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This First-of-its-kind Accelerator is Going to Make It Way Easier for Nordic Startups to Take on China


This first-of-its-kind accelerator is going to make it way easier for Nordic startups to take on China
Business Insider Nordic

Last month Finnish investment firm Pivot5 launched the first business accelerator between the Nordics and China, the Nordics-China Innovation and Startup Acceleration program. It is run in cooperation with Beijing-based business incubator COMB+ and aims to help startups based in the Nordics establish and grow their presence in China.

Pivot5, formerly known as KoppiCatch, is one of the most successful investment companies for early-stage startups in Finland. Their portfolio includes IndoorAtlas, who went on to raise $10 million from Baidu, as well as Minun Sports, a Danish startup that provides football training tools and is endorsed by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Arsenal FC. Both of these startups have also enjoyed success on the Chinese market.  

COMB+ is owned by SkyOcean, a publicly listed company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK). It has two campuses, with room for hundreds of companies, as well as an established investor network.

Regarding this new partnership Mr. Ling "Leo" Zhu, COMB+’s CEO, explained:
"We see Helsinki and the whole Nordic region as the natural bridge between Europe and China. No one should attempt to enter the Chinese market by themselves. However, finding the right partner is easier than generally thought.”

Looking at how the need for this kind of accelerator came about, Torsti Tenhunen, founder of Pivot5, points to perceived stereotypes about launching a startup in Asia’s biggest economy. 

For him, this partnership “helps firms overcome their concerns when it comes to doing business with China, which tend to fall into three groups: 1) Bureaucracy, censorship and government complexity, 2) A challenging contextual culture and language, 3) Fraud, copycats and the fear of violent IPR-transfer.”

As for why Pivot5 chose to work with COMB+, Tenhunen went on to add that the Beijing incubator “has a very close relationship with local and provincial governments, uses trusted experts full of useful advice, and works with a strong network of investors.”

The kick-off event took place just before Slush, and was attended by over 100 entrepreneurs and investors. It also involved a pitching competition, with 10 pre-selected startups pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges. The top prize included a free “acceleration week” in Beijing, including investor meetings and pitchings, customer meetings, and workshops.

Among the ideas pitched was Reverse Resources - a startup that has developed software for recycling and reusing the billions of tons of leftover material from the fashion industry.

Another impressive idea came from Heliostorage, with their concept for harnessing the power of the sun all year round (even during the sunlight-starved months of Finnish winter!). But the eventual winner was Jakamo, a supply chain collaboration platform for the manufacturing industry.

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