Symbiosis: Nokia, Finland And The Rise Of Jolla

I have just finished reading probably THE most thought-provoking story about Nokia that I have read in some time, which really illustrates the symbiotic relationships that have existed through the years between Nokia, Finland, and indeed now Jolla; it’s really quite remarkable.

I’ll just seek to point out a few things that I learned from reading the article and urge you to read it for yourselves if you have an interest in Jolla, Nokia and/or Finland.

The first thing I hadn’t realised was that Nokia is actually older than Finland!  Finland only became independent from Russia after WWI:

For a start Nokia is older than Finland. Much older. It was founded in 1865 while Finland — after over 700 years of Swedish rule and 109 years of Russian rule — only attained its independence in 1918.

So Nokia has always been there for Finland and of course it wouldn’t have succeeded without the symbiotic relationship that existed with the Finnish people themselves.

The Nokia name appeared in 1871 when founder Fredrik Idestam renamed it after a small nearby town and over the next hundred years it grew by continually switching industries. It moved from paper to rubber to robotics to chemicals and eventually electronics and telecommunications in the 1970s.

The Finns were also very much, to a large degree, dependent on Nokia’s success (until more recently):

For its part Finland was pulled out of the most severe economic crisis in any OECD country since World War II. It was transformed from one of the least information and communication specialised countries in the world to the most specialised.

The article then moves on to mention that while there was this co-dependency for many years, latterly Finland was starting to outgrow Nokia and could see that it was perhaps unhealthy to have all her eggs in the one Nokia basket.

As Nokia began shedding jobs the Finnish government responded with programmes to drive small businesses. Another key Helsinki-based startup event, Slush, attracted $40 billion (£24 billion) worth of venture capital investors in 2012 and expects 1,000 startups this year.

Of course, Jolla attended Slush 2012 and we were all here watching, anticipating with bated breath – I will never forget that entrance Jolla made for the keynote at Slush 2012 – it was an emotional scene!

While Finland as a nation was preparing for the inevitable after the successes of Apple and Google, Nokia’s downfall had already begun – but out of the devastation there were rays of light and hope.

It is said job cuts, which released over 10,000 of Nokia’s overwhelmingly R&D based Finnish employees into the job market since 2006, also hasn’t done Finland’s start-up industry any harm.

Out of this devastation, Jolla was born, benefiting from Nokia’s Bridge program which helped a small group of ex Nokia employees, namely Marc Dillon, Jussi Hurmola, Stefano Mosconi, Sami Pienimaki,and Antti Saarnio to start growing the seed which is now a company of 80+ people on the verge of truly great things!

Yet to only see it this way does Nokia a disservice because on its way down it started throwing out numerous life rafts. April 2011 saw the start of the Nokia Bridge incubator programme which awarded up to €20,000 (£16,000) to each redundant staff member with a credible start-up idea. It allowed up to four employees to club together for a €100,000 (£84,000) fund with further financing of up to €50,000 (£42,000) per startup.

The reach of Bridge has been phenomenal. To date more than 1,000 companies have begun through it, 400 of which were in Finland. By far the most interesting is Jolla, which picked up the rights to develop the promising MeeGo operating system Nokia unceremoniously (and some would argue incorrectly) dumped when it teamed up with Microsoft to exclusively develop for Windows Phone.

Jolla CEO, Tomi Pienimaki also mentions the importance of Nokia’s role in Jolla’s existence along with the compassion Nokia extended and further hints at the deeper symbiosis that exists between the two companies and of course, Finland, their mother nation:

“If Nokia had kept MeeGo, Jolla wouldn’t exist,” says Jolla CEO Tomi Pienimaki. “It wanted a clean break so didn’t fight us over IP or ideas.” Along with capital, Nokia also kept Jolla supplied with N9 smartphones, the only MeeGo handset it ever released. “Nokia’s legacy is not just as a company, but in shaping an entire country with the kind of knowhow that is capable of the incredible startup scene we have today. It has shaped a workforce which has recently attracted Huawei, Samsung, Intel, Google and now Microsoft to make major investments here.”

However, the article overall gives a feeling that all-in-all, Nokia is better off now and indeed Finland, who has, through this tough time, been able to diversify and is also therefore, in a better place.

“My feeling is Microsoft may have done Finland a favour as a country and Nokia as a company,” says Rouvinen. “Nokia was going bankrupt or at least facing a dismal future. In principle [the deal] is lending real legs to the network side. What remains of Nokia is likely to be better off.”

It also mentions some nice speculatory talk on the ‘new’ Nokia and the question of a Jolla/Nokia partnership something we’ve always speculated about here also.:

Speculation has run wild in Finland that Nokia will use its newfound wealth to re-enter the handset business on its own terms — perhaps in a dream team Finnish partnership with Jolla. The talk is unsurprising, the Microsoft deal allows Nokia to sell branded handsets as early 2015 and it could sell phones under a different brand (Jolla?) tomorrow. But for now it seems a hope for the romantics.

“We speculate about re-entry, but having been beaten that badly it wouldn’t be an easy goal to make,” argues Rouvinen. “Re-entry would burn hundreds of millions, if not billions and it is a huge gamble. Nokia has no history of jumping back. My guess is it will turn into a nice, boring, profitable networking business.”

Finally, the article concludes with these fitting words:

And this is the crux. For a famously stoic nation, Finns get emotional when you talk about Nokia. It was a marriage founded on adversity which transformed company and country. But the marriage is over. Finns saw it coming, they prepared for it and in many ways they have already moved on but, like only the most important of relationships, when time came to break up it still hurt like hell.

Like a behemoth, lumbering Blue Whale tracked and hunted by a ruthless pod of Killer Whales, Nokia (as we knew her) died a long, slow, drawn out death.  But just as the carcass of the Blue Whale provides nutrition, life and vigour to a whole new generation of marine species, in her wake, Nokia provided lifeboats to a whole host of new startups… and from one of those lifeboats it just so happened that Sailfish was born and has risen from the depths.

Whether Jolla and Nokia will ever reconnect again and, along with the Finnish people bring the early beginnings of their fruitful relationship full circle once more is anyone’s guess. I definitely won’t rule out a partnership of some kind in the future, whether it’s to license Nokia’s HERE maps or something altogether different… it just seems written in the stars somehow.

For my part, following Jolla has been truly wild this past year and a half. Jolla are really on the verge of great things and I for one am so glad to be here supporting them with you, supporting Finland’s vibrant startup scene and providing the whole world with a genuinely amazing, “unlike” alternative to the big 2.

Thank you for your continued kind support, comments, feedback here which keeps me excited and impassioned to continue following and reporting on this amazing, courageous company, Jolla, that is securely anchored in my heart.

Sail On…

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