Interview with Timo Argillander

Timo Argillander is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of media focused venture capital fund IPR.VC based in Finland. IPR.VC invests mostly in Finnish digital content companies that produce TV programs, movies, games, animations, Internet and mobile content and other licensable media content. The fund, founded in the fall of 2015, has already grown from an initial 13 M€ to 18 M€ in just a little over six months. The final goal of 20 M€ isn’t looming too far ahead, either.

The goal of IPR.VC is to create international success stories based on intellectual property rights of media contents in Finland, and to prove that intellectual property rights of media contents are worth investing in.

Timo, where did the idea for this fund come from?

Everything started with a conversation I had with my colleague and partner Tanu-Matti Tuominen 1,5 years ago. We were discussing the shape of media content investments and any ways of making things better. That’s where it all kicked off.

There is actually quite an appropriate story to this, too – back before we started out, my colleague was contacted by a creative industry association who had been looking for funding for their industry. They had gone over to a funding agency, but hadn’t really understood what had been discussed. The funding agency had also later contacted my colleague, as they, too, hadn’t really understood what the association had been after. So there was a miscommunication there – and we thought, well, it shouldn’t be this hard. That’s where we’ve stepped in.

How is investing in creative industries different from investing in other fields? IPR.VC claims to address the ”well-known issues in media content financing” – what are these issues?

Understanding the value and appreciation of media contents is an art form of it’s own. Immaterial goods are scalable and offer good possibilities for investors, but to create a good portfolio in this business requires a whole different kind of knowledge and insight. We function much like any other investment fund, but offer new kinds of instruments and invest in a slightly different manner.

The biggest issue in media content funding has traditionally lied with lack of collaterals. Banks don’t take digital contents for collateral as they can’t really measure their value. Collateral value for intellectual property is regarded as zero. Another problem that people in creative industries traditionally face is getting small-scale funding. You might need some tens of thousands for development, but such amounts have not been available. This is something we’ve changed, too.

What kind of criteria do you set on your investments?

We look for solid teams with an ambition to their work and getting it out in the market. The projects must have potential for international success. But I cannot stress enough the importance of the team. We must believe in the people we’re working with.

When you mostly invest in Finnish digital content companies with a scope on the international market, how exotic or culture-specific can these contents be? Does the scope of international markets have on impact on the content?

To be Finnish is a twist that can make things more interesting. But it must be the kind of twist that clicks elsewhere, too. The Tom of Finland movie we’re funding is a great example of this. We have a story of a Finnish artist and iconic works that have roots here, but this is also something that is appealing to the big, international public.

On a small market such as Finland, you could be on the lookout for potential failure and look for ways to avoid it. But we are willing to take risks. We do not concern ourselves with the potential of failure, too much, as our main concern is in making it big.

What does the Asian market look like to an investor?

Asia is a staggering and extremely interesting market. We can surely look at contents travelling East from the Western market – the contents that we fund also have potential in Asia. We’ve got games with huge potential, for instance. But I’m also curious of the contents in the Asian market and how they develop in the future.

Our focus is in projects that make it big. If things go as planned, who is to say we wouldn’t start an international fund next.

Photo by Joan Campderrós-i-Canas / CC BY 2.0

EARS on Helsinki 2016: Virtually, anything!

For EARS on Helsinki 2016, we introduce four cross-over topics that come together in industry-specific talks and sessions. This is what we’ll be looking at in August:


To curate means to make selections, and as the amount of content balloons by the day, curators become more vital. But who makes the selections, how, and why? Social media megastars and multichannel personal brands, who do not represent traditional institutions or play by their rules, top traditional brands off the charts. What does this mean when marketing virtually anything?

Interested? See EARS on Helsinki speaker Ivy Wong.



Major investments into games, movies, music and tv are coming from the Asian market. How are decisions on investments made? On the other hand, funding is not only about the money – it is also about authority. Satisfying given needs is a profound logic in securing funding in the traditional sense and crowdfunding, as well. How does money affect the story, the style, the sentiment?

Interested? Check out EARS on Helsinki speakers Terry Ding and Timo Argillander.



