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Finnish entrepreneurs appreciate Silicon Valley’s open atmosphere and acceptance of failure

Hopes expressed that Finland will see more genuine desire to help others move forward.
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Hanna Maula’s (M. Soc. Sc.) (Phil. Lic.) doctoral dissertation, entitled ‘Big dreams and bold steps: Becoming a startup entrepreneur in Silicon Valley’, deals with the identity construction of Finnish start-up entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Hanna Maula will defend her dissertation at Aalto University School of Business on 27 January 2018.

According to Ms Maula’s research, Finnish entrepreneurs working in Silicon Valley view their new place of residence very positively from an entrepreneurial perspective, although competition in the region is felt to be very tight. The strengths of Silicon Valley are not related only to the size of the market or availability of funding. Finnish entrepreneurs working in the region appreciate other aspects such as the open atmosphere, acceptance of failure and willingness to take risks. Many interviewees emphasised that in Silicon Valley people truly celebrate other people's successes, because everyone gains if the ecosystem is faring well.

At the same time, these Finnish entrepreneurs heavily criticised the operating environment in Finland. The criticism related to issues such as bureaucracy and people's general attitudes.

‘The entrepreneurs that I interviewed wanted to see in Finland more of Silicon Valley’s pay it forward mentality, where goodness is passed around and there is a genuine desire to help others move forward. Many felt that there is too much envy in Finland and that people want to keep their networks for their own use rather than using them to equip and promote other people in their careers and business activities’, Ms Maula reports.

Entrepreneurial identity is dynamic and multifaceted

In her PhD work, Hanna Maula investigates how Finnish start-up entrepreneurs operating in a global environment construct their entrepreneurial identities and growth stories. The stories emphasise a variety of different motivations and objectives, sometimes even contradictory ones. The research showed that entrepreneurial identity is a dynamic, nuanced and complex phenomenon. Time and place are central in how it is constructed.

‘My research reveals the helpers and opponents that feature in the entrepreneurs' stories and play an important role in either supporting or obstructing the entrepreneurs' efforts. The context is important, but on the other hand the entrepreneurs themselves act as active agents and use many different strategies to construct their identity. The language they use is often peppered with hero metaphors, such as NHL stars, James Bonds, and kings. The language used reveals something about reality, but also constructs our understanding of what startup entrepreneurship is or what it should be. Entrepreneurs also actively make use of fiction and fictional narratives to construct legitimacy, entrepreneurial identity and the entrepreneurial opportunities’, Ms Maula explains.

Further information:
Hanna Maula
[email protected]

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