Two Very Different Sisters: Helsinki Spring and Occupy Wall Street / Taneli Heikka
Once upon a time there were two sisters. They were called Helsinki Spring and Occupy Wall Street. The sisters got separated at an early age and adopted different worldviews as adults.
Occupy Wall Street experienced her social
awakening in the USA, in the after shocks of the financial crisis. Millions
lost their possessions. Occupy was pulled into demonstrations, that found the
greedy bankers, rampant capitalism and the world population’s ”wealthiest 1 %” to
be the blame for the misery.
Helsinki Spring picked up his new worldview in the spring 2011. An advocate of the wealthiest 1 % visited Finland telling about the social and individual blessings of entrepreneurship. “Your kids are doing everything you hate. They will become capitalists”, the evangelist of entrepreneurship warned the Finnish parents. And even more: “Entrepreneurs deserve obscene returns.” Helsinki Spring’s cheeks were glowing when she was listening to the lecturer with hundreds of congenial spirits in a marquee put up outside the Aalto University.
The times have truly changed. Entrepreneurship
professor Steve Blank gathered thousands of young people to mass lectures
during his visit to Helsinki in September. Blank called the movement Helsinki
Spring, referring to the government-overthrowing Arab Spring.
The capitalists, with their obscene returns, are now in fashion in Finland. At the same time another powerful mass movement is causing waves, namely the sister of Helsinki Spring, Occupy Wall Street. The movement and its branches all over the world demand that the world’s wealthiest 1 % take responsibility for their greed and the damage they have caused.
These movements are not happening at the same
time by accident. The foundations of economics and politics are in transition. Some
see it as an opportunity, others as a threat.
The biggest threat is that the movements – work and capital – come into conflict. In principle, Occupy Wall Street and Helsinki Spring are fighting for the same cause.
Helsinki Spring is a bottom-up entrepreneurship
movement, for which corporations, monopolies, bureaucracy and market barriers
are curses. In the world of Helsinki Spring the most skilled wins, not the
wealthiest. The movement tries to level the playing field so that an access to
capital would always be available for everyone with a great business idea.
The success of these entrepreneurs is also in the interest of the employees. Start-ups are one of the few with employment growth. Steve Blank’s rhetoric viciously clears the way for start-ups. In his view, the capital is not available in Finland for the best but for the most suitable entrepreneurs. This applies especially to the public sector funds.
When the system changes Finland will become a
capitalist society. Even though the word is unattractive in Finland, it refers
to the same system as microfinance for the entrepreneurs in the developing
countries; without capital it’s impossible to be an entrepreneur. Blank says as
well that inventing new products and services is extremely risky and difficult,
and that the rewards for the ones succeeding in this must be downright obscene.
This is the logic behind venture capital and growth entrepreneurship. The majority will miserably fail. However, who succeeds, succeeds big time. The revenues may seem particularly obscene to the people who themselves never give entrepreneurship a go.
Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs must sooner or later engage in societal conversation with the distinct big sister, Occupy Wall Street. Entrepreneurship-minded people must be able to justify why capitalism and the obscenity of the returns is beneficial for everyone. Otherwise the two grown-apart sisters will be before long pulling each other’s hair.