Organizing events is creating futures: this is the field, where relevance to the audience is defined months and months in advance. As social media creates new audiences and distributors, and holograms, virtual reality and 360 degree productions disrupt the traditional logic of attending events, how is planning and executing events affected? What are the next big things in digital events made possible by up and coming technologies?

Interested? We present EARS on Helsinki speaker Sohail Arora.



When it comes to making it in the Asian market, products and licensing are the money shot! In the world of products and licensing, ecosystems created by characters multiply the reach of individual productions. How does a single character migrate between literature, cinema, music, or games? How do they cross cultural barriers? And when does good brand management mean to step away from the products?

Interested? Look up EARS on Helsinki speakers Tianyi Pan, Isabelle Glachant and Toni-Matti Karjalainen.


EARS on Helsinki 2016

We are super excited to welcome you all back to Helsinki in 2016. The 9th edition of EARS – Europe-Asia Roundtable Sessions – will take over the city 25-28 August with the leading creative industry professionals from Asia. Expect 4 days of talks, roundtables, shows, parties and the fantastic people from all around the world.

We have now a limited amount of super early bird tickets now available. Head to the shop to get yours before they run out. See you soon!

EARS on trends: Endorsements, Virtual reality and Millenials

In Asia urbanization and the growing online population are driving the demand for culture and entertainment and generating new innovation. But what are the trends emerging in the market and affecting the creative economy? Folks, it’s time to put your EARS glasses on and take a look.


In this jet age of modern marketing communication, people tend to ignore all commercials and advertisements while flipping through magazines and newspapers or viewing TV. Still the glamour of a celebrity seldom goes unnoticed. Celebrity endorsement is a way to partner up mixing different fields and products such as music and fashion to reach wider audiences.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these questions on brand and celebrity endorsements: How do the partnership look like in Asia? How do pop stars utilize fashion? How do fashion brands spread their message through endorsements? How does it compare with the practices in the West?


Virtual reality technology is about to break into the consumer realm in the very near future. VR can be referred to as computer-simulated life, in other words, an environment that simulates physical presence in places in the real world and lets the user interact in that world. Virtual reality artificially creates sensory experiences, which can include sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. VR headsets are moving fast into the consumer market and present a new challenge but also opportunities for media, and the whole creative industry.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these questions on virtual reality: What are the opportunities and challenges presented for media companies and creative industry professionals? What kind of content should be produced for virtual reality? What will be the popular use for VR?


A different world, a different worldview. Millennials have grown up with rapid change, resulting in a different set of priorities and expectations owned by the previous generations. Especially the retail space has been reshaped by millennials’ affinity for technology. With on-the-go product information, peer reviews and price comparisons at their fingertips, Millennials turn to brands that offer just what they need at that exact moment. With drastic economic growth and impact of social media, the generation gap is even wider in Asia than in Europe.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these questions on millenials: What are the generation of millenials interested in? Do the interests in Asia differ from the West? How does online content affect millenials’ consuming habits?


EARS on trends is an article series presenting the latest developments from Asia’s creative industries. A deeper dive into the trends will be taken at the next EARS event

EARS on trends: Niche content, Social soundtrack and the Venue Boom

In Asia urbanization and the growing online population are driving the demand for culture and entertainment and generating new innovation. But what are the trends emerging in the market and affecting the creative economy? Folks, it’s time to put your EARS glasses on and take a look.


Making local, non-English language feature film content travel in the international marketplace remains a constant challenge in all corners of the globe. Genre cinema is the rare exception in the landscape. Fantasy, science fiction, horror and action films might often be perceived as niche product on their domestic turf. Yet the genre product has a loyal and global fanbase for which language barriers are almost non-existent and the local flavour is rather a blessing than a curse.

The global appeal of genre cinema is also making it more and more attractive from the coproduction perspective. Coproductions on the genre front could well provide an easy access to the market in different European territories for Asian production companies, producers and talent and vice versa. Another advantage is easier access to distribution channels. With specialized genre distributors active in almost every territory, genre product is often superior to local mainstream product when trying to secure distribution in the international marketplace.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these questions on niche content in Asia: What are the major pitfalls of pan-continental genre coproduction and how can they be avoided? Regarding content, what are the local restrictions and/or standard requirements that need to be taken into account when looking for cofinancing/coproduction partners? Can niche product be the content elevating the film industry from local to global?


