AI at Slush 2019Susan Fourtané
Technological infused Finns are envisioning vast opportunities in creating and adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions in the business landscape.
This year at Slush in Helsinki, Finland, the largest technology event for startups and venture capital investors in Europe, there seemed to be an Artificial Intelligence company in each and every direction you were looking. It seems like there is a good reason for that.
An accelerator initiated in 2018 by the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Finland and Technology Industries of Finland is helping startups and SME deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Finland's Artificial Intelligence Accelerator (FAIA), publishes a curated list of the best AI companies in Finland twice a year. The AI Landscape offers an overview of the selected top AI companies in Finland, which is then made publicly available and downloadable.
The accelerator is open to anyone who is deploying or is interested in deploying AI. According to FAIA, each accelerator pools together entities with the same readiness level and aims to obtain the best outcome.
Other criteria includes that the company already has developed an AI strategy, as well as the individuals representing the organization, must be strategically accountable. Sometimes, the startups joining the accelerator have already developed AI pilots before joining. The accelerator aims at AI solutions that have real business impact.
Criteria that is included in the AI Landscape
Have raised at least €500,000 in funding, or
Have a turnover exceeding €500,000, and
A majority of turnover is generated from AI solutions
The AI solution is based on own tech/IPR
The AI solution is in use
The third edition of the AI Landscape was recently published on November 11. From the 60 proposals received, Finland's AI Accelerator cherry-picked only 15. The process is very selective and aims at collecting the best quality based on their criteria. The AI companies were then divided into Product Companies, Consultancies, and Enabler Companies. Logically, FAIA is constantly monitoring and mapping Finland's AI scene. And all this explains the flourishing of AI startups at Slush this year. It is as simple as connecting the dots.
According to Mika Marjalaakso, Chairman of the Board at Oak Ventures, an angel investments, and advisory board, the idea of having one publicly available and curated list of relevant Finnish Artificial Intelligence companies was born in 2017 when he was mapping the landscape for the Tax Office authorities. "Although many were doing the same research on their own, it seemed that a public and official list was missing."
When he met Antti Poikola, Co-Lead at Finland's AI Accelerator, everything started to roll out fast. The AI Landscape initiative was launched with the aim of offering a resource based on transparency and clear criteria.
Once the companies have been curated, they are divided into three categories:
AI-enabler companies: This category includes AI-technologies such as platforms and algorithms that are based on the company's own development or IPR.
AI-based product companies: These companies have an AI component, such as learning, which has a foundational role in the product. The AI component has to enable something new and totally innovative.
AI consultancies: To belong to this category, the companies need a minimum of 50 percent of their turnover to be generated from strategic AI-consultancy or AI-solution consultancy, or a combination of both.
Maria 01 houses 20 percent of FAIA's Landscape AI Startups
Not quite surprising, 20 percent of FAIA's Landscape companies are located at Maria 01 Startup Campus in Helsinki as of today, including Silo.ai, Ultimate.ai, Awake.ai, Valohai, Selko, and Inscripta. However, other companies from Maria 01 that could be put inside that category, and perhaps we could see included in the next edition of the Landscape in 2020, could include Fibo.ai, Attractive.ai, CHAOS, and Meeshkan.
Finland's AI Accelerator from the AI startup viewpoint
Tuomas Ritola, CEO and Co-Founder at Selko told us that FAIA organizes batches, where a group of technology companies --or deploying organizations-- is gathered, all with the same or similar challenges on certain types of data and processes, and where they agree on a common problem definition that would help all of them tackle the challenges.
"Then a set of service providers, like us, are collected, all with relevant know-how and experience on the topic and challenge in question. We were included in one such batch on NLP and legal tech, which was extremely helpful in seeing in practice some challenges the large Finnish tech companies have in relation to text data in certain functions," he says.
"In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the process facilitated really well the networking between tech companies and the companies in the Finnish AI scene, as well as between the companies in the AI scene. And through the network, we have also gained in practice new customers, as well as new potential partners for collaboration in other future projects," says Tuomas Ritola.
According to Toni Perämäki, COO at Valohai, productivity in machine learning is primarily a usability challenge as opposed to a modeling one. "That’s why Valohai is partnering with FAIA’s efforts to bring the different players in the AI field together for distributing the knowledge and learning faster together," he tells us.
"Our collaboration with FAIA focuses on helping more prominent corporations to leapfrog the adaptation hurdles that arise when bringing machine learning from vacuum proofs-of-concept to an integral part of their operations," says Toni Perämäki.
AI leaders of the future
Finland has a huge potential to become one of the world's leaders in Artificial Intelligence. The Nordic country has always been technologically advanced. Being the home of Nokia, one cannot expect otherwise. Despite being a small nation, Finland's innovation in the tech sector is well known.
On July 1, 2010, Finland became the first country in the world that officially recognized broadband as a legal right. Today, Finland enjoys one of the fastest and most affordable broadband and Wi-Fi services in the world. Meanwhile, British citizens, for instance, will not enjoy legal access to broadband until 2020. This is relevant because every emerging technology depends on reliable high-speed connectivity.
In addition, with over 500 startups in Helsinki alone, the extension of Maria 01, the current largest startup campus in the Nordics that is set to become the largest in Europe by 2023, gives a clear idea of what we can expect in terms of Artificial Intelligence developments in the near future.
Indeed, the next step is to dig deeper and find out why Finland is creating so many AI companies and AI solutions at such a fast pace.
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