Peter Vesterbacka may not be a household name, but many of us are familiar with the hit mobile game he helped create, Angry Birds. After taking the world by storm with a puzzle game that involved launching various birds to eliminate green pigs, he’s looking at an entirely new industry: quick travel. He’s looking to build underground tunnels that connects two Nordic countries.
Vesterbacka was the former chief marketing officer of Rovio Entertainment, the studio that brought us Angry Birds back in 2009. He left the company to pursue startup dreams in 2016, which ended up being a new game development studio in Finland called Lightneer. He would be marketing a new Pokemon Go-style education game called Big Bang Legends.
Shortly before leaving Rovio, Vesterbacka had the idea of a much different line of work -- building a tunnel between the capital cities of Finland and Estonia. At the moment, it takes roughly two hours to travel between the cities by ferry. With that travel time drastically shortened, Vesterbacka has the ultimate vision to create a “Nordic Silicon Valley” by fusing the Helsinki and Tallinn cities.
“Building a tunnel is different than building a game, but not that different,” Vesterbacka told BuzzFeed News. “It’s about making things happen, bringing the right people together...If they choose to underestimate my ability to make stuff happen, it is their problem.”
Costs for the development of the underground tunnels are expected to be around $18 billion US. 70 percent of the funding is expected to come from undisclosed investors from China and the rest from Scandinavian public pension funds. Based on a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, the tunnel would pay for itself over 37 years.
While Vesterbacka wants to have it completed by Christmas 2024, it could have a much longer timeframe. The Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland (largest in the world) took 20 years to complete. There are two engineering companies that are collaborating on the project and have decided to move toward two parallel tunnels instead of one big pathway. Construction will not happen until funding has been received.
Environmental permits could be an even bigger hurdle than funding. The European Union is still studying the project to see if it’s worth building in the first place. This is where Vesterbacka brings in the “Silicon Valley” aspect without the struggles of housing costs that exist in the Bay Area. He believes the region can grow faster by connecting the cities together.
The underground tunnel supersedes a previous idea of building a bridge that’s held up by balloons to connect the metropolitan areas. It certainly seems like a better idea and we’re seeing the concept of fast underground travel coming to life through Elon Musk and Virgin Hyperloop One. Multiple pathways are planned out across the country, including under Denver, Chicago, and between New York City and Washington DC.