Culture Shift – Helsinki / Amman


From Helsinki to Amman within a couple of days, and despite sharing a timezone quite a culture shift.

That said there was a striking similarity between the two visits – that of the role of Government in supporting early stage incubation of digital media businesses as a strategic economic vision.

In a very impressive presentation the Jordanian Chief of Staff laid out some of the key challenges for a country which is seeking to transition to a more transparent and democratic model in a very turbulent region. The fact that Jordan has to import the vast majority of its energy and food is symbolic of a country where the key resource is its people – a knowledge economy evidenced by a growing medical sector and the fact that it publishes 75% of the Arabic content on the internet.

With a population which is 60% under 30, the Government is clear that it cannot create enough jobs and is systematically encouraging entrepreneurship in digital industries. Oasis 500, a business incubation initiative in Amman, was evidence of the familiar language of apps and e-commerce, seed investment and entrepreneurship. And the launch of a UK Jordan Tech Hub initiative exemplified a desire for international flow of ideas and commercial connection.

In Finland the ecosystem is much more fully formed and in some ways is booming as a direct result of the decline of Nokia as the dominant business. Nokia “bridge” payments to redundant staff and Government agency Tekes, have assisted in something of a start up boom, especially in games, with some highly talented people bringing a series of new ideas to market.

Again supported spaces such as NewCo in Helsinki and Mediapolis and NewFactory in Tampere, highlighted physical infrastructure in support of new business. The Finnish economy also has some next generation “post Nokia” role models in Rovio and Supercell – who sold 51% of their business for $1.5Bn the day before I arrived, three years after launch….

So in both Helsinki and Amman the potential of digital industries to generate new companies with a limited requirement for initial capital investment but an ability to scale and generate significant value extremely quickly is recognised and supported, creating international linkages and global market opportunity whatever the geographical start point.

And in a similar vein, next stop Lisbon to speak at the Explorers Festival.

Amman view

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