program is part of the project financed through ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), which finances cross-border cooperation projects in Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden.  Partners of the project are higher education institute and incubator linked to it, university linked entrepreneurship platform, commercial accelerator, and university-linked incubator. The main goal of the program is to create new companies with sustainable business ideas. Theme areas of the program are green, blue, and silver economies, reflecting the need and opportunities identified in these fields of business. Green economy refers to things such as circular economy, and low carbon solutions, whereas blue economy refers to the business opportunities related to oceans and seas. Silver economy refers to (digital) products and services aimed for elderly people. In addition to the main goal of creating companies, Nocca program aims to create awareness of the new and emerging business fields, and to foster entrepreneurial mindsets amongst the students and aspiring startup entrepreneurs. The program’s structure is following: the program consists of three kinds of events, which of two took simultaneously place in three different countries, Finland, Estonia and Latvia. Final event took place in commercial accelerator in Estonia. These events included hackathons, scalability and growth workshops, and final bootcamp. The program was run twice. The number of participants of the first stage was 300-400, the second stage around 50, and last stage 10-20. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the second round of the program was organized in a hybrid (both online and live events) format. We discuss about experiences and learnings from the program from the ecosystem perspective. We list ecosystem actors in three cities.


What is an ecosystem?


Entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems are concepts used to describe entrepreneurial behavior that takes place in a network over the single firm’s boundaries.[1]

World economic forum (2013) propose eight categories for successful entrepreneurial ecosystem: accessible markets (domestic and foreign); human capital/workforce (e.g., talent, experience, access), funding and finance (e.g., friends and family, angel investors, private equity), support system (e.g., mentors & advisors, incubators/accelerators, community) regulatory framework and infrastructure (e.g. ease of starting business, tax incentives), education and training (e.g., entrepreneur-specific training), major universities as catalysts (e.g., playing key role in idea-formation for new companies), and cultural support (e.g., tolerance for failures, role models)

Research literature[2] suggests that that entrepreneurial activity creates new opportunities for innovation, which eventually creates value for society. Therefore, it is beneficial to focus on the whole ecosystem and on the relationships between its actors.



Figure1. Key elements, outputs and outcomes of the entrepreneurial ecosystem (Stam 2015)

It is possible to group attributes of entrepreneurial ecosystems under three categories.[3]

  • Cultural (supportive culture, histories of entrepreneurship)
  • Social (worker talent, investment capital, networks, mentors and role models)
  • Material (policy and governance, universities, support services, physical infrastructure, open markets)

It is beneficial to focus on the interrelations of these three categories instead of focusing individually on some aspects of the ecosystem. Cultural, social and material factors together form well-functioning entrepreneurial ecosystem.









Ecosystem stakeholders in Helsinki, Riga and Tallinn


Below we list startup ecosystem actors in Helsinki, Riga and Tallinn. We have grouped the stakeholders to three groups: stakeholders who create supportive culture, stakeholders who create social capital for the ecosystem, and stakeholders who provide material resources for the ecosystem. Some stakeholders could be placed In many categories.




Who are the main stakeholders who create supportive culture?

  • Slush – a startup and tech event
  • Arctic 15
  • Startup success stories:  Rovio, Supercell, Wolt

Who create social capital in the ecosystem?

  • Maria 01 – Large co-working space
  • Xes Helsinki – Student-led Entrepreneurship Society
  • LaureaES - Student-led Entrepreneurship Society
  • METES - Student-led Entrepreneurship Society
  • AaltoES - Student-led Entrepreneurship Society
  • xEdu accelereator – EdTech Acclerator
  • The Shortcut – talent accelerator
  • KIUAS – accelerator for early stage startups
  • Loudspring (former Cleantech invest) – largest cleantech accelerator in Nordic
  • Arctic StartUp
  • Helsinki Think Company
  • Active mentors
  • Industry hack / open innovation
  • Combient Foundry -
  • Junction
  • The HUB – Free of charge community platform

What is the state of material attributes?

  • FIBAN - Finnish Business Angels Network
  • FVCA – Finnish Venture Capital Association
  • The Founder Institute – pre-seed startup accelerator
  • Business Finland
  • NewCo Helsinki – free advisory services for entrepreneurs, run by city of Helsinki
  • Helsinki Business Hub
  • University of Helsinki
  • Aalto University
  • Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
  • Laurea University of Applied Sciences
  • Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
  • Invesdor – Crowdfunding platform
  • Springvest – Crowdfunding platform
  • Icebreaker – Seed stage investments
  • Avanto Ventures – hands-on expertise and funding
  • Gorilla Capital
  • Valkea Growth Fund – Growth Club for Digital Clean Energy Ventures (Fortum)




Who are the main stakeholders who create supportive culture?

  • Starting.LV -  Latvian Startup association
  • Techchill - Startup Conference

Who create social capital in the ecosystem?

  • TechHUB Riga - Support, mentoring, finance
  • OraculeTang Space
  • People Work
  • Teikums
  • Buildit – Pre seed and seed money support

What is the state of material attributes?

  • LATBAN- Latvian Business Angeles network
  • LVCA – Latvian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association
  • Overkill Ventures - Pre seed and seed money support





Who are the main stakeholders who create supportive culture?

