Advancing entrepreneurship and innovations in Aalto University

What if... entrepreneurship education was available for all?

In recent years, the startup community has focused on inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs. We think they’re inspired enough. Now, it’s time to start doing.
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In 2020 and beyond, we want to build on this foundation of inspired people. We want to make sure that anyone that is interested in discussing a new venture, introducing a new product or service inside their company, or even starting a startup of their own is not only inspired — but also equipped with enough tools to get started.

In a world that changes faster every day, the best way to predict the future is to build it yourself. In our experience, the best builders are entrepreneurs and those who think and work like entrepreneurs. People who embark on adventures and boldly go where no-one has gone before. People who do instead of staying home and talking about it.

However, a lot of the practical knowledge on modern entrepreneurship is difficult to find. Sure, there are volumes written on startups and many founders are very eager to share their stories, but much of the practical, basic information is scattered online or shared within startup and tech circles. Passed on from mentor to mentee, or exchanged between like-minded entrepreneurs at tech conferences and gatherings. Or in the worst case, not shared at all when we assume we know everything already.

We believe that in the 2020s and beyond, launching a startup successfully should not be dependent on your googling skills or, even worse, who you know.

That’s why we — Aalto Ventures Program, Kiuas, Maki.vc and Reaktor — created Starting Up: a free, open-for-all university course, teaching the fundamentals of startup entrepreneurship. The course provides practical tools and basic knowledge for anyone who wants to build a startup around a problem they’d like to solve or just become more entrepreneurial. And let’s face it: people are different. With the course, we can equip a diverse group of people with tools that suit them.

Right from the start, the idea was to have a course that’s 100% online. This way, anyone is able to take the course regardless where they live, and complete it when it’s convenient for them. This has proven invaluable, especially since the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for quality online education is now perhaps higher than ever, and if Starting Up can answer even to a portion of that need, we’re glad.

The course is offered worldwide by Aalto University, but what makes it special is that it was initiated by students, who thought that the startup bubble could use a breath of fresh air. Not long after, we had a world-class team working together and some of the most renowned Nordic entrepreneurs collaborating on the course material and supporters sharing our vision.

The result, launched at Slush in 2019, is nine chapters of knowledge from basic terminology to more in-depth topics like validating a problem or go-to-market strategy, spiced up with real-life stories from the entrepreneurs we interviewed. For those already interested and eager to learn more, we hope to offer concrete tools to get started. And for those who don’t yet know that the startup life could be for them, we hope that we can iron out some of the most common misconceptions.

And we think that we did a good job. You don’t have to take just our word for it, though. “Starting up course distills the essentials for launching a venture in nine on point chapters. The practical insights are amplified with reflections and stories of successful startup entrepreneurs, which makes the course engaging throughout,” says Emilia Xue, one of the over 10 000 students who’ve already taken the course.

Above all, by creating this course we wanted to make sure that no great idea goes unpursued due to a lack of access to basic knowledge. 

We want to break the startup bubble and let in a little bit of air — because when we invite people outside our bubble in, things tend to spill over in slightly messy, but oddly satisfying and awesome ways.

That’s why the course is and always will be free — no strings attached. Our only hope is that you share it with someone unexpected: someone outside of your circle — and who knows, you might see things start to bubble over. 

Co-authors: Aalto Ventures Program & Kiuas

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