Social soundtrack refers to the current consumption habits of live events. With the growing use of online channels, in addition to on-spot, live content is increasingly being consumed and commented on remotely online. Streaming of live events gives possibilities to consumers to interact for example with overseas festivals but also provide opportunities for events themselves. Festivals are no longer “just” live festivals but can increasingly reach overseas audiences. One example is Modern Sky Festival Helsinki, which is streamed to China from Helsinki in August. Increased visibility raises interest in Chinese brands – which for example at Modern Sky are taking part in the event through sponsorships. Streaming of live-events is a global trend but in Asia it is the social media channels and ways of marketing that commonly differ.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these questions on live event consumption in Asia: How are live-events consumed on social media in Asia? What are the channels being used? What approaches should be taken in marketing? What possibilities are there for international partnerships in live event consumption?


In the past years Asia has witnessed the rise of numerous new performing arts venues and cultural hubs. Some of the biggest include West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and Taipei Performing arts Center, the first becoming one of the world’s biggest cultural hubs at its completion in 2017. Asia’s performing arts scene has seen increased funding and investment into the facilities but it’s not only new venues that have emerged. The rise of consumption power and leisure time in the emerging markets, have spurred new audiences interested in international productions especially in theatre and dance.

EARS on Helsinki 2015 seeks answers to these questions on performing arts venues in Asia: What are the basic missions, activities and strategies to reach audiences? Are there new working or business models to be found, or is it all about finding your audience? How do cities support their performing arts venues, are they a part of the cities’ cultural strategies?

EARS on trends is an article series presenting the latest developments from Asia’s creative industries. A deeper dive into the trends will be taken at the next EARS event.

Stroll in Helsinki

When in Helsinki, you might want to do some relaxed strolling around the city. We spotted the best places to wander off to when you feel like seizing the moment and breathing in some Nordic melancholy.


Kiasma is a museum of contemporary art in Helsinki, a lively cultural centre and meeting place for visitors of all kind. It’s the perfect place to spend an hour or more losing yourself in the ongoing exhibitions. Kiasma is worth visiting not only for its world-class art but the architectural experience. The most important building material in Kiasma is light. Architect Steven Holl was fascinated by the natural light in Finland, the way it lives with the changing seasons and times of day. Therefore shapes and textures of the building were designed with focus on light. During EARS on Helsinki you can visit following exhibitions: Jani Leinonen, Face to Face and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Check out the exhibitions and additional info here.

Mannerheiminaukio 2

Picture: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Töölönlahti Bay

The park around the Töölö Bay begins in the heart of Helsinki and is circled by a popular walking path. Put your comfy shoes on and take look at the Wooden villas along the shores as a reminder of Helsinki’s history or spend a relaxed moment sipping coffee at the little dock in front of kiosk styled café Tyyni. This verdant area in the middle of Helsinki is a must visit to everyone looking for a little break from the city sounds.

Tyyni: Helsinginkatu 56

Picture: Flickr Helen Penjam CC BY 2.0

Market Halls


There are several beautiful market halls in Helsinki worth taking a closer look at. One of them, The Old Market Hall of Helsinki has served its customers since 1889. Merchants sell everything from cheese, fish, shellfish, vegetable, fruit and cakes to spices, coffee and tea. They are also more than happy to help with any special orders. If not hungry, still recommended place to walk through breathing in the scents of Finnish delicacies and the old school atmosphere. In addition to the The Old Market Hall in Eteläranta, there are cool market halls in Hakaniemi and Hietaniemi.

All you need to know here!


Picture: Visit Helsinki



Ateneum Art Museum located in the central Helsinki is part of Finnish national gallery and dedicated to fine art from the Gustavian period of the mid-18th century to the modernist movements of the 1950s. Ateneum houses a handsome collection of international art, featuring works by such masters as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Fernand Léger and Marc Chagall. Not so dull way to spend an afternoon!

Opening hours, exhibitions and more here!

