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Mika Raunio

Twinkle of Tampere

Silicon Valley is a great place for entrepreneurs. It has always attracted talent from all over the world and anyone, regardless of his or her background or where they are coming from, can make it big, if she or he just has some entrepreneurial spirit, fresh ideas and good luck. Well, not quite. This has not been true, even in the case of the biggest and the most dynamic technology hub in the world, in the very liberal and multicultural state of California. In fact, in the 1980s it was still fairly difficult for people with Asian origin to make successful careers in business there, and it was not very likely for them to end up in the top positions in business or science in the California bay area. The glass-ceiling was very strong.

Some proactive immigrants who already had their networks, and even roots, in local business and academic communities decided to change the situation. They started to create serious networks, set up associations to support the integration of the newcomers within business, technology and science communities in the Valley. These active game changers, mostly from China and India, provided knowledge, networks, links to funding, training, a community, in order to foster the new comers’ opportunities. Now there are several active and fairly powerful organizations like The Indus Entrepreneurs, TIE (tie.org) or Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association, HYSTA (www.hysta.org) who are committed to this task.

So, it was not only the diversity and dynamic business life of the place that made it possible for Asian entrepreneurs to succeed in Silicon Valley, but it was also a result of the determined effort of immigrants themselves to integrate into the business life over a number of years. Immigrants set up business and innovation communities or business associations to be used as tools for integration. These efforts have really paid off, as now a fair share of employers and business leaders of the region have an Asian background. They have been able to further benefit from their strong links with fast growing economies in Asia, and obviously, made significant contributions.

We got a glimpse of this development in Tampere in last year. It was an extraordinary event in Tampere in December 2014 when the first Twinkle event took place in the brand new Torni hotel. A small announcement was posted in the Talent Tampere LinkedIn group asking people who are interested to activate themselves and even set up a community to support international business activities in Tampere. This created a rush of registrations to the event, causing organizers to change the room to a bigger one, and then an even bigger one, until the biggest seminar room of the Torni Hotel was reserved. In just two days, 150 people joined and not everyone who wanted could even fit into the room. The international community showed that they want to contribute, and they are willing to work for that goal, together.

Now those people who initiated the first Twinkle, in a very much ad hoc basis, have created an internationally interesting and unique event, the first of its kind in Finland. This is a great achievement and a strong indicator of the potential we have in our international talent pool in the Tampere region. It’s great to see that Tampere and its international community are taking a leading role in serious integration of international talent with local business and innovation communities, and beyond.

Twinkle may be seen as the launch of a new type of “immigration policy” in Finland. The immigration policy of innovation economy, where newcomers are not seen as a burden and passive targets for services, but as a very active, important, and contributive part of society. They are seen as students, graduates, family members, professionals, workers, business people, innovators − all kinds of people. They contribute to society and business in various ways. They put their resources, knowledge, networks and passion into the work they do, and provide a good life for themselves and their loved-ones, and maybe even a few more people around them. Twinkle is making visible, maybe for the first time in Finland, an active international business and innovation-oriented community that works hard to contribute.

I have heard the comment “Twinkle could be the Slush of Tampere” a few times. I understand the point, but I think it is much better to have the Twinkle of Tampere, as it has the potential to be something much much more than a small scale Slush. I hope it will be the Twinkle of Tampere, as it is the first of its kind.

Mika Raunio

Senior researcherResearch center for Knowledge, Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies (TaSTI)School of social sciences and humanities, University of Tampere

Mika Raunio

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