How the iPhone Tormented the World’s Happiest Nation

How the iPhone Tormented the World’s Happiest Nation

Can I show you my fancy bag of phones? Yes. I think I’ve got some good stuff for us. All Nokias. Wanna celebrate the Finnish pride. I got some classics here. That looks familiar. Yeah, we’ve got a few of these. And then I thought you might like this one. This is like… Maybe if you… Frisbee style. Yeah. Yeah. Do you want to go sorta, you know, almost underarm like that? Or this is just pure overarm? I don’t know. I think I will go overarm, because I’m used to that one. Yeah. I’m looking forward to you embarrassing me. All right. Here goes nothing. Oh, holy shit. Little glide. Yeah. Whoa. It is said – not by me, but by their Nordic neighbors – that Finnish people are weirdos. Oh! Their language is basically Elvish. [speaking Finnish] [speaking Finnish] They’re aloof and do not engage with strangers or conduct small talk. Their hobbies include competitions such as wife carrying, air guitar playing, and obviously cell phone throwing. And yet, here I am on a cool Helsinki morning, hanging out with Finland’s future Olympic javelin thrower, Lassie Etelatalo. All right, you pick. I like this one because I had also one when I was younger. All I had to do to make this happen was slide right into his DMs and promise to bring some old Nokias. It turns out that the Finns are, in fact, very hospitable, and that their cell phones are sturdy… Oh, I think that one broke. …until they are not. Is there a metaphor in all this? Something bigger being said about Finland’s nosedive into a technology apocalypse, and subsequent rise as a vibrant, inventive force in the technology industry? I’m not sure, but I’m gonna go with yes, and try to prove it to you with what comes next. We all know the idea of a company town. But here in Finland, something really unusual happened: it became more of a company nation. During the early to mid 2000s, Finland’s economy boomed, driven almost entirely by Nokia. In its heyday. Nokia accounted for 40 percent of all mobile phones sold, and one out of every two smartphones sold. Then in 2007, something terrible happened to Finland: Apple released the iPhone. I’ve come here to Helsinki to find out what happened in the aftermath of Nokia’s decline, and what startups have risen to take its place. For starters, I’ll need a primer on the decline and fall of Nokia. And as luck would have it, this long-haired gentleman, David Cord, wrote a book by that very title. He also happens to be an American, but nobody’s perfect. You know, when I was researching this episode or just telling people what we were going to do, especially some of the younger people had already, they were like, was Nokia that big of a deal, because I remember them being the kings of the mobile industry. Well Nokia was huge in Finland. They were integrated in everything in the Finnish culture. Finns were very proud of what Nokia did. It was our success. It was Finland’s success. Nokia started way back in 1865 as a paper products company. Plush toilet paper was its first hit. It got into boots, tires, cables, all kinds of stuff, and then began making cell phones, first for this cool guy in the 60s, and then for all of us. Can you hear me now? The new iPhone is cool and all. Life was grand for Nokia, and for Finland. From these glorious headquarters by the Baltic, Nokia poured money into the Finnish social system. And then this raging capitalist named Steve Jobs came along and ruined everything. Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is. The iPhone was crazy, right, because I remember in this like ridiculously quick period of time, it’s not like the company was wiped off the face of the earth, but I mean, it just lost the phone industry. When Nokia started to stumble and started to fail, many people took that very personally. It was a Finnish failure. There were thousands of people who were unemployed – the factory workers, the software developers. In its moment of greatest desperation, Nokia’s phone division suffered that greatest of dishonors: getting sold to Microsoft. Yeah, it was tough. There’s a town called Nokia in Finland, which actually the company was named for, and the day the announcement broke, a vandal went and changed the town sign to Microsoft. People were upset that we used to be on the top of the world, and now it’s all gone. Nokia, of course, still exists and makes things, namely telecommunications and data infrastructure gear. But where the company used to employ 35,000 people in Finland, it now only employs 3500. Gonna pour one out for the Nokes. After Nokia, everyone was always talking about, what’s the next Nokia? What is the next big company that will be able to go international and have such a big impact on Finland? And many people at the time thought maybe that was Rovio. Rovio created Angry Birds, one of the first gaming megahits of the iPhone age. But while they had a few hot years, it soon became clear that Nokia-level success was not in the cards. Eventually we came to decide, that’s not going to happen again. We need to be more diverse. Instead of having one gigantic company, we need to have a ten good, profitable, mid-sized companies. The birds may not have replaced the Nokes, but they did kick off a gaming boom in Finland, one that came to be dominated by Supercell, the maker of all your favorite games and the master of your time. Supercell has only 300 or so employees, but it raked in about 1.6 billion dollars last year. One hundred million people play its games every day, some of them spending thousands of dollars to upgrade their compounds and farms. And all of this winning happens in a strictly shoes-off