Aalto University provides startups with versatile support through digital tools

Aalto University's support measures aim to support the development and business activities of startups on the Otaniemi campus during the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Crystal flowers, a combination of mathematics and arts, on display
Image: Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University

Aalto has succeeded in building a novel ecosystem and collaboration with the startups during the past few years. For example, the startup community A Grid, located on the Otaniemi campus, currently houses about 100 startup companies. The coronavirus pandemic and restrictions affect several industries. 

‘Aalto wants to help startups overcome the crisis by support and training for the startups. In addition, Aalto is collaborating with the city of Espoo to find additional ways to support startups’, says Aalto University’s Vice President of Innovations Janne Laine

It is in the university’s interest to sustain the community and help the startups to survive the crisis by providing additional support to the companies.  

A virtual community to support startups 

Aalto Startup Center transferred its startup training services to an online environment and formed a virtual community to support its startup companies. 

‘When it was first announced that the university was closing its doors, the staff at Aalto Startup Center accelerated their plans on building their online platform so that its community would remain connected. Aalto Startup Center hosts at least one training or event for our startups a week, so we reached out to our trainers and asked them if it was possible to do the session virtually’, explains head of the center Marika Paakkala

The state of emergency created by the pandemic brings new challenges to startups, so Aalto Startup Center now strives to offer training to its companies that is especially suitable for this situation. Examples of training offered are B2B sales in a digital environment and financial estimates in a crisis situation. Additionally, tailored one-to-one workshops are offered to help startups with planning their activities. 

Talking about challenges helps 

The online community can also provide more informal support in a difficult situation. 

‘Our advisors also called each startup CEO at the beginning to ask them how they were doing. We provided companies with the opportunity to have confidential discussions with our advisors and talk about the status of their business. Talking about your company with someone else can help’, says Paakkala.  

The goal is to open an online community to serve all startups operating in A Grid during May. 

In May, A Grid organised a webinar in collaboration with the Helsinki-based startup community Maria 01 to provide startups with information on available grants, statistics on the current state of the startup ecosystem as well as inspiring speeches on, among other things, sales management and change management during the crisis. A Grid plans to hold new informative and inspiring webinars in the near future. A Grid also constantly develops new ways of supporting its members.

Aalto's startup community reacted quickly to the changed status 

Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (Aaltoes), Europe's most prominent and active student-led entrepreneurship community, is organising a 10-week entrepreneurship program, Ignite, in the summer of 2020, with the aim of offering students an alternative summer job opportunity. The longer-term goal of the Ignite program is to support the Finnish economy through new companies created through the program. The program provides financial support and advice on starting a new business and encourages entrepreneurial individuals to boldly try out their ideas. 

Kiuas, a startup accelerator operating on Aalto's campus, transferred its operations to a new online environment after the new restrictions came into force. The accelerator organises free training programmes for startups and those who intend to become one. One of the programmes is called the Kiuas Start, which is held in the spring and autumn. This spring's Kiuas Start will be held entirely online. The summer acceleration programme, Kiuas Accelerator, will also be held virtually. 

Aalto Ventures Program, which offers entrepreneurship studies, like the rest of Aalto's teaching, transferred all its teaching events to the distance teaching mode, and now its courses are taught through various virtual tools. Aalto Ventures Program offers anyone interested in startups a free online course called Starting Up, from which also already established startups can get additional help with their business planning and productisation. 

Aalto Entrepreneurship Society Ignite
Aalto Startup Center
A Grid
Starting Up 

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