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Story of the Summer of Startups Teams

October 24, 2016

A lot of people have heard about Summer of Startups and other accelerators, but it is sometimes hard to get information on what actually happens in these programs. After the application process begun in February and ended in April, 13 teams from over 100 applicants were selected for the Summer of Startups 2016. What did they do in the program and where are they now?

The program kicked off on the sixth of June and the backstage of Startup Sauna was fully packed with enthusiastic soon-to-be startup entrepreneurs. They all had an early-stage business idea, a team capable of executing it and the amount of motivation was something that we had never seen before. During the first days, the teams started with getting some new to tools to with with, they set the goals for the summer, they learned to pitch and had some inspirational lectures as well.

The main advantage that the teams gain from the program is definitely the coaching. During the program we had weekly themes that we concentrated our lectures and coaching on. We wanted to build a solid base for the teams during the first weeks and build on that with more specific knowledge later in the program. Thus, we started with the most essential things, customer development and developing business models, continued with more specific product-market-fit and go-to-market strategy and concentrated on investors and the little details of pitching in the end of the summer.

The coaching included generic lectures and founder’s talks and more specific workshops, but by far the most useful thing for the teams was the 1-on-1 coaching. During these sessions, the teams got private and tailor-made coaching from experienced serial entrepreneurs, investors and other professionals. The concept of 1-on-1s was the following: the teams had 30 minutes to discuss their businesses with the aforementioned coaches with no limitations on the subject. On average, the teams met with four or five coaches during a 1-on-1 session, so they got a lot of different opinions, a lot of advice and a lot of contacts during these sessions. "The best thing about the 1-on-1 sessions was definitely the variation of the coaches. It was really inspiring to hear their backgrounds and their thoughts about our idea, which have shaped our product a lot!” says Rasmus Klärck from Betzit.

"Although the program ended in Demo Day, exhilaratingly many teams are still working on their startups and developing their ideas at Startup Sauna."

On every Wednesday, we organised free-for-all BBQ events with the partners of the program. In these events, we had from 200 to 600 people, mainly consisting of students of Aalto University, entrepreneurs, people from the partner company and, of course, the teams of the program. People in these events had a unique chance to network with other people, enjoy free food and refreshments and enjoy the program provided by our partners, but it was also a chance for the teams to relieve stress caused by the huge workload that developing a startup requires.

The series of this summer’s BBQ events ended with a BBQ event provided by one of our Main Partners, Elo. Wrestling was one of the ways to relieve stress!

The program ended in Demo Day, organised in the beginning of August. All the work that the teams had done during the summer culminated in this event, where the teams pitched their ideas for the jury and other 600 people in the audience. The partners of the program rewarded some of the best teams in the Demo Day. 

Although the program ended in Demo Day, exhilaratingly many teams are still working on their startups and developing their ideas at Startup Sauna. It’s very rewarding for an organiser to see that the teams really benefited from the program in many concrete ways! "Could go on for ages how Sos shaped our company throughout the program. Though the true impact is yet to come as it shaped our way of thinking. It rocks to be part of such a kick-ass community!" says Kristian Ahlers from Lääkärihinta.

The partners of the program rewarded some of the best teams in the Demo Day. Platonics is rewarded for the best spirit by Elo!

Jesse Merilampi
Organizer of Summer of Startups

Partnership benefits

September 16, 2016

Running Summer of Startups without partners would be impossible. There is just no way that Aaltoes alone could provide mentoring, grants or valuable lectures and workshops to SoS-teams without the help of companies and their professional people. In this blog I am going to tell you what kind of partnerships can an accelerator have with a company. For that, I am going to use our partnership with Nord Software (that btw went really smoothly) as a reference case.

We had 1on1-mentoring sessions every Tuesday 14-17 through the summer. During these sessions startups got to sit down with mentors capable of helping them in finding a better direction. Nord Software sent their CEO, Niklas Lahti, to these sessions. Niklas turned out to be very helpful especially for startups having something to do with software development. That is because Nord Software has done a lot of software development projects for startups and Niklas himself has background as a founder.

“The job of a good founder is to sit quiet while customers tell their real opinions.”

Niklas also gave a lecture about listening to customers while doing software development. During the lecture, his thoughts about the customer-centric-way of behaving that is crucial for startup founders were well received. "In the lecture I realized how important it is to really listen to your customers. The job of a good founder is to sit quiet while customers tell their real opinions.” Tatu Koivisto, Co-Founder and CEO of Metodia, sums up Niklas’ main points.