workplace, a common trope among Finnish startups that Supercell claims to have invented Ilkka here, the CEO, is beloved by his countrymen for creating Finland’s biggest post-Nokia success story. I’m here to find out how he did it, and hopefully score some free upgrades in Clash of Clans. You know, for my kids. When you guys started Supercell, what were you trying to do, maybe, in the gaming industry that was different? You know, it seemed to us that most games companies were organized very like, in a very traditional way. Basically, they had this hierarchy, and the underlying assumption is that the leadership knows best what to do. But in games business, I feel that it actually is the game developers who are, obviously they’re closest to the games. They know best what type of games the company should do. So therefore, we had this idea that, what if you would like flip this traditional model, like, you know, the game developers would own the vision of what type of games they would do. This strategy has made Supercell one of the most coveted places for game developers to land a job. Like Seth here, a game engineer on Clash Royale who moved all the way from San Francisco. I’d always been aware of Supercell, and I’d always kind of looked up to them as an ideal place to work on mobile games. Do you think you’re going to stay here for a long time? I bought a flat this week. That’s a real, put that on camera. Other Supercell imports, like Brice, who hails from France, bring new characters to life with their fancy pens. They fight among each other to get their characters onto the most prized real estate: the game startup screen. The loading screen, is that like the, uh, that’s the prize. That’s the best spot to be? The masterpiece! Of course, there’s just one problem with putting the creatives in charge: crazy-ass perfectionism. The way this philosophy has translated is that you guys are very careful about what you actually release and that you cancel games all the time. How many have you killed over the last nine years? Is it dozens, or… It’s probably dozens. I think there’s some story that you’re on a plane and in the time that you’re flying across, some game that you were pretty happy about got whacked. Yeah, it was actually one of my favorite games I’ve ever done. I used to play it a lot, for example, with my kids, and I really, really loved that game. And then I just heard the team had got together, I guess in a typical Finnish way, in a sauna, and that they had had a show of hands. That, you know, who believes that this is the best game that they can make? And, you know, I don’t think that many hands went up. And then they decided that if that’s the case, then we should just kill it. How did you explain that to your kids? Oh, you know, it was tough. Were they like, come on, Dad, you run this thing? Well you know, that’s the… sometimes I call myself, like, the least least powerful CEO. My goal is that teams make, you know, most, if not all of all of the decisions, which of course, means that I make very little or no decisions. I won’t say that Supercell’s games are exactly good for you. But I will say that these fine people seem to be having a good time making them, and bringing ungodly piles of cash to their homeland in the process. And you’re telling me you cannot get my son jewels? No. Now go outside and play. To see what’s next for the Finnish tech scene, I scooted right into a former hospital, which has been turned into a startup incubator called Maria 01. This place has it all: gurneys, more gurneys, tunnels full of startup refuse, wheelchairs hanging from the ceiling, and a cemetery right outside where venture capital goes to die. This hospital was founded in like 1890s, and then we took over, ah, 2016. So currently we serve over 130 startup companies. It’s the largest startup campus in the Nordics. The startups here make all types of things, from games to corporate software. But the freshest startup in Maria 01 is certainly Naava, which produces a high tech version of a green wall. I’m told this is like breathing in 1000 trees at once. All around the world, we see these plant walls, but this was the first one I’ve ever, that I’ve ever run into that had a lot of built in technology into it as well. Yeah. So instead of a plant being just a decorative part of that, we have removed altogether the soil from the system. Almost all of the air purification in plants happens in the roots on microbes, not in the leaves as people think. OK. And if the plant is growing in soil, the air is not touching the microbes. We got rid of the soil from the system. And then on top of the product, there are fans. So it biofiltrates the air 24/7 in your room. And this makes the air purification of plants efficiency over a hundred times more more efficient. And we’re talking about you’ve sold like hundreds, thousands? Yeah. So Naava is the biggest green wall company in the world. We have about 3000 units in our customers’ place right now. Our kind of bigger vision is, how can we help a billion people to enjoy nature and breathe forest-grade air in the built environment every day. Now that we’ve learned that the shock paddles have been applied and Finland’s tech scene has come back to life, I would like to show you just how much better Finns are as humans than the rest of us. Next on Hello World: sizzling fake meat, planet-friendly straws that actually work, and the Finnish Walter White. Well, this is pretty legal. OK.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. G'day, friendly viewers. Welcome to our deep dive into Finland's tech scene. Gave this one my all, including being forced into the frigid Baltic Sea – twice! Hope you enjoy.

