NewCo Factory, the public accelerator from city of Helsinki, is one year old and we wanted to talk with them to review what has been an intense year full of activities and challenges. Due to their amazing results, NewCo Factory is amongst nominees for "Best Service Provider" category by Nordic Startup Awards, an event to recognize and celebrate the startup ecosystems based in the Nordic region.
This time we talked with Jaana Pylvänen, a startup advisor in NewCo Factory. Her strengths are in building professional, committed teams which have clear strategy and capability to test the innovative concepts with customers. Jaana has Master of Econ. and she has long career in Nokia Networks as recognized innovation driver and execution focused project leader in all the continents. Jaana has also experience in running design oriented business in three continents and passion for digital marketing.
What is NewCo Factory and Why did you start NewCo Factory?
NewCo Factory accelerates growth business in Helsinki. It is a public service with intention to increase entrepreneurship to new audiences, such as people with lot of international business experience and university education. There is a growing need to get advice and coaching on your business ideas, team building and commitment as well as for MVP validation in the market. This development phase of a startup contains a lot of risk, which leads to lack of private interest from financing and/or advising.
32 startups in your Acceleration Program, 5 foreign startup companies moved to Helsinki, 100+ persons work in NewCo Factory startups, 70 persons work in co-working space, 111 startup events organised – 1020 persons attended, 95 persons coached for sales or investor pitching, 650 person profiles in Statup Commons web community, Startups raised early stage funding 1,7+ Meur, NewCo Startups finalists in many European statup comptitions (code_n, Apps4Europe, Red Herring TOP 100 Europe etc). Amazing metrics after one year of hard work: very active community, attracting international people, job creation, etc. Which is your secret?
We are target focused, execution driven and willing to make a difference. Our people are professional, with long career in international business. It does not bother us if all the pilots do not succeed, it is better to try and see, what is working and then scale that. It is also beneficial, that we do not have much money, so it means we have to concentrate on actions we can do ourselves. All activities and materials are only in English, which enables people with very little or no knowledge of Finnish to join us.
What methodology are you presently using to support startups?
We are still on piloting phase, but our idea is to utilize lean type of methodology, where startup should test they business scenarios with customers. We are focusing on the strengths of the startups teams and developing the team as committed and professional as possible, not forgetting the agile methods.
What stage do you look for companies at?
We are looking for the startups, which have committed teams with competencies in producing the MVP within the team, i.e. in Phase 0 in Startup development phases. The company does not have to be registered yet, but we require a shareholder agreement between the corefounders.
You are part of a great startup ecosystem in Helsinki. What makes it unique?
Helsinki and metropolitan area is very small in size of geography and population. We cannot compete internally, but we rather focus on networking, partnering and helping the others to succeed. It is vital for an ecosystem to work. If you give, you will receive.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs considering an accelerator?
Test your first ideas with potential customers several times, before you start to build our product. Typically entrepreneurs are building the solutions for themselves, but real, paying customers might have different problems, which require a solution. It might take a lot of time to understand the need for the pivot, if you build your product on one customer only. Accelerator can help you with building your solution, work in organized way, help you with pitching, and funding.
Is there a “bubble” of startup accelerators?
I think that accelerators are the schools for entrepreneurship, can we have a bubble of that?
There's a clear shift towards crowdfunding in startup scene. What are you doing to adapt it in NewCo Factory?
We are considering crowdfunding with each of our customers separately. The readiness of the team, solution and funding for that particular industry need to be carefully considered as well as with all the other funding options.
Apart from the move towards industry specific (‘vertical’) accelerators, do you see any other big trends?
There is big trend to fish for the best startups from the accelerators to the neighbor cities and countries and utilize public funding as a bate for the reasoning.
Which is the best accelerator in the world?
That depends on what you are looking for, but we can be very proud of our accelerators in Helsinki.
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