This year the School of Business had its first Capstone course since the beginning of 2000s, in which students formed teams of 4–5 people to work on real-life business projects.
The idea of the Capstone course is that students and their teams represent various major subjects and backgrounds, which gives them different approaches to solving problems and to seeing the entire project as a whole. The multidisciplinary teams identify and analyse a problem related to their chosen case enterprise and resolve it independently. In the final seminar the teams presented their cases to each other.
‘Nearly all enterprises participating in the first course were from the Start-Up Center, which gives me reason to believe that organising the course is an excellent collaboration tool for the School of Business to support start-up entrepreneurs’, says Marika Paakkala, Director of the Start-Up Center. Entrepreneurs also have high expectations with respect to the final reports, because their aim is to use the reports in decision-making related to their business activities.
Both parties benefited from the collaboration
The problem or project to be resolved by the students was connected with data- and technology-based business operations and related services. They were usually found through cooperation between the entrepreneur and the students. The projects comprised topics such as drafting a marketing plan, expanding a market area, and starting a completely new business.
‘I tossed several different cases to the students, ranging from the rather broad topic “develop a new concept” to the more concrete “make a marketing plan”. We then selected the production of a concrete marketing plan as the case for the students,’ says Kimmo Koivisto, CEO of Tellyo.
‘Identifying the problem and the case was a smooth process, which we based on our brief and the sparring sessions with the students’, says Markku Patronen, CEO & Co-founder of Reader Stage.
‘We had a joint kick off session at the Aalto Start-Up Center, where we went through background information, possible approaches to the problem, and the context. I felt that it was important for the students themselves to have the freedom to define what aspect of the problem they would concentrate on,’ said Mervi Pohjoisaho, CEO & Founder of Blue Berry Communications & IR Oy.
The students were praised for catching on to the project and the related problems very well. The entrepreneurs noted that the course had guided them to a very theoretical examination of the case, which was seen to be of use from the point of view of learning. However, companies are even more interested in the practical implementation of the plans.
The entrepreneurs felt that collaboration with the students had gone well. There were a few meetings in which the scope and the goals of the project were discussed. Many of the entrepreneurs said that quite a few of the observations that had been sparred over in the meetings had brought them valuable information already during the projects. The students' independent working methods and their commitment to the projects were praised by the entrepreneurs – they are skills that will also be needed in professional life.
‘Cooperation with start-up companies is really a magnificent way for us students to get a concrete image of the everyday life of an entrepreneur’, says Johanna Heikkinen, who took part in the course.
The students' expertise met the needs of start-up companies during the course in a mutually beneficial manner, which is also a guiding principle for the Start-Up Center and its activities. The head of the course, Christa Uusi-Rauva, sees the Capstone course as a concrete example of this.