All posts by yllapito

Once upon a time there were Gyro Gearloose, Little Helper, Dewey, Huey, Louie and Scrooge McDuck…

who had their dream. They formed a team that had a mission to create a successful startup company. They did a lot work to reach their dream. Team contacted with the customers and learned the art of selling. At times they were desperate, they did not sell enough and there was no way out of the valley of death. They had to develop their services and concepts. They needed more money from their business angel. However, they believed in themselves and in the future of the company.

This story is a polarized example of elements which should be included in a successful startup. In addition to enthusiasm and a common goal there has to be a great team. A team which tirelessly strives to their common goal.

The first element, which needed in a startup team, is the mother/dad of the idea – Gyro Gearloose. Present-day Gyro Gearlooses are often the people who are capable to write the computer language (coders/programmers). Gyro Gearloose is a character who can´t do everything in a startup. That’s why Gyro needs the help from a contemporary Little Helper. The Little Helper is the character for designers. They help Gyro to design the program/application in such a way that John Doe (normal citizen) can use it.

When Gyro Gearloose and the Little Helper have found each other, they need some marketing- and sales-oriented people to seek all the customers and to all the deals. Thus, they have a much-needed economic fuel for the company. Namely, Gyro Gearloose and the Little Helper don’t often have the time/desire/capabilities to sell and to do all the marketing stuff. In the energetic and positive marketing and sales team we have Dewey, Huey and Louie – of course!

In the end, Gyro Gearloose, the Little Helper, Dewey, Huey and Louie need some financing to realize their dream. At the start of a startup they don’t have any paying customers yet. No panic! For this need assistance will brought by Scrooge McDuck. Scrooge – in the Finnish level – can be e.g. a business angel, banks, Tekes, ELY-Centers, Kansalaisrahoitus, Finnvera, crowdfunding platforms etc. Nowadays, Scrooge McDucks are  very accurate for teams of startups. The team can be a much more important element than the original idea or products. That’s the reason why you should really focus on building a great team!

PS. Remember that this story was a polarized example of building a startup team! 😉

Survey in Pocket – Every journey begins with a small step

Survey in Pocket’s blog post

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(Photo: Tytti Vuorikari)

How did you come up with the idea of Survey in Pocket?

Many people have been asking me this question recently and I’m really happy to know that someone is curious about our business.

The idea appeared during a conversation between Ninh and I two months ago when we were chatting about the life in Finland. I told him how surprised I was at the fact that our school is still using the traditional paper survey to get student feedback. Then just a few days later, I found myself excited to do feedback with interactive emoticons on an iPad floor stand at Nordea bank. Ninh shared the same feeling about this contradiction. Then we think: What happens if we combine these two? How about an interactive survey to get student feedback?

The idea sounded cool and awesome. We talked with Nam, our close friend, about this idea and it really intrigued him. We all thought that schools would find this useful and decided to make the idea happen. In the following weeks, we started building the prototype and talked with schools staffs about our ideas. It was actually very challenging at that time, because everything we have was only an abstract idea and our schools were not ready to change the traditional processes.

About two weeks later, I heard about the Ahjo Program of MikkeliES. I had come to some events of MikkeliES before and they were quite exciting, so I’m kind of curious to see what this Ahjo Program is. That was the first official time I met Olli and Piritta. After listening about the content of the program, I figured out that it was a very good opportunity to meet other experienced entrepreneurs and have them helping us with our project. My friends also agreed to join Ahjo though they worried a bit as there was only me in Mikkeli during the whole program (now we all know that it was the right decision).

In eight weeks, the program has guided us through the basic steps of a startup business. Everything started with identifying customers, understanding their pains, finding our value proposition, creating the first MVP and pitching our ideas. As the program accelerated, every team including us, was continuously improving and moving forward.

At the beginning, we came to the program with an abstract idea of creating a survey application with better design and features. Then after eight weeks, we have developed a clear mission, that guided us through our business. Whenever making a decision about anything, e.g. a new feature for Survey in Pocket, we always ask ourselves a “magic” question: “Will our customer get more feedback if we do this?” If the answer is ‘No’, then we will not do that. This question is extremely helpful to focus our efforts on important matters and stick with our original mission: “To help our clients get more customer feedback”.

