Summer calms the hustle and bustle of the Otaniemi campus, but it does not show at Startup Sauna. Kiuas Accelerator has kept 14 startups busy during ten weeks of the sweltering summer.
Previously known as Summer of Startups, the programme is led by Aalto University’s student entrepreneurship community Aaltoes. This year, the accelerator received over 100 applications, which is more than ever. The selected companies come from four different countries.
‘The amount of applications tripled from last year. We wanted teams that had progressed beyond the idea level, and were very committed to their company's development’, Kiuas Accelerator leaders, students Aaro Isosaari and Timo Luukkola say.
One of the participants is HELT, who sees that the accelerator programme exceeded all their expectations.
‘I thought that the programme’s biggest benefits would be the contacts to investors and the startup world, but we received much more,’ says one of the founders of HELT, Aalto graduate Heiman Khalil, DSc (Tech.).
HELT is developing the world’s first marketplace of wellbeing services, and it had already launched the product before taking part in the Kiuas Accelerator.
‘It did not, however, mean that we would have been ready in any way. In fact, the very opposite is true. As a startup entrepreneur, situations change all the time, and we have gotten a lot of help for the different challenges here.’
After Kiuas, Heiman Khalil’s startup HELT will continue in the renowned US accelerator Y Combinator’s Startup School programme.
Springboard for the startup community
In addition to general workshops, the startups have received a lot of personal coaching from the mentors and partners – whether it was in legal affairs, sales, finance or scaling the business.
Isosaari and Luukkola think that the program’s networks are the greatest benefit to many.
‘In many ways, this is a springboard for the startup community. Both companies and mentors take part just because they want to help entrepreneurs in their first stages. The culture of giving back and helping is very strong in Finland.’
According to Heiman Khalil, also the participants’ own activeness has a great influence on how much one gets out of the accelerator programme.
‘For example, you can prepare for the appointment with your mentor by examining their background, by drawing up questions, and by forwarding the knowledge also to the other teams’, he says.
Isosaari, a second year student in industrial engineering and management, and Luukkola, a fourth year student in information networks, have been able to follow startups with their challenges and successes for ten weeks.
What, according to them, is the one factor that decides whether a company will really take off?
‘In most cases, it is the team. The team's expertise and how their chemistry works together. And I would also like to believe that the ones that we have seen the most of here at Sauna – the committed ones – will also succeed best’, says Isosaari.