This summer our BBQs were exceptionally popular. It happened to be a great weather on all nine of them. I believe the fortune with the weather is the reason why we had 250 people participating in the BBQs on average. The photo on top with great weather and spirit is taken from Nord Software’s BBQ on the week after midsummer.

Jesse Miettinen
Vice President of Aaltoes
Organizer of Summer of Startups

Protecting ideas in Summer of Startups

September 13, 2016

Intellectual property rights form a backbone for every strong brand. Hence, the earlier IP matters are adopted as a part of a company’s agenda, the better.

When designing the program for this year’s Summer of Startups, we wanted to pay attention to intellectual property rights and the issues the teams might have. Thus, we started co-operation with Papula-Nevinpat, one of the largest and most well-known patent and trademark agencies in Finland.

This year’s Summer of Startups features 14 teams, who are in need of IP consulting concerning all the things early-stage companies need to take into account when developing the business. Avanto, one of the teams, is developing infrared heated functional clothing and was in dire need of IPR consulting in the beginning of the program. “When dealing with physical products, it is essential to protect the new innovations before bringing them to public attention.” says Visa Kupias, one of the two co-founders of Avanto.

“When dealing with physical products, it is essential to protect the new innovations before bringing them to public attention.”

As a part of the partnership, every team in the program gets a consulting session focusing in IP matters from Papula-Nevinpat. This is to ensure that no team in the program would have to experience the pitfalls of not
taking care of intellectual property rights when developing the early-stage business. “Careful planning of IP strategies as early as possible is not only cost-efficient but can also make a great difference when expanding to new markets, for example”, says Jerry Härkönen, Trademark Lawyer and Key Account Manager, Papula-Nevinpat.

Avanto was able to schedule their consulting session early during the summer, greatly benefiting from it. “It was really good that we could meet up with Jerry and Folke from Papula-Nevinpat. We had a discussion with them about what our ideas were and what we wanted to do with them. They directed us to the right path on how to continue with our patenting and trademark processes.” says Aino Aarnio-Juurinen, the other co-founder of Avanto.

 “Cooperating with Aaltoes and participating to the Summer of Startups-program has given
Papula-Nevinpat great insight into the current stage of the startupscene in Finland and we are more than happy to see an increase in awareness of IP matters. However, as the field of intellectual property is constantly evolving, it is important not to stay still. Thus, we hope to work with Aaltoes also in the future to give startups the most up-to-date information, our full support and the resulting chances for success they deserve”, continues Jerry Härkönen.

Jesse Merilampi
Organizer of Summer of Startups

What we failed in Demo Day

August 10, 2016

First and foremost: thank you for the Demo Day! Partners, teams, audience and the Aaltoes crew helping us out - you made the day as special as it could have been.

Summer of Startups 2016 Demo Day was a success. We saw maybe the best pitches in the program ever, Startup Sauna was full of enthusiastic people interested in startups, the after party continued until 7am and most importantly, we didn’t run out of beer. But to be honest, none of you really wants to read about our successes. What is much more intriguing (and more important in the context of learning) is all the things we actually failed.

1. Beginning to organise the event too late.

The production of the event (volunteers, music, saunas, bouncing castles etc.) was begun in time two weeks prior to the event, but we started thinking of all those little details on Monday during the final week, which was way too late. Did we record the whole event on video? No. Did we actually get anyone to clean the place after the Demo Day? No. It’s frustrating, that organising these “little” things wouldn’t have taken us much time, but we just didn’t have time to concentrate on them. Being late also led to not having time to sleep enough, which again led to more stress. A couple of extra days would’ve really helped!

2. Not paying special attention to partner slide

We forgot to add Reaktor Ventures to the partner slides. This was a huge, embarrassing mistake because they were maybe the most helpful partner for us, both before and during the program. Having consulting sessions for the organisers when designing the program changed the course of this summer program and outstanding workshops and 1-on-1 coaching really helped the teams to become as good as they were on the Demo Day stage. Beginning to organise the event a several days earlier and being more relaxed would have helped in this matter too!

"We forgot to add Reaktor Ventures to the partner slides. This was a huge, embarrassing mistake because they were maybe the most helpful partner for us, both before and during the program."

3. Not getting some food trucks

We had catering for about 500 people, but we anticipated the event to get a larger audience. We were thinking of getting some food trucks for the hungry (and drunk) people, but we didn’t want to take the financial risk. In hindsight, this was a mistake because the food run out pretty quickly and we still had some hungry people partying in the event. Maybe next year!

