In late February, Alli Ottarsson will step out of a plane into the dense snow of the Finnish winter for a 90-day experience in an alternate reality, test-driving what his life could be like if he lived in Helsinki. With him will be his fiancée and four-year-old daughter, as well as 14 other professionals selected to participate in a radical new scheme aimed at luring tech workers to the Finnish capital.
A staggering 5,330 people from around the world applied late last year for the free 90 Day Finn relocation package offered by Helsinki Business Hub. The international trade and investment promotion agency will provide the 15 winners with airport pickup, orientation, cultural training, Finnish experiences, remote work facilities, introductions to local business networks and all the documentation needed for a three-month stay. They’ll also receive arrangements for housing and any school or daycare needed for accompanying children. Expenses like airfare and lodging are not provided – it’s more of a concierge service – but if the test run goes well, all can get assistance applying for permanent residency.
Ottarsson, a video-games investor, says he applied because he’d become frustrated with the ballooning coronavirus numbers in Los Angeles, where he lives. He hopes to use the welcome package to explore investment opportunities in Helsinki’s booming gaming industry as well as open up the family’s horizons and gain contacts while riding out the pandemic in one of Europe’s least-affected cities.
“My fiancée works in business as well, so we see this as an opportunity to really expand our network in the region,” he says. Ottarsson is also “very keen on the cohort that’s going”, noting that it’s almost like an adult version of summer camp or study abroad. “It’s something to break out of your normal social circles and meet new people.”
The 90 Day Finn initiative has generated lots of attention in recent weeks, helping to put Helsinki firmly on the map for global workers. While only 15 winning candidates will ultimately make the trip, the city hopes the publicity generated by the campaign can lure even more people to help fill a talent gap and fuel its growing tech sector. If it works, relocation packages like this could become a valuable new tool in the competitive race to win over foreign professionals. READ MORE
By Mark Johanson
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