A Deep Dive into the Finnish Business Culture

Startup Call is like a shortcut to networking in a new business environment, says entrepreneur Samat Serimbetov.

Business is business anywhere in the world, but there are always new things to learn when establishing a company in a new country and a new market. Therefore, Samat Serimbetov applied for Startup Call, a program aimed at international talents planning to start a business in the Turku region.

– It has been a great opportunity to network with people and to experience the local culture and startups, Serimbetov comments in an interview half-way through the program.

His startup ModularGreen focuses on solving problems of food insecurity in the Nordic Countries. Serimbetov has developed self-sustained modular greenhouses, which will enable year-round production of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish using an aquaponics system, pyrolysis heater, and solar energy.

With ModularGreen, Serimbetov expands his modular fabrication business into agriculture. He already runs a company in his home country Kazakhstan, which builds offshore modules for companies in oil and gas business. In addition, his Turku-based company KRB Rakennus Oy provides outfitting and cabins installations services for companies operating at the Meyer Turku shipyard.

– I am an entrepreneur 24/7, he laughs.

Samat Serimbetov heard about the Startup Call program when he attended the events in the local business community and decided to apply.

A Compact Introduction into the Local Culture

Serimbetov moved to Turku with his family in 2021. He attended events in the local business community, found out about the new Startup Call program and became the first entrepreneur to attend.

Startup Call is a cost-free, three-month program run by the regional development company Turku Science Park Ltd. It includes the BusinessUp accelerator programme, useful lectures for entrepreneurs, startup and networking events, and the use of co-working space Werstas Turku.

To Serimbetov, the program has been a deep dive into the Finnish particularities of for instance taxation, legislation, accounting, and the local business culture in general.

– It has been very intense, but also a good opportunity to ask and clarify things.

In the program, Serimbetov has a business mentor, who knows the local business culture. The mentor helps him in solving various problems and in finding useful contacts. Serimbetov finds this extremely helpful.

– This is like a shortcut to me. Otherwise, I would spend years networking to the right people, he says.

Crystallising the Business Idea

In the programme, Serimbetov is also learning the latest tricks of pitching. This helps him in presenting his idea to for instance banks, partners, and clients.

He thinks the programme has helped him to crystallise ModularGreen’s business idea. He has also learned the dos and don’ts of pitching in the Finnish business environment.

– For me as an experienced entrepreneur, this program gives a refreshed, updated view on the new approached, tools, and techniques available.

Serimbetov finds the local startup community attractive and the people friendly. He praises Turku for its good location, with easy access to the other Nordic countries.

Intensive Research and Development Ahead

The future for ModularGreen looks busy and exciting. Serimbetov is looking for a place to set up a pilot project to demonstrate how a self-sustained, modular greenhouse works in practise.

For the next three to four years, his focus will be on research and development. Serimbetov stresses that the product is easy to build but detailed and carefully constructed research data brings added value to the product.

Serimbetov thinks that Turku region is great also from the R&D perspective with its several universities. He has noticed that Finnish governmental institutions, like Natural Resources Institute Finland, are also willing to engage in pilot projects with startups.

– I am very confident that I will find suitable partners, he says.

At the moment, Serimbetov is not looking for investors but wants to build up the company himself. Once switched to commercial phase, he is expecting a million-euro turnover to start with.

After a year, Turku already feels like home for Samat Serimbetov.

Nice and Peaceful Family Life

To Serimbetov, Finland feels peaceful after Malaysia, where the family last lived.  After a year in Turku, the city already feels like home. Grown up in Kazakhstan, among a variety of different cultures and nationalities, Serimbetov finds it easy to adapt to new countries and cultures.

– This year I started learning Finnish, he says.

He has a long-term commitment in staying in the Turku area. He is dreaming of building a modern house for his family by using new materials rarely seen in the Finnish construction business.

And however business-oriented Serimbetov might be, when deciding on a place to stay, his priorities lie with the family. His three daughters have settled in Turku International School, and his wife studies in Novia University of Applied Sciences. They all feel like staying.

– Once your family is happy, what else do you need, Serimbetov says, with a smile.

Text and photos by Heidi Pelander