One billion and beyond: Extensive funding for change raised by Aalto alumni and spinouts
Data gathered by Dutch data platform Dealroom.co shows that during the last decade, Aalto University has not only grown into one of the most prominent startup ecosystems in Europe but is also a close competitor to institutions such as Cambridge and ETH Zurich in terms of deeptech funding and alumni companies.
‘The more multidisciplinary founding teams we can merge together, the brighter the future,’ says Janne Laine, VP of Innovation at Aalto University.
‘The biggest sustainability challenges in the world need multidisciplinary thinking, and enabling that kind of thinking is unique to our ecosystem. In addition, alumni companies are frequently featured in headlines – for example Wolt, which was recently acquired in an all-stock transition of €7 billion.’
Almost 100 companies are founded every year in Aalto University’s ecosystem, which amounts to a full 50% of start-ups originating from Finnish universities annually.
Within the last decade,Aalto alumni and spinout companies have raised a total of more than €1.1bn. In November 2021, Wolt, founded by Miki Kuusi and five other Aalto alumni, was acquired by DoorDash in a €7bn all-stock transaction, making it the second-biggest acquisition in Finnish history.
Additionally, about 40% of OMXH CEOs in Finland are Aalto alumni.
The springboard of one of the first quantum computers in the world
At the moment, approximately 30 tech transfers – technology transferred from Aalto University to another person or organization – are completed each year; 275 tech transfers have happened since 2013.
One of these tech transfers was IQM, a spinout from Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre which is building Finland’s first commercial quantum computer and has raised €39 million in funding from leading investors such as Tencent. The company has just announced that they their first 5-qubit quantum computer is now operational.
ICEYE, a spinout originated from the university’s nanosatellite group Aalto-1, is an another recent success story. The student team’s ability to become experts in every piece of design and implementation of Synthetic-Aperture-Radar enabled Finland’s first commercial satellites. In addition to raising €71 million in funding to date, ICEYE, as part of the new space movement, has supplied the world with some of the best tools yet to diagnose climate change and gauge whether policies to reverse it are working.
A student-driven movement engaging volunteers from over 50 countries
Aalto University also hosts Europe's largest and most active student-run entrepreneurship community, with thousands of students actively participating through various societies. Through courses organised by the Aalto Ventures Program, over 9000 students have familiarised themselves with entrepreneurship and an entrepreneurial mindset.
This unique student body is also behind Slush, one of the world’s largest technology conferences, held this year on December 1 and 2. The event was originally organised by Aaltoes (Aalto Entrepreneurship Society) and typically brings together over 20,000 investors, entrepreneurs, media and volunteers from over 50 countries.
UN’s sustainable development goals to lead the way
If Aalto’s first ten years were about building a startup ecosystem and fostering entrepreneurship in Finnish society, the next ten will focus on solving some of the world’s biggest problems, outlined by the UN's sustainable development goals. The university’s main entrepreneurship course, Aalto Ventures Program, already demands that each participant form their business idea around a problem related to one of the SDGs.
Aalto spinouts and alumni founded companies are solving some of the biggest challenges the world faces today, from food waste to mental health to the sustainable use of natural resources.
According to Better Business, Better World – a study by Business and Sustainable Development Commission – bridging the gap between the status quo and the sustainability goals offers $12 trillion USD in business opportunities.
‘Any solution that aims to make the world a better place must be scientifically solid, good business and designed creatively,’ says Laine.
‘I think Aalto’s ecosystem is perfectly positioned to solve some of the world’s biggest problems through research and entrepreneurship.’