For now, we have done our first MVP, but there are still many questions regarding it: “How will Survey in Pocket help businesses?”; “What are already good and what need to be improved?”. Only customers can answer these questions and we are now looking for them.

Cook Ok – Be a master chef with us!

Cook Ok blog post

DemoDay, kuvat Lumiasta (20)

Cook Ok is the perfect place to share recipes with people who have a passion for food and cooking.Our team consists of creative, experienced professionals in IT development and old friends, Ivan and Vitaly. Our story began a few years ago, when the key member Vitaly made a personal recipe website for his wife and attracted a surprising amount of attention. The number of unique users achieved about 2k every day. We recognised a striking opportunity to simplify the cooking process and make recipes more visual.

Cook Ok service will help you during the cooking process remarkably by leading you through cooking steps. Each step contains a photo and only essential information on what you should do. Our team works hard to bring you a simpler and more intuitive way of showcasing you a recipe. No annoying ads or ridiculous amounts of text, only necessary information about every single step of your cooking process.

Our team participated in Ahjo Acceleration program, during which a lot of feedback was gathered on the service, its features and appropriate business models.

The major objective of Cook Ok is to reach cooks, chefs and passionate food-lovers to share their enticing masterpieces on our service with others.

Visit us at cook-ok.com!

2Do event’s Ahjo-journey

2Do event ry Blog Post

2Do Event, Linh pitching

Our journey with Ahjo starts with a private invitation from our lovely president of MikkeliES: “Hi, does 2Do event want to join Ahjo?” The invitation sounds appealing enough for us to say yes.

However, things started to fall apart in the first 2 weeks of Ahjo. Like in the movies. Our team was too busy with organizing Light Up Mikkeli and totally missed some of the gathering of Ahjo. Moreover, personally, as a representative of 2Do event joining this program, the first 2 weeks for me was like in university. You have homework and assignments to do every week. I felt a little bit of bored and unmotivated to continue Ahjo.

Then, what happens will happen. We received an email from Olli, one of organizers of Ahjo, saying: “2Do event, you are about to kicked out of Ahjo program since you missed too many gatherings.” It was an alarm to us. I immediately called a board meeting and discussed should we continue with Ahjo or not. We decided to join the last session on Monday and decide later.

That Monday morning at 8.15am sharp, in a small room of an old building near train station, all the teams were there for the morning session of the head coach. That surprised me the most. When I observed all the teams, every member was so excited, concentrated and super motivated to make their business idea come true, I was inspired a lot. Since then, 2Do event has not missed any of the session for the rest of Ahjo and we have no regrets coming back to this accelerator program.

Why? Simply because we have learnt so many valuable lessons from our head coach, from successful CEOs and especially from our colleagues. This opportunity may come to us again any time in our journey but the impact will not be as strong as Ahjo because of timing. 2Do event are in the early stage of development and we need this accelerator program to boost the process.

For all the organizer of Ahjo and MikkeliEs, I want to say a big thank you for organizing this successful event. In an eye of event planner, Ahjo is a successful event and congratulation for that.

Our journey won’t stop here despite Ahjo has been stopped. 2Do event ry is trying our best in organizing more and more fun events.

“So you have something to do in Mikkeli”– 2Do event ry

 

Blog series by Ahjo Accelerator Program teams

Our first ever Ahjo Accelerator Program (ahjoaccelerator.fi) is coming to an end this Friday (November 21st). We’ve had eight amazing weeks with our teams, coaches and everyone involved in the program. The teams have done loads of customer work and developed their MVPs (minimum viable product). They’ve been trained at pitching and they’ve been challenged to think about their business models. We’ve had a stream of professionals coming to push the teams to the next level.

Each of our teams has worked hard and now it’s time to let their voice be heard. During the next weeks, we will publish blog posts written by our Ahjo teams. Enjoy reading the stories of these ambitious startup teams! We hope their stories will inspire everyone else to give entrepreneurship a try – and maybe take part in Ahjo next year!