Now that Summer of Startups has officially ended, we want to personally thank everyone who has been a part of this journey. Aside accelerating startups, we also got to develop ourselves. We can proudly say that working in Aaltoes and Summer of Startups has taught us so many things, that we are completely different persons when comparing to the time before. Next up, time for some new challenges! And anyone interested in organising Summer of Startups next year: we’re open for lunches!

Over and out.

Jesse Merilampi
Organizer of Summer of Startups

Book your Friday evening, now!

July 30, 2016

Since there is only one week left of Summer of Startups and you are reading this blog, you probably want to know more about the Demo Day, the day that ends our program next Friday (the 5th of August).

This will be the seventh SoS Demo Day in the history. Last six times it has given a chance to meet on average two or three promising startups before they make it to the headlines. This time we already have a couple startups that have gained traction not only from the media but also from customers. So prepare to meet the most promising Summer of Startups batch this far!

Besides all the mingling at the Demo stands, the startups lineup to compete for the “Winner of Summer of Startups” -title in a pitching competition. The autonomous jury will decide the winner of this first prize based on the 3 min pitch and 2 min Q&A alone. In the jury we have Miki Kuusi (CEO, Wolt), Sampsa Laine (Executive Vice President, Nordea), Jaakko Salminen (Chairman, FIBAN) and Matti Copeland (Executive Director, EY Finland). Pretty high profile jury huh? :D

"The whole event, including the legendary after party, is open for everybody interested in Summer of Startups."

The program is following:

17:00 Doors Open
18:00 Opening speeches (@Startup Sauna main stage)
18:00 Demo Stand venue open (@Urban Mill)
18:15 Pitching Competition (@Startup Sauna main stage)
20:00 Announcing the winner of SoS batch ‘16 (@Startup Sauna main stage)
20:30 After Party starts (@Startup Sauna)
21:00 Snacks and refreshments are served
03:30 After Party ends

I bet that Demo Day veterans know what to expect, so the rest of the blog text is for the first timers.

The whole event, including the legendary after party, is open for everybody interested in Summer of Startups. We expect you to bring your happy face, a swimsuit if you need one for the hot tubs and your friends! :) You can expect to have the best time of your summer, refreshments sponsored by Hartwall and delicious snacks from Tommi’s Kitchen. See you at Startup Sauna on 5th of August at 5pm!

Jesse Miettinen
Vice President of Aaltoes
Organizer of Summer of Startups

Azure Hype

July 20, 2016

When we had just started to plan this year’s Summer of Startups last February we sat down to have lunch with Toni Perämäki who is working as a startup evangelist in Microsoft and who had previously founded Boost Turku and Boosts Startup Journey accelerator program, which is btw very similar to Summer of Startups accelerator. We had a great discussion (and sushis) about how should our program look like and how could we collaborate with Microsoft. All the plans we made during that lunch formed a platform for a very productive partnership.

What did we actually plan then? Well, first we visited the recently opened Microsoft Flux space that has turned out to be a really popular place to work in the center of Helsinki. Check it out, there is free coffee and a beer tab! (http://www.microsoftflux.com) During the visit our teams had 1on1 coaching from a big bunch of mentors with various backgrounds. There Microsoft also arranged a tech help desk and a lecture which introduced the teams to Microsoft Azure.

In a few weeks time after the day at Flux somewhat half of our 14 teams have put Azure platform to use. Using Azure platform is really convenient for Summer of Startups teams since our partnership enabled them to join Microsoft BizSpark (a 3-year-long free access to Microsoft Office applications and Azure) and through that they were given a 120k$ worth of Azure credits for two years. I haven’t done any research on how our teams use Azure but I believe most use it for hosting their websites and running applications in the cloud.

“It is pretty powerful, I think you can do everything, you can host your website, applications, software even do rendering and gaming with that.”

Just before publishing this blog post I went to ask what does Cheng Hu, from one of our SoS teams Platonics, think about Azure and he answered: “It is pretty powerful, I think you can do everything, you can host your website, applications, software even do rendering and gaming with that.”

So it seems that one could use Azure also for many other things than just hosting websites and running applications. Actually, I was really amazed when I found out that you could use the platform to play with big data, machine learning and IoT stuff amongst many other things. So yeah, summa summarum: if you start running an accelerator program, propose a partnership to Toni!