Kaivokatu 2

Picture: Visit Helsinki

Design District Helsinki


Helsinki offers an ideal place to get to know Finnish design and to buy top-class Finnish design products. Located in the centre of Helsinki, the Design District Helsinki is an area full of design and antique shops, fashion stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants and showrooms. Design District Helsinki is a neighbourhood and a state of mind. It is 25 streets and 200 spots on a map from shops to galleries and from design studios to design hotels. It is creativity, uniqueness, experiences, design and Finnish urban culture.

Convinced? Ready set go!

Picture: Visit Helsinki


EARS – Europe-Asia Roundtable Sessions is a platform focusing on creative industry collaboration between Europe and Asia. The next EARS event will be held in Helsinki, August 27-30, showcasing the latest trends from Asia in the fields of design, music, performing arts, literature, marketing and media.


Interview with Pekka Salminen

When entering to Helsinki by airways it’s inevitable to pass through one of the most famous creations of architect Pekka Salminen. He is the President and the founder of PES-Architects and has worked as the Head of International Relations of the company for the past 10 years. In addition to the Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport, his resume consists of buildings such as Wuxi Grand Theatre and Strait Culture and Art Centre in Fuzhou China.

PES-Architects has an office in Helsinki and in Shanghai. Why China?

11 years ago, I travelled to China in the search of natural granite stones for Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport. That’s how our story with China started. We have had offices also in Germany and in Croatia, China seemed like the next natural step for us. For architects, China is a wonderland: there are the biggest and the most important challenges to accomplish and international competitions to attend to. China is a country where wonderful things can happen, but not easily. You need to be willing to work persistently and really hard, most importantly, to be there  as much as possible.


What kind of challenges did you face when opening your business in China?

Actually opening a sister company in China solved many of our previous challenges. The Chinese office helped us a lot with locality: for example there are some architecture competitions that you can attend only as a Chinese company and having a Chinese architect breaks down those language barriers. Of course, we thought long about taking such a big step forward but as things turned out really good, I have no regrets.

Which of your China-based projects are most important to you?

The Wuxi Grand Theatre located on a man-made peninsula of Wu-Li Lake, south of Wuxi centre city. The cultural complex contains a wide variety of functions, but most noticeably it houses the 1680 seat Grand Theatre for classical and Chinese opera, ballet, and symphony orchestral music. Another important building is Strait Culture and Art Center, I call it as the “cultural shopping mall”, in Fuzhou. The buildings resemble the petals of a jasmine blossom, the city flower of Fuzhou. It’s a place for all kinds of cultural activities from a multifunctional theater to an art exhibition building. The third building I would like to mention is The Icon Yunduan tower designed by my partner Tuomas Silvennoinen and located in a new high-tech district on the outskirts of Chengdu City. The design concept was to create an icon with a basic recognisable form. The 192m high, building with 47 floors resembles a “bamboo mountain”.


How is Finnish architecture appreciated in China?

Scandinavian architecture is highly valued in China. Especially Finnish architects are known for being trustworthy and innovative among local professionals. Smart and user friendly solutions in building are typical characteristics for Finnish architecture. In China, you can see that some values are upside down to our way of doing things: The Chinese buyer asks first about the looks of a building, then the price and finally the functionality.

Pictures: Wuxi Grand Theater and Strait Culture and Art Centre Fuzhou by Jussi Tiainen

Creative hubs of Helsinki

With influences from both East and West, and a strong history with creative industries from design to media, Helsinki has developed into the coolest creative hub of the North. But what are the city’s hot spots and where does the creative source stem from? Hop on the EARS wagon and take a ride with us through some of Helsinki’s inspiring spaces. 

Pasila Studios 

Pasila Studios web

Pasila Studios is not only the venue of EARS on Helsinki 2015 but the hottest platform for creative operations and encounters in the capital area of Finland. With over 11 buildings, 150 000 m2 floor space, 4 studios, and 20 000 m2 of office space by 2018, Pasila Studios is the platform for innovation across sectors. And yes, of course there is a sauna in case for inspirational emergencies.

Pasila Studios is run by Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle, a public service broadcasting company owned by the Finnish people. Yle has multiple national television and radio channels, and the most extensive and varied online selection of television and radio programmes in the country. The broadcasting company plays a major role in producing and presenting programmes dealing with Finnish national arts, educational and children’s programmes, as well as special interest and minority groups. When at Pasila Studios, you can sense both the long media history of Yle and the exciting vibes of the new and upcoming creative ecosystem.



