Participants get coaching from experienced coaches on a variety of topics. Summer of startups is place to learn, work hard and have fun.
This time we talked to Panu Paljakka, Vice President at Aalto Entrepreneurship Society and one of organisers of Summer of Startups.
What is Summer of Startups and how has it started?
It is 5th time we organise Summer of Startups.So this programme has been started in 2010. Before that there was programme called BootCamp (back in 2009), later on has been separate into Summer of Startup and Startup Sauna.
Summer of Startups is a programme for early stage teams, so the criteria to be part of this programme are as simple as, you have an idea and a team. The basic idea behind Summer of Startups is that young people (student and recent graduates) get opportunity to discover what is entrepreneurship, learn more about startups, see if their idea flies (if not, maybe their second or third idea going to work out). So usually we are working with teams at their ideation and concepting stages (learn more here). However there have been few teams with existing prototypes, but it is not our criteria.
What is the main goal of Summer of Startups?
The goal of the programme is that teams get their prototypes (MVPs) ready by the end of the programme. Our aim is also to educate people and give them opportunity to try what entrepreneurship is. So even if at the end of the programme no business has been establish those people might start company later on (even after 15 years). This is a long term impact of the programme.
Who does organise Summer of Startups?
Summer of Startups is organised by Aalto Entrepreneurship Society. It is all student-run organisation based in Aalto University (Finland), how ever we have reached a certain level of professionalism. We have coaches who are continuously involved in Summer of Startups and Startup Sauna.
What is the main method you use to support participants of Summer of Startups?
The most valuable method we use is coaching. There is a bunch of coaches (around 60 this year), who present some ideas on a certain topic (through lecture) or talk about their own story. Some of our coaches deliver workshops or have one-on-one meetings. Moreover, participants get space to work (it is open 24/7) and support of our community (Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, SLUSH, Startup Sauna). In this way it is easy to get in touch with right people.
You are based in Espoo and are part of Mentropolitan area (Cities of Vantaa,Helsinki,Espoo). Are there any industry clusters in the startup scene in this area?
Population is spread around the country, so there are some industry clusters in different cities (f.e. Turku has good and big gaming scene). Helsinki also has many gaming startups, but there is no focus. I do not know if Helsinki should be focused on specific industries.
New people are learning about the startup ecosystem in Helsinki, and getting excited about it. But not a lot of people know what is happening here, so we have to educate people even more people about different opportunities in here. This will help us to become even stronger in international scope. In the business world people know about those “magic” stories (Rovio and Supercell), but I am not sure, if venture capitalists know about things like Summer of Startups (and other programmes like this).
How does Summer of Startups get connected with other growth companies who can help startups to go from MVP to Scaling etc.?
We get a lot of help from our coaching network.This network has been developing since 2009, those coaches help us to get connected to people in Finland and abroad. So we have many different sizes of companies coming in doing coaching, there are different VCs and business-angels coming in and coaching as well. At the end of the summer teams have good network.
What advice would you give to students or recent graduates who would like to participate in Summer of Startups?
- Gather the right people. Have courage to change the people if you find out that they are not the right people to work with.
- Get connected well , put the word out there. Do not just seat in your own space and code for 2 years to find out at the end that nobody knows or wants about your product. Because you are going to lose this 2 years. Get good team, work on team dynamics.
- Just go for it.
Can you tell us more about how many teams have applied and how many do you take in?
This year we got 80 applications from different countries (Finland, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine etc.). Each year we take about 10 teams, this year we took 9 teams.
Do you choose teams from one specific industry or not?
In Summer of Startups we do not focus on specific industries. We have teams who are working on web platforms, hardware staff. We would like to get representatives from all industries (not only gaming and software).
You have mentioned that you would like to take more teams at some point, so what are resource you need in order to do it?
It is hard to say. I am not sure if money will help, because it is not about the money. For the development of the programme we need some long-lasting contract with people who organize Summer of Startups. Right now every year organisers are changed. We need to figure out how to make people involved into it for 2 or more years. Other the that I do not think there are factors which will help us, other than ourselves. Trying harder, calling more. We have new coaches every year.
What are the key advantages of Summer of Startups compare to similar programme?
One thing is “the kick in the ass”, people in teams are students and maybe they just thought to become entrepreneurs and start their own company. When they get in, we make sure they understand that it is time and you have to start now netowrk of people and network of coaches.
How does Summer of Startups get funding?
We gather money from private foundations who give grants to societies, they support as trough years. On top of that we collaborate with companies. If we have an event we try to get company which will cover the costs.
Who are you main partners and/or sponsors?
Aalto University provides as the space. Key partners for us are the City of Espoo, and a bunch of companies: Microsoft, Reactor, Borenius. We also partner with EIT ICT labs.
What is your biggest success so far?
I think every company who have stayed alive, had fun and have learned is our biggest success. We helped around 50 teams (more than 150 people).
Can you give us examples of the most recent successful startup?
Venuu.fi (They have been to programme last year, team of 3 or 4. They got office at our premises. Then they got investment of 125 000 EURf rom Reaktor Polte. Now they have moved to their own office in the center of Helsinki and there are 9 people employed).
What is the next challenge you would like to solve in the near future at Summer of Startups?
It will be good to have programme backed by someone, so we can get continues finance. Right now it changes from year to year, we have new sponsors and partners etc.
What is the best programme in the world for such early stage startups?
We have not research that much. Summer of Startups and Startup Sauna has been benchmarked from Y Combinator.
What you would say to the applicant who would like to join Summer of Startups?
"Show me that you want it right now."
We look for teams who want to do it now. When we evaluate applications it is 50% about the team and 50% about the ideas. There are no limitations, You are free to decide what you would like to do.