As a venture capital investor from China seeking startups to invest in, Espoo was a complete stranger to me when I landed at Helsinki Airport in April 2015. It was during that visit that I was recommended to join Espoo Innovation Garden’s Facebook group as a Gardener.
At first I didn’t pay attention to the word Gardener, so I nonchalantly glanced at the information about activities and events. Every now and then joined the events virtually, like Demo Day of Startup Sauna, Breakfast at Aalto Design Factory, or the Innovation 2.0 conference.
Soon the events from Espoo Innovation Garden filled my calendar, and I was positively surprised by the amount of activity in the “small” city of Espoo, comparing it to the much larger Shanghai.
After interviewing several startups and attending different events, I met with some active people and understood that they are Gardeners too.
It was then when I started to follow the Gardeners’ activities and their posts in the Facebook group with more interest and was able to understand their secrets. It seems that they all have three key factors: a pair of smart eyes, passion of heart and positive motives.
Gardeners are experts in their special field. They can look at new technologies and position them into existing systems. They are involved both in the off- and online worlds. They let people around them feel their passion, and they have understood that innovation is the force driving positive development for both individuals and the system.
Slowly I started to apply my “passion and wisdom” to become an active participant in the Garden, making friends and finding startups like Catchbox. My current goal is to become an “on-line to off-line” Gardener in my own ecosystem. Since July I have stayed in touch with Espoo Innovation Garden every day. Espoo Innovation Garden is active; it collects the wisdom from the Gardeners and shares it back as inspiration. It impresses me deeply with its diversity and the vitality of innovation. I love Espoo Innovation Garden.
Huawei Kong is a Chinese early stage investor from Zhangjiang Ventures. His special focus is on medical and gaming industries. He stayed in Espoo for three months in 2015 to get to know the Espoo Innovation Garden ecosystem and it’s actors, including potential investment targets.
Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, established in July 1992, is one of China’s first state-level high-tech zones approved by the State Council as well as the core park of Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone.
City of Espoo and Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park signed a MoU on 2013 related to startup collaboration and investments.