Telakkaranta is the home of creatives from all fields! You can find the lucky fellows of Madventures, Makia Clothing and Kinos with many others housing their offices in here. Telakkaranta translates into dockyard and this particular one is quite special being one of the last evidences of early industry influenced milieus in Helsinki. Experience one of the Helsinki’s oldest shipyards first hand in August at Modern Sky Helsinki festival in Telakkaranta. Our guess is that there’s something in the water that gets those creative ideas floating.

Photo © Visit Helsinki


Cable Factory

Kaapelitehdas newsletter :kallu Flickr creative commons

The Cable Factory is the largest cultural centre in Finland with 3 museums, 12 galleries, dance theatres, art schools and a host of artists, bands and companies. Located in central Helsinki, around 900 people work at the old factory building on a daily basis. It’s a rustic home for a family like big group of creative industry enthusiasts supporting each other’s artistic projects. Cable Factory is a place where different creative projects such as TV productions, dancers and visual art workshops can live under the same roof and gain inspiration from one another. In August 2015, the factory building will host the 25×25 – Close encounter art marathon with 25 hours of non-stop Chinese underground!

Photo: /kallu / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0


Lepokorpi Studio

Saara Lepokorpi

Saara Lepokorpi is a Finnish upcoming clothing designer based in Helsinki. Her label Lepokorpi is part of the Pre Helsinki platform, dedicated to internationalizing Finnish clothing design through press events in Europe and Asia. The Lepokorpi studio is located in Vallila, one of the northernmost districts of central Helsinki. The same area is also home of various other design labels such as VALLILA interior and Iittala.

Saara’s search for the perfect working place went on for couple of years until the unique penthouse venue from a former factory building was found. Now Saara, owner of the fully renovated multifunctional ateljé, claims that it’s hard to stop working in such an inspirational place.

Photo © Saara Lepokorpi


EARS – Europe-Asia Roundtable Sessions is a platform focusing on creative industry collaboration between Europe and Asia. The next EARS event will be held in Helsinki, August 27-30, showcasing the latest developments from the fields of design, music, performing arts, literature, marketing and media.

Interview with Toni-Matti Karjalainen

Toni-Matti Karjalainen is working as Academy Research Fellow at the Aalto University School of Business. At the moment he is doing a five-year research project focusing on trade of cultural narratives in the rock music industry. EARS got the chance to meet the guy and talk about those cultural narratives and academic collaborations between Europe and Asia.

What is your academic history and what has Asia got to do with it?

15 years ago I was writing my Master’s thesis for Nissan. That’s how it all really started with Japan. Afterwords I have done collaboration projects with Japanese companies, one-way research projects, researcher exchanges between universities, lectures at Kyoto Institute of Technology and various institutes in Tokyo. For years now I have been also lecturing and collaborating with South Korean Universities and companies.  At some point my personal interest towards music also became the topic of my research.

What cultural narratives are present in the rock music industry?

Finland has a positive reputation in Japan. In the Japanese music industry, Finland is the key word of getting the attention from local consumers: Finnish music has its roots deep in our original culture, which is interesting and exotic in Japan. Especially heavy metal fans know Finland as a small home country of various metal bands. These bands are representing the whole Finnish culture when touring in Japan: I’ve witnessed a heavy metal guitarist sign a Moomin troll and answer fans questions about the latest Marimekko‘s print pattern. I see this as a sign of wide interest towards Finnish culture, but also about open mindedness of Japanese consumers who don’t feel the need to categorize culture as design, music and Moomins. They take it all in and embrace it.

What kind of experiences do you have with collaboration with Asian universities?

Mostly my experiences have been good: the collaborations have been carried out with good spirit and mutual satisfaction. Japanese universities vary from Finnish ones in educational, operational and scientific principles. This makes some academic collaborations more difficult than others. The cultural barrier is the biggest factor, language another one. By learning some Japanese you already make a big impression on local partners. Differences in research are also clear: in Finland research results go deeper and are wider as in Asia, the results are concrete and easier to interpret.

What kind of collaborations would you like to do in the future between Europe and Asia in the cultural and academic fields?