– Piritta

Find the investor in you!

As a treasurer of Mikkeli Entrepreneurship Society, an obvious subject for my blog would be funding. However, I want to take the opposite side of the table, so to speak, and view the world as an investor, partly due to my present job at a local bank. Even more, I´m not going to write about subjects such as how to invest in startups or to create a well-managed portfolio of firms on a seed stage. No. I want to take it to a more general level and talk about viewing life through investing.

Let´s assume that you have been fortunate enough to create some savings of your own and you are thinking about getting some profit out of those savings. Obviously as an entrepreneurial person, you have the option to fund your own future business. If the idea is not ready to be launched, you probably would think about approaching your own bank or other institutions offering investor services, and discuss with the financial advisor, such as myself, there. Not a bad idea. And in my opinion, if one has spare cash, it would be wise to put that money to work for you – in creating more wealth. Why not? Invest that ‘lazy money’ on your bank account and support the Finnish economy to grow. But is that the entire story behind one´s investing needs?

Before or after hearing the financial advisors who suggest all suitable solutions for you, you could perhaps sit back and think about your life as an investment. How about you invest in yourself? What if you actually spent your savings in maybe developing yourself or in getting new experiences? How about a refreshing night out with friends after hard work you´ve done to get the savings in the first place? Would it be ‘money well spent’? How to determine the profit out of that? There is a possibility that you would not earn more money, or at least not as much as in maybe through dividends, coupons or possible capital gains, but could you have gained something more. Something you cannot value.

I have read somewhere an aphorism that states the following: The richness of a person is not measured in how much one owns, but in how much one would not change for anything. That´s something worth thinking about.

And if these ideas don´t suit you, there is always the possibility to support MikkeliES with your savings. In that case contact me!

 

Tomi Soininen

If I am not me, who da hell am I?

When I agreed to write this blog post about a week ago, I did it for the same reason that I sometimes wonder whether I should start my own personal blog. The reason is that when I read news about recent politics or some other events concerning society, I almost always get pissed off and I would like to have some way of saying my opinion. In other words, I enjoy ranting about stuff. However, this week was an exceptional one in my life, since I wasn’t pissed off about anything. That however poses a problem concerning this blog post because now I don’t have a topic for this.

Then I started to think about alternative topics and realized that I definitely should introduce myself and my role in MikkeliES, since it happens to be quite special. I’ve had the honour to have my role in the board of MikkeliES named after me. So, Hello my name is Heikki Kurhinen and my role in MikkeliES is “heikki”. For people who know me, what I do is quite obvious, but for others it may need some clarification. Basically what I do is I’m the nerd of the board. If we need a new app for something or some technical assistance I’m your guy.

My background is that I’m a generalist of IT and a specialist of programming. To clarify a meaning of that, I currently work as a programmer but I have a background in electronics and embedded systems. I’m also interested in hardware, robotics and basically everything you can find in 90s nerd movies.

So what am I doing in a entrepreneurship society? The short answer is that at some point I want to be part of building something cool, something new and something awesome and I feel that having your own, or being part of, a startup is the way to achieve that goal.

Do… or do not. There is no try.

There are 10 kinds of people. That’s binary by the way, meaning there are two kinds of people: those who are techies and those who are not.  Luckily, it isn’t that black and white. Everyone has to understand the basics and be at least a bit techie to get around in the information society and use various services and products.

This has everything to do with being a startup entrepreneur in any scene, especially in tech scene. You need to be able to build your dreams and the team while understanding what you are aiming at. I think that a quote said a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away is very appropriate to emphasize that you do need to understand tech, there is no try at that.

My name is Mikko and my role in MikkeliES is to connect tech with people and vice versa. That includes relations with organizations and companies as well as organizing hackathons, code schools and other events. I’m spreading the word of technology and making sure people are and will be the focus. My day job in Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences (MAMK) research and development projects supports this role and I’m happy to connect the students and staff of MAMK with MikkeliES. In addition to technology know-how becoming a civic skill in the information society, it has become crucial in making startups. Here are some reasons.