Jesse Miettinen
Vice President of Aaltoes
Organizer of Summer of Startups

Working in an accelerator program

July 1, 2016

Hi, I am Oiva Lukander and I have been an intern in Summer of Startups for almost a week now and I am going to tell about my own experiences. I am also going to tell the image I got of working in Summer of Startups.

Okey, so the thing about SoS (Summer of Startups) is that a group of teams are given free working space and coaching for their own startups. This summer there are 14 teams with incredible startups. All the teams have been very active and hardworking all this time. Some of the groups have even given me some work to do as an intern, which have been good practice for my own coming working career.

The working here is very different from what I expected. Before I got here i thought that everyone would be working in the same way, but now I have noticed that everyone has their own way to work and that there are a lot of ways to make your own startup grow bigger. I also thought that SoS would be more like an office, but instead of the strict rules of an office, Summer of Startups is a very relaxed place. But even though you have got all this freedom you still have to get the work done.

"I have been here for a week now and not one time have i seen these guys just laying around not “caring” about their startup."

The groups have been very inspiring, and not least with showing the interest and passion they have got for their own startups. I have been here for a week now and not one time have i seen these guys just laying around not “caring” about their startup.

Not only have the startups gotten “one to one” coaching but also some great lectures from some great entrepreneurs like for example Linda Liukas and Peter Vesterbacka.In the lectures the teams got some great tips and so did I, which is awesome.

It has been fun to work with the teams and with SoS and I think I will come here myself when I am a bit older.

Oiva Lukander, 14
Intern in Summer of Startups

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

March 27, 2016

Throughout the years, we have always gotten a lot of questions during the  application period. The questions are often related to the structure of the teams and nature of projects allowed. To make it easier for you, here are couple of most frequently asked questions and answers to them.

How many people can the team consist of?
There are no limits, but too many or too few is always bad for the team’s capabilities. 2-3 founders is considered to be optimal.

Should the whole team be registered when filling the application, or can additional participants be added afterwards?
There is no team member registration in the application, so if needed, new members can join the team later on.

Is a team enough, or should we already have a company?
A team is enough. The purpose of the program is to push you forward and help with the formal challenges like starting the company.

Should the whole team consist of students and is the program limited to only university students?
You do not have to be a student to participate and students from any school are warmly welcomed!

"The purpose of the program is to push you forward and help with the formal challenges like starting the company."

Are only Finnish citizens allowed?
You do not have have citizenship or fluent Finnish skills to apply. However, you must be able to participate to the lectures and workshops at Startup Sauna during the summer, so be ready to spend your summer somewhere near Otaniemi, Espoo.

Is it possible to outsource part of the business or the process?
You are allowed to use any sources you need and want to, to turn your business idea to reality.

Should the idea be related to apps or IT?
No. There are no limitations to what your idea, or the expertise of the team, should be related to. There should be a realistic possibility to turn it into reality, but if that is not a problem, anything goes.

When is the interview?
The interviews are most likely held in 2 weeks after the application period closes on the 5th of April. Check out the whole timeline from the top of this post!

How many teams usually apply?
The amount of applications has been steadily increasing, last year we got about 100 applications.

How do you choose the final teams that can participate in the program?
We need to believe in your team - motivation is the most important factor.

All in all, if you have a motivated team, great idea and a burning desire to build it into a startup, you are very likely a great applicant. When you are writing the application, most important thing is to show us that you really want this. The program is an amazing chance to start your career as an entrepreneur - just take a look on our alumni and where they are now.

Laura Santala
Organizer of Summer of Startups

Bringing back the joy of life to seniors - Peik Hämekoski, Founder of Elffe

March 19, 2016

Peik is a 21-year-old startup entrepreneur who studies Business Technology at Aalto University. His enthusiasm for entrepreneurship emerged during his residency in USA where he was inspired by “house flipping” businesses. He saw how old houses were renovated and sold for profit. His own company, Elffe, is a service that helps the elderly live at home happier and longer by offering local helpers to help out with everyday tasks.

But how did he get the idea?

"We began working on the idea in 2014. The initial idea was to build a marketplace for practical nurses, and to offer them for those in need. However, we quickly realised that the idea was not innovative enough, nor was it feasible at all. Then, my friend told about his idea of a vespa cab service as a marketing stunt for an established company, such as Fazer. Several blue vespas would have transported people around Helsinki in style, and most importantly, at an affordable rate. However, after some thought the idea seemed too easy to copy. Elffe is a mixture of these ideas."

