14:27 | 19.02.18 | Interviews | exclusive 105588

Peter Vesterbacka: Armenian startups will be interested in Finnish IT

TechChill tech event took place on February 8-9 in Riga, Latvia. The event hosted over 2000 representatives from all over the world.

Finn entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka is one of the creators of Angry Birds and founder of Slush and MobileMonday tech events. In 2011 the Times magazine included him in its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People.

“Finland’s Elon Musk” plans his next large-scale project of digging a huge tunnel to connect Tallinn and Helsinki.

Itel.am talked to Peter Vesterbacka within the frames of TechChill.

Let’s start from Angry Birds. How did this game with a simple concept succeed in such a short period of time?
It’s a combination of many things, for example fantastic bird characters. The brand is also fantastic. When you hear the expression Angry Birds, it’s stuck in your head forever and you ask yourself: “Why are those birds angry?”

And indeed, why are the birds angry?

They are angry, because the pig steals their eggs. It’s simple like that. We made a huge success, built the fastest growing consumer brand ever. Then we made a movie in 2016, which became number 1 in 52 countries. Then I decided that it was a good time for me to let the team continue doing what they were doing and start doing bigger things myself.

Peter Vesterbacka Peter Vesterbacka
photo © TechChill

You are planning a large-scale project: Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel, which will be constructed in a short period of time and will cost USD 15 billion. What is the importance of the project?
It’s been 1,5 years that I work on the tunnels project.

Finish economy is growing now, so it’s a good start. But I want us to go faster than China. China is a fantastic opportunity for us at this part of the world. All the flights from Europe to China go through Helsinki. We are the closest neighbor of China and Japan in Europe.
A number of Chinese companies start their European headquarters in Finland. This is conditioned by several reasons. First of all, Finland is near to them, and they can freely work in Chinese. Secondly, Finland possesses the talent pool for doing business. So I think Armenian startups will also be interested in plugging in to that talent pool. This way we can have more and more collaboration within the region.

More than 10 million trips are taken between Helsinki and Tallinn every year, and the process has been advancing year by year since 90s. There is a lot of collaboration in the sector, and the tunnel construction will only accelerate this growth.  

Now you can see a lot of Asian tourists in Finland, as well as growing number of investments. For instance, Japan invested a lot in robotics companies of Finland.

Peter Vesterbacka and Narine daneghyan Peter Vesterbacka and Narine daneghyan
photo © TechChill

The deadline of tunnel launch is December of 2024. It gives us 5 years for completing the construction of the tunnel and getting the relevant permits for creating the environment.

You are the founder of one of the most popular tech events: Slush, which will be held this year on December 4-5, Helsinki.

Yes, Slush is one of the largest tech events in the world. We have more than 100 countries attending this year, more than 6500 voluntaries from 60 countries. It’s very global, much more global than anything you can find in Silicon Valley.

It would be great to see more Armenian startups in Slush.

We will also have Arctic 15 event on May 30-31. It is held in a cable factory for 2000-3000 attendees.

By the way, by 2020 we are bringing 150 000 foreign university students to Finland and 30 000 to Estonia. These are students from all over the world probably including Armenia. Bringing foreign students in a massive scale will generate new startups, while existing startups will expand their personnel.

Will these students get scholarships?

No, they are paying for the studies, but it’s very cheap to study in Finland: USD 10.000-20.000 a year. At the same time the quality is very high with most of our universities in the top 3 % of universities globally.

Can you say that Finnish market is ready for accepting foreign startups?
Yes, sure. When I worked on Angry Birds at Rovio, we had 47 different nationalities working on the brand, so it’s a super global talent pool.

There are thousands of startups in the country, which is pretty interesting because the population is only 5,5 million people.

Peter Vesterbacka Peter Vesterbacka
photo © TechChill

For 20 years now we have been actively involved in AI research. We have a significant number of companies in this sector.

What do you know about Armenian IT?

Frankly speaking, I don’t know anything about Armenian tech.  If you still don’t have direct flights to Helsinki, you need to work on solving this issue. I have never been to Armenia but I would love to come. If there are interested people, I will definitely pay a visit.

That’s why I am also attending TechChill. For me it’s very important to understand what’s going on in the local ecosystems.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Peter Vesterbacka