In order to innovate new products and services or shake the existing status quo with disruptive business you need to understand what to shake and how. It could require knowing how to develop nerdy things. Do you think Netflix or Spotify could have been made into business with no understanding about protected streaming of audio and video? That sounds like technology to me. And nerdy things can be quite cool. How about iPhone or Jolla which are basically piece of hardware and software?

Building a prototype or demo is much easier and faster if you or your team can do it yourself. Having a technology or visual demo is very useful for pitching for possible partners and funders. This leads to communications and money. What could be more important?

There needs to be no language barriers between techies and non-techies. Designing or building anything will become much faster and easier. And believe me, with lot less frustration on both sides. In addition, there is outsourcing and the difficulty of defining what you want. Do you think you’re able to estimate if you’re getting value for your money or no? Perhaps little knowledge on development wouldn’t hurt.

One of the biggest potential for business will be the Internet of Things (IoT). In brief, devices or embedded hardware can be connected to the Internet and share data. It enables all kinds of magic from industry and home automation to added value to basically anything and completely new services. Just imagine motion sensors in your house turning lights on and off based on your movement to save energy. And while you are away, based on your smart phone’s GPS, the same sensors would turn into a burglar alarm which automatically informs the local police in case of intruder. Companies which have nothing to do with technology are trying hard to get their share. Understanding IoT or any other future potential will become more and more connected with technology. Of course there are services and products for non-technical contexts but in the end they all require building blocks which are related to that.

However, founding a startup is not rocket science (unless you’re founding a rocket company) and you don’t need to be all programmers. But you need to be able to understand and support them. There is no try at that.

MikkeliES going boldly where no man has gone before

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MikkeliES is now a registered association. So, what is MikkeliES? We are an entrepreneurship society – a society dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship. We run on voluntary basis and organize great events, competitions and happenings. So, what are we aiming at? We want to make new startups: help people find teammates, come up with and work on business ideas and develop cool stuff – and we want to make all this easier. We want to change the local culture so that establishing a startup in Mikkeli is something lucrative. We want to change established patterns and show that Mikkeli can earn its place in the Finnish startup scene. Most of all, MikkeliES wants to encourage entrepreneurial people.

We don’t want to do all this alone. No, MikkeliES wants to co-operate with the local students, entrepreneurial people, startups, larger organizations, public organizations – and all the other Entrepreneurship Societies in Finland, financers and other important actors in the Finnish startup scene. We don’t want to create just local and national networks, but weave our international web of connections as well. Our networks will make it possible for local teams to take their first step in turning their business idea into reality.

Now we have a great team to make sure all this happens. Our first board will make sure autumn 2014 will be the best ever. I (Piritta) am the president and my job is to make sure our ensemble sticks together and things get done – and that we stay connected to all the other Entrepreneurship Societies in Finland! Sami is the vice president who helps me in keeping the package together, but also helps startups and people looking for opportunities find each other. Then we have Olli, who is the secretary, but secretly does more than that – Olli is in charge of our Ahjo startup accelerator program and spends a lot of his time on our communication and organizing events. Tomi is our money-guy and makes sure we have resources to fulfill our purpose. Heikki is our technical guy, who even has a saying devoted to him: “In Heikki we trust.” Mari is responsible for our marketing, which includes making sure our communication is coherent, making sure events get organized and are interesting and takes care of building an awareness and a good reputation for MikkeliES. Then we have two men building our network: Mikko and Seppo. Mikko spends his time in the world of IT and other business organizations. Seppo handles the creative world and checks out that MikkeliES’s visual look is appealing .Of course, it is not just the board who makes things happen. It is everyone involved in MikkeliES – the active members, the people who take part in our events and everyone who supports us.

Ps. We are starting to actualize all our aims NOW! Our Ahjo startup accelerator program starts on September 29.9. It is something that Mikkeli has never seen before, so make sure you follow us! If you don’t have an idea or a team, don’t worry. You can sign up for our upcoming Team Pool and we’ll introduce you to other ambitious people and facilitate coming up with ideas.