Peik was already a member of Aaltoes before applying for Summer of Startups and he had heard many positive things about the program. "I was a member of Aaltoes so I already knew Summer of Startups and the “buzz” around it. Funny thing is that we decided to apply for the program 48 hours before the deadline. We filmed a funny video explaining our idea, and the application was good enough. In the end, we got accepted into the program."

Elffe changed their direction systematically every Monday until the business model reached its final form. They used their own insight and the feedback from their customers and coaches to reform the company. "We received all kinds of coaching. When you set up your first company, you have no idea of anything. All the coaching was really useful." Ultimately, the feedback that they got from the early adopters proved to be most valuable.

"You can't base your work on assumptions, you have to talk to customers constantly to know exactly what they want."

The team was brought together through a series of coincidences - some team members were Peik's friends from school and others he met at Slush. "I've realised afterwards that it wasn't the best way to form a team. It was a big lesson I learned the hard way. You should find the best people you can for each task, instead of going with your friends."

What would you do differently if you now applied for Summer of Startups?

"The most important things we should've done during the summer were meeting potential clients, getting feedback on the idea or the service, and trying to get the first paying clients way earlier. We spent way too much time on irrelevant stuff, such as web page design. You should always put the customer first! You can't base your work on assumptions, you have to talk to customers constantly to know exactly what they want."

What did Peik get from Summer of Startups?

"One thing that I've realised is that the point of the program is not to create companies that generate millions of euros, but rather to teach entrepreneurial skills to motivated and innovative people. These are skills you can use during your lifetime, not just during the summer. You get to know what it really feels like to run a startup company."

"I would've built my own company anyway, even without Summer of Startups. But I learned a lot and now I know exactly who to ask, if I need help in something. Strong network is essential in startup scene; if you don't know people, it's likely that you're not going to be successful."

Today, the future looks promising - after some further pivots and changes Peik believes he is finally reaching product/market fit. Right now the company is Peik’s main priority, while balancing school on the side.

Jesse Merilampi
Organizer of Summer of Startups

The Dream Team

March 8, 2016

Vaasa Entrepreneurship Society recently wrote an article that had an interesting thought. “The biggest Finnish company of 2025 is yet to be founded.” Just think about that! In just nine years, the Finnish equivalents of Jobs and Wozniak might scale their new company that will fill the gap left by Nokia’s mobilephone business.

Last Friday marked the start of a new Aaltoes program concept that might be remembered in the history as the one event that brought the Finnish equivalents of Jobs and Wozniak together. This program is called TeamUp.

TeamUp aims to prepare and deliver better teams to Summer of Startups by aspiring entrepreneurs to network and develop their ideas further. In practice, TeamUp started with a Bootcamp which gathered over 200 people looking for the perfect team to Startup Sauna. The Saturdays agenda was to develop the new found teams business ideas so that they would match their skills and resources.

On Saturday I left home with a lot of new inspiration that was solely born from the pure excitement of the new found teams of TeamUp Bootcamp. After our scheduled workshops ended, the teams rushed into finalising their pitches and business models with their newfound skills. The last team left home at 4 am... As an organiser of Summer of Startups, I feel very relieved seeing the passion of over 36 idea-stage startups who might all apply to Summer of Startups.

TeamUp Bootcamp was all about finding the perfect team capable of delivering a business idea or generating one they could execute. Fortunately we at Summer of Startups already have a perfect team for producing the program so we didn’t have to participate in TeamUp.

“As an organiser of Summer of Startups, I feel very relieved seeing the passion of over 36 idea-stage startups who might all apply to Summer of Startups.”

Before jumping into all things in SoS 2016, I would like to introduce our team to you:

Jesse Merilampi - A Webflow wizard with a lot of enthusiasm towards pushing Summer of Startups teams to the right direction. He is the one you can always trust.

Laura Santala - Her superpower is social media marketing, a skill that has been refined to generate buzz around Summer of Startups application period.

Alessandra Vihonen - A talented designer and visualist who has been of great help in designing all visual materials for the program.

Tuukka Määttä - Our newest recruit, ready to provide more muscle to our marketing efforts. A talented person with a great future!

Jesse Miettinen - I am the devil sitting in the Aaltoes board and making sure Summer of Startups gets the best out of the teams next summer.

Our goal as organisers is to help Summer of Startups teams not only become the number ones but becoming the number ones in the world! So what are you waiting for? Apply now!

Jesse Miettinen
Vice President of Aaltoes
Organizer of Summer of Startups