  2. When you throw a Nokia it shatters but it never breaks that’s the point. I’ve thrown my Nokias about a thousand times none of them broke.

  3. Nokia! They fucked themselves because they didn't realize how big of a deal iPhone was. For that Finland was in economic recession for 8 years.

  4. Biggest problem is arrogance mostly and only a little greed. Had Finland conceded to apple, and created a few billion $ in incentives to apple, there may have been at least a partial-collaboration. Instead, apple bull-dozed Nokia out of its way, and went to China. That is the problem with ‘purist-feeling’ socialist countries. Not just Finland, but many European countries and Canada, etc…
    The Chinese are not as arrogant (on the outside), however their greed is great.
    Canada, under the leftist govt. has been doing the same the past 5 years. Instead of conceding and being a bit more humble with USA, and even China… our Canadian liberal govt. acted arrogantly to this day, and is draining our accumulated ‘nest-egg’ and destroying our economic future.
    …and for any leftist that equates economic prosperity with imperialism,… please know that by you affording an electronic device, or a car, or bus-pass for to gain access to a library computer, how many 100s of millions of currency must be spent to maintain…
    Prove me wrong…you can’t.

  5. I'd still like to point out that Nokia still employs over 100 000 people worldwide even if only a fraction works here in Finland! 😀

  6. Nokia should never have sold out to Microsoft. Elop (who was hired by Nokia, then went back to MS after guting the company) has a lot to answer for.

  7. Also, Nokia still make (outsourced) phones. Very capable stock Androids.

    Very sad that success now means In App Purchases for Finland.

  8. no wonder Apple's value is skyhigh. A private American company has taken most of a wealthy Scandinavian country's wealth. A country!

  9. Bloomberg, You Rock! ?How The iPhone Tormented The World's Happiest Nation ?Oh Yeah! This Topic Sounds Interesting and Scary at the Same Time ?Love your video content – Looking forward to watching your next video

  10. Windows Mobile OS was a major flop, I think Nokia could have continued to flourish and remain in the competition, if they had adopted Android from the beginning instead. Their innovation in phone design and build quality were truly unsurpassed before their downhill slide.

  11. Moral of the story: If you want to change the world, run your company as an engineer. If you want to make a lot of money but go out of business in 10 years, run the company as a business person.

  12. I really appreciate the way of ClashOfClans CEO put down his ego, and listen to the team to killed his own game. That was really wise decision

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