The scaling of a start-up ecosystem - Helsinki's Maria 01

Ahead of the Summit we caught up with Ville Simola, CEO of Maria 01 to find out what he'll be bringing to the 'Scaling Ecosystems' panel in a couple of weeks time
The scaling of a start-up ecosystem - Helsinki's Maria 01

Maria 01 is a thriving Finnish start-up ecosystem in Helsinki. The campus, based in a disused hospital, is a place for start-ups, VCs and investors in Europe, start-up ecosystem organisations, and larger tech enterprises to come together one roof, collaborate and grow. 

Ville Simola, Maria 01's CEO, has been growing the ecosystem to be the largest in the Nordics since 2019. He will be taking part in the 'scaling an ecosystem' conversation at this year's Summit as he shares his experiences of growing the Finnish ecosystem and developing relationships. 

To whet the appetite we caught up with Simola to get a gauge on what Maria 01 is and where it's going. 

What was the catalyst to building this ecosystem? 

We’ve been building the Helsinki start-up ecosystem now for 10 to 15 years or so. In 2016, when we were established, the ecosystem already was starting to be quite mature, and there was more and more start-ups coming in - but we were missing one central location where we could truly say that we have an ecosystem. We have a hub where things can happen faster than they would happen somewhere else. 

The spark for Marie 01 was obviously that there was a true need for a community and a campus like this. And we've tried to build everything from the bottom up - doing things where founders and other leaders see that there's a need – it’s very grassroots driven.

I must say, a shout out to the City of Helsinki since they're the ones who actually have been providing the land area and the premises for us from day one. We pay rent on the facilities we use, but in the beginning, they played an important role enabling all this to happen. 

How did that relationship with City of Helsinki come about?

Actually the initiative came from their side – they had an old hospital facility that became vacant. They approached a group of start-up founders and they asked for feedback on if it was a good initiative and how they felt about having a campus at the site. 

The groups said yes, so that was kind of the spark for getting things started - after that, we initiated the liability to operate the campus. They gave us free hands and independence for the community to create the best environment to support it.

What stage is the ecosystem at now?

We have plans to expand our campus in the coming years - going all the way from 20,000 square meters into a 70,000 square meter campus. That doesn't happen overnight, obviously. 

We are also planning to expand the lifecycle of start-ups - not only early-stage, but to focus more on the scale-up stage and growth stage as well. 

What’s the dream?

I think we, as Europe, should become the continent for start-ups. Europe will be the future lighthouse when it comes to start-ups and technology in the future.

Want to join the 'scaling an ecosystem' conversation? Why not join us in Brussels on 24th May 2023? See you then!

Main image credit: Tapio Auvinen

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