Looking back: Startup Weekend Helsinki

This past weekend, Startup Weekend Helsinki took place in the elegant surroundings of the NewCo building in the Kallio region of Helsinki.  Here is our look back at an inspiring weekend.

Chris Georgiev, founder of Imagga, was the lively master of ceremonies, supported by a team of purple t-shirted volunteers. Present were seventy participants in their blue, yellow, orange, red and green colored t-shirts to represent their skillsets – business, designer, engineer, developer and  ‘other’, which included among others educators, academics, and interested students.

The Friday kick-off included a fun and inspiring presentation by Alejandro Santacreu, founder and CEO Puzzle Phone.

I spoke with Startup Weekend volunteer Armand Dupuis. This was his ninth such event in just three years. The youthful and friendly Frenchman previously participated in seven events held in various regions across France – six as an attendee and one as part of the organizing team. Now, whilst currently studying in Finland, he has been part of the organizing team for two Finnish Startup Weekend events.

It’s not hard to imagine what motivates him and others to volunteer. The energy and enthusiasm is infectious. Armand highlighted the different atmosphere in France – most events run continuously through the nights with parties, dancing and mixing between teams – the Finnish version is more reserved, perhaps a cultural difference, but it sure delivers.

startup weekend helsinki 3

5 tips to bring with you to the next Startup Weekend

Reflecting on the development of ideas and teams in such a short period of time, a few tips come to mind for those considering attending future events:

  1. Don’t worry – ideas don’t have to be very well developed at the start. Further research comes straight after during the first hours of the event.
  2. Gather a team with a mix of skills and experience (some previous startup/entrepreneurial experience in the team helps).
  3. A team size of four to six people is optimal. Less is ok, but more takes more management. Create a positive atmosphere to complement the passion.
  4. Solve a problem that people will pay for. Be prepared to pivot and change the solution and business model.
  5. Validate, validate and validate. Get out and interview potential customers.

Among the selection of onsite experienced local coaches, Tuoko Kontro and Liisa Paavilainen, both volunteering their weekend time, highlighted the power and benefit of such events:

“It’s all about immediate validation of the idea and feedback from potential customers” Liisa told. It helps that the event location is not far from city hotspots and transport hubs.

Touko added “startups are quite mature these days, skipping fast through typical first year mistakes. This means that potential investors could get a better return on their investments”

That’s good news for the growing Angel investor community in Finland, where investments are growing at a healthy rate.

In reality, fifty-four hours of intensive effort, facilitation and learning, is a small personal investment but a giant leap forward for nurturing a potential start-up.

Late on Sunday came the conclusion of the event, with four minute presentations given by the remaining thirteen teams.  Ideas ranged from finding hobby friends, supporting tourists in their own language, a healthy sports focused cafe menu, fashion, events, music, education, to real-estate solutions.

sport ninja

The judges Steven Balliano, Matti Copeland, Mohamed Eldishnawy (Dish), Teemu Polo and Tuula Halen gave the presenting teams pretty tough but fair questions fully in line with the judging criteria which emphasized the need for Validation, Execution and Business Model as key elements.

And the winners were…Everyone.

The teams with strongest proposition according to the judges were PPRX, a solution focused on assisting epilepsy sufferers, and Sport Ninja, a platform to link people with personal coaches. The overall winner was Home Help. a service to provide student helpers for elderly clients who need company during activity. These teams received various prizes including co-working space and entry to key local events and other discounts.

home help

Everyone takes away their own experience. For me it was a real eye-opener that such events can really make a difference and super-charge your imagination. New friends were made and networks expanded.

The next event, Startup Weekend Oulu happens 22-24th April. Find out more about it here.


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