  • Ajujaht – the largest  business idea competition in Estonia
  • Changemakers –Emtrepremeruship programs for youth
  • Codesters Club – Digital product development program
  • Loome häkk – ideation hackathon
  • Digigirls – IT program for girls
  • Future heroes – Entrepreneruhip program for girls
  • Garage 48 Ideation hackathons for everyone
  • HK unicorn squad – technology workshops for girls
  • Hupe Laude – Technology program for youth
  • Negavatt – Green idea competition for youngster aged 18.30
  • Robotex 18 – international robotics festival
  • Spinner – startup traineeship for youngsters
  • Edu Tegu – Business idea development program
  • Startup day – the biggest business festival in the Baltics
  • Technology tv-show & events or kinds
  • Techsisters – ICT workshops for girls and women
  • Telia techgirls – tech events for girls
  • Latitude 59 – the flagship startup & tech event of e-Estonia
  • North Start AI – Conference for developers
  • Refresh – Conference for Product managers
  • Startup success stories: Mintos, Nordigen, Lokalise, Twino, Sonaworks

Who create social capital in the ecosystem?

  • Cleantech for EST – Accelerator for clean and green tech
  • Hariduskiirendi – education accelerator
  • Tel Tech Mektory – pre-incubation for seed startups
  • Nula Incubator – Incubation for new societal initiatives
  • Alpine house – 1-year “high-altitude training” for startups
  • Buildit – Accelerator for hardware and IoT
  • Cleantech forest – Accelerator for Clean and GreenTech
  • Digix – Incubator for Creative and MediaTech
  • ESA Business incubator centre – Incubator for SpaceTech
  • Elevator startups – Accelerator for Creative and AdTech
  • Health Founders – Accelerator fir health technology
  • Objekt – Inkubator for Creative and MediaTech
  • Prototron – Accelerator and grant program
  • Startmeup – Incubator for early stage startups in natural sciences
  • Startup Incubator by Tehnopol – Incubator for ICT, Green and HealthTech
  • Storytek_ - Accelerator for Media and CreativTech
  • Tallinn University – Various pre-incubation programs
  • The University of Tartu IdeaLab
  • Founderly – Build startup in your spare time
  • Spark Demo business support structure for entrepreneurship in South Estonia
  • Startup Day – the biggest business festival in the Baltics
  • Startup Grind – community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators
  • EDUKONTOR -  a creative co-working space (Kuressaare)
  • Forwardspace - a co-working space (Pärnu)
  • SPARK HUB -  a startup & technology community centre (Tartu)
  • SPARK Makerlab - a makerspace/workshop (Tartu)
  • VIVISTOPs - child-friendly, open-plan workshops and innovation studios
  • Draper startup house – Startup Hostel
  • 24/7Office – Co-Working space
  • Spring Hub – HUB
  • Workland – Co-working space
  • the Workshop – Co-working space
  • – Makerlab for Cybertech
  • Lif99 – HUB
  • .Cocoon – Founders Psychology De-Accelerator
  • Estonian Founders Society
  • Startup Wise Guys – Accelerator for B2B SaaS, Cyber and FinTech
  • Lighthouse – Connecting Nordic and Baltic Fintech communities

What is the state of material attributes?

  • ESTVCA – Estonian private equity and venture capital association – representative body if private equity & venture capital industry in Estonia
  • ESTBAN –Seed stage investements
  • Lemonade Stand – Early stage tech startup investments
  • Lift99
  • Superangel – VC fund, managed by founders
  • Thorgate Ventures – Pre-seed to A-round invetemens
  • United AngelsVC – Pre-seed to A-round investments
  • .Contriber Ventures – Investing into NewNordic teams
  • Change Ventrues – Seed stage venture capital fund based in the Baltic states
  • Fundwise – Equity crowdfunding
  • Heateo Haridusfond – Grants for education
  • Karma.VC – Early stage and A-round investments
  • Limitless – Invetments into impactful companies
  • Nutikas –Funding for applied research
  • Spring Capital – Seed and Small Cap equity investments
  • TeraVentures – Seed and early stage VC firm
  • Trind – Seed investments focus on ICT




Ecosystem performance


Entrepreneurship ecosystems produce different kinds of outcomes. The overall outcome of the entrepreneurial ecosystem is its aggregate value it brings to society[4]. Entrepreneurial activity of the individuals and their aspiration towards innovation is the output of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. This innovation eventually creates new value for the society as whole, and is the overall outcome of the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Therefore the entrepreneurial activity which shows itself as number of new startup teams or scaled up startup firms, but as well as entrepreneurial employees, is important. In addition to success stories, also failed startups provide value for society, as they have potentially raised the level of human capital in the society, through providing example, increase of competence of individual entrepreneurs, and opening the networks. 

From the perspective of higher education institution, we can list issues that bring value to entrepreneurship ecosystem as a whole. At the core of the higher education institutions mission is human and social capital provided to society. As part of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, higher education institutions form the crucial breeding ground to the new startups.  From this perspective, the goal of the HEI’s is to cultivate students’ entrepreneurial mindsets, provide necessary skills and competencies for students setting up the business, and to foster networking and social capital of the students.













[1] Suominen, A., Seppänen, M. & Dedehayir, O. (2019). A bibliometric review on innovation systems and ecosystems: a research agenda. European Journal of Innovation Management, 22:2, 335-36; Ritala, P. & Gustaffson, R. (2018). Innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem research: where are we now and how do we move forward? Technology innovation management review, 8:7, 52-57




[2] Erik Stam (2015) Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Regional Policy: A Sympathetic Critique, European Planning Studies, 23:9, 1759-1769,

[3] Ben Spigel (2017) The relational organization of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice 41(1): 49–72.

[4] Stam 2015


EU logo      SSE Riga Logo      Tehnopol logo      taltech logo      Haaga-Helia logo