I see Universities as great contact networks and impartial embassies between different countries and operatives. Their neutral approach makes universities perfect collaboration partners in various projects. For example, Aalto University has a Design Factory in Shanghai. If I’d meet a Finnish designer interested in starting a business in China, I would advise to contact Design Factory to get guidance on Shanghai’s design field.

In the future, I would like to see more cross art projects in Japan with Finnish culture as the main topic. Surprising combinations and creative madness interest Japanese whose local culture limits people’s creative way of thinking. Finnish art could be seen as an escape from the bureaucratic society.

More information about Toni-Matti Karjalainen on his website.

EARS – Europe-Asia Roundtable Sessions is a platform focusing on creative industry collaboration between Europe and Asia. The next EARS event will be held in Helsinki, August 27-30, showcasing the latest developments from the fields of design, music, performing arts, literature, marketing and media.

Interview with Pirjetta Mulari

Pirjetta Mulari, International Affairs’ Manager of Dance Info Finland has been working with internationalizing Finnish dance for over a decade. She told EARS all that’s essential in international networking and the Asian market for dance.

Why is it important to internationalize Finnish dance? Where are export aims primarily directed to?

The Finnish market for dance is really small. For dancers and choreographers, it’s natural to go and work abroad as dance is inherently international for its nature. For Finnish dance, the most likely international networks lie in other Nordic countries and the rest of Europe. We also have great relations in Asia, especially Japan, Korea and China. At the moment East is clearly the right direction; artistically we share same values such as the importance of nature and education.

In what ways does Dance Info Finland aim to internationalize Finnish dance?

We build networks for long-term collaborations through residence programs, professional visits, networking events, collaboration performances, for example. We also invest in research of demand and interest for dance on an international level. It’s necessary to know who is who, where the vibrant markets are and what are the collaboration possibilities.

Then the work is simply creating contacts and maintaining them. Building international networks is a long process and there is no easy way out. When talking about internationalizing performing arts, I would rather use the word collaboration instead of export. The codes of conduct from business don’t apply to arts as they would to some other industry. It’s all about people working together for a common goal.

Which Asian country has an especially vivid field for dance art?

I wouldn’t specify that to only one as many Asian countries are growing as new centers of dance. Newcomers such as Vietnam and Cambodia are starting to have more and more dance artists. Of course China is an enormous country with endless possibilities. South Korea has around 55 universities where one can study a masters degree in dance, that tells a lot about the country.

Is Finnish dance appreciated abroad?

Yes. We have a versatile scene and not only a single pattern of doing things. Finnish dance is firmly rooted into our original and “exotic” country, which interests people. We have our own special sense of dark humor that can be seen in performances. There is a certain melancholy and deepness about Finnish dance. The use of space is something very original, since in Finland we have lots of space around us. Bringing that feeling of space  to cities like Beijing creates an interesting confrontation. Art education in Finland also allows for instance lighting and sound design grow as their own art forms.

What are the key steps for success in international markets of dance?

Focusing on doing your own thing and believing in it , the drive for internationalizing your own art and the ability to take risks. As an artist, you cannot only rely on the producer to do the networking and build your image. It is extremely important to have the state of mind of promoting yourself. It’s not an easy path, and it takes a long time to get recognized internationally.

How would you describe the European and Asian audience for dance?

In bigger cities, the competition for target audiences is very intense. Compared to Asia, Europe has longer traditions with contemporary performing arts. Europeans grow into contemporary art as in Asia the traditional art forms are more familiar to audiences. That can make Asian audiences more conservative, but I wouldn’t generalize this either.

One can also see differences between Asian countries. My observation is that in China audiences are more restless than in Japan where the audience is filled with total silence. In some places, censorship and liberty of speech narrow down possibilities to perform acts that in Finland would not be seen as tabus.

What can Finnish dance learn for Asian professionals?

Attitude! In many countries, there is no financial support system for dance but still there are beautiful, inspiring productions made out of determination and passion.


EARS – Europe-Asia Roundtable Sessions is a platform focusing on creative industry collaboration between Europe and Asia. The next EARS event will be held in Helsinki, August 27-30, showcasing the latest developments from the fields of design, music, performing arts, literature, marketing and media.