We recently had Rishi Chowdhury, Co-Founder of Momentum London and IncuBus Ventures, visiting Amcham Finland to present and take part in a panel discussion together with Miikka Kataja, Head of Partnerships at Slush and Visa Friström, Head of Partnership Development: KONE Corporation (from left to right in photo). The event was entitled ‘Ecosystems: Innovation or Imitation?’ and the panelists discussed the difficulty of combining corporate systems with the more structure-free format of startups. This was our sixth event with our wonderful partners The British Embassy in Helsinki.

After the event, we sat down with Rishi to discuss what exactly makes the London ecosystem—where startups and larger companies from various industries are often able work off each other’s strengths—so special and what can Helsinki learn from the London experience.

“Diversity!” says Rishi, when asked what makes London so special as an ecosystem. It is big enough to have every conceivable industry—from fashion, media, retail, finance—at the startup and large corporate scale. There is every nationality, ethnicity and type of person with a diversity of views. This makes for a rich fabric from which to cross-pollinate new innovations.

There isn’t a lot we can do about Helsinki’s size, we tell him. But we could hire more employees from various backgrounds, nationalities and skill-sets.

There is another lesson to be learned from London, however, Rishi tells us. Ten years ago, London strived to be the next-best-thing to Silicon Valley. But they were missing the point: Silicon Valley was 30 years ahead in terms of development and had a very different culture and environment. Then they started to look at it from another angle: what are we the best at? What should we concentrate on?

Rishi’s advice to the Helsinki region is to concentrate on the city’s strengths, such as data science, not just in practice, but in the way the region is presented to the outside world. Show it off.

His three tips for a ‘corporate’ interacting with startups and vice versa:

  • Future-proof your company by thinking how technology will influence consumer behavior 5-10 years from now. What do you do now to be relevant then?
  • The biggest innovations come from the marriage of two different worlds. For example, blockchain’s biggest innovations may not come from cryptocurrency, but from some completely outside industry. Think of innovations from all conceivable angles, not just the obvious ones they were ‘designed for’.
  • A corporate executive should not be so separated from different demographics. Same goes for startups. Don’t be afraid to spend time with young people or be immersed in that environment. Rishi was at a gathering once and young entrepreneurs were hanging out in little groups talking to each other. To one side stood a middle-aged man in a suit alone, looking rather forlorn. Rishi approached him and he turned out to be a Rothschild and one of the biggest investors in London. Those young entrepreneurs all complaining about not being able to find investors were missing out on a potential gold mine!

Don’t isolate yourself. Mix with all kinds of people, environments and ideas. The biggest innovations may come from the most unlikely places. Attend events (at Amcham Finland or elsewhere) that have nothing to do with your industry. It may not be life-changing but at the very least you will see a new perspective! For the Amcham Finland calendar, click here.

Links to Rishi’s Linkedin and Twitter.