Startup Weekend Helsinki 2015 was a blast! Here’s a story of how it went…

On Friday evening, June 12th, 2015 HUB13 was filling up with startup enthusiasts from Helsinki, other parts of Finland, Germany, Denmark and even Canada! Endless pizza stocked on tables, drinks, organisers and the facilitator running around, people mingling around in Startup Weekend colour T-shirts…

The event kicked off with welcoming words from Povilas Valiauga, the Facilitator, who himself has organised several Startup Weekends in Lithuania and Finland before. To set the mood for the audience and wish them good luck, Anna-Maija Sulonen, the winner of Startup Weekend Vantaa 2014 gave a speech about her journey from depression to developing her own business idea through Startup Weekend and later joining a successful health startup. GenieTeams and Aalto Startup Center – two of the event sponsors – gave their speeches too and introduced the prizes to be given to the winning teams.

Ice breakers brought a lot of laughter as some participants chose random words to come up with awkward startup ideas and do their first pitching exercises. Twenty three (!) people lined up to pitch their ideas and after the voting, 11 ideas had gone forward to team formation. Then was the time for each idea owner to “recruit” people in yellow (engineers), red (developers), blue (business and marketing), purple (designers) and orange (all other kinds of enthusiasts).

On Saturday morning the organisers have discovered that one attendee stayed for the night (what a commitment!) and many of the teams were gathering quite early in the morning, anxious to begin working and be harder, better, faster and stronger. Filled up with divine food provided throughout the whole event by meal.fi (by the way, the guys who went to Startup Weekend in 2014, didn’t win but never gave up and now run a successful company), attendees circled around their tables and the air go thicker as the atmosphere of real hard work casted on HUB13 space.

Coaches started coming in Saturday noon. A wide array of talented individuals – Voitto Kangas, Steven Balliano, Tuija Pulkkinen, Tarmo Virki, Kristoffer Lawson, Kimmo Kauhanen, Jennifer Kutvonen, Kasper Suomalainen, Marko Taipale, Jari Jaanto, Taina Mikkola, Reidar Wasenius, Frank Russi, James Rutherford – listened carefully to the teams and gave valuable insights into customer development, validation, MVP and business model aspects. The coaches were as inspired as attendees to see entrepreneurship springing on grassroots level.

Later in the afternoon Toni Perämäki from Microsoft, the main sponsor of the event, gave a speech and introduced Microsoft packages for startups that were exclusively available to Startup Weekend Attendees. The rest of Saturday was spent on hard work and getting from vague ideas to formed business models.

Sunday morning continued with coaching sessions as the tension was rising. Teams were pushed to get out of the building and validate their ideas by talking to potential customers, partners and stakeholders. At four in the afternoon participants, coaches and judges gathered for the final pitches in the event space. Nine teams were set to present in a limited amount of time. Judges – Alexander Reay, Marc Dillon, Jaana Pylvänen, Taru Haajanen, Kimmo Kauhanen and Ekaterina Gianelli – listened carefully and later gave feedback to all the teams. The judges have expressed their positive surprise in the quality of ideas pitched and choice of business models. Judges made a hard decision of selecting three winning teams as every team has shown talent but let’s be clear – Startup Weekend is not measured by who has won or how many startups were raised but by an excitement and experience it brings to the community willing to experience entrepreneurship.

One of our missions at HUB13 is to connect the local startup community of Helsinki and help it thrive. We were thrilled to host Startup Weekend Helsinki as it is an excellent example of how community effort can raise startups, enhance the ecosystem and move things forward in the world of entrepreneurship. Another interesting thing about Startup Weekend – it is totally not-for-profit and is organised by volunteer communities under the umbrella of UP Global, an international community of volunteers who set to improve their local startup communities and open up opportunities for entrepreneurship on a grassroots level.

That weekend HUB13 has hosted almost 90 people (attendees, organisers, volunteers, coaches and judges) sacrificing their weekend to spend 54 hours with other enthusiasts and create new products and we are on a mission to facilitate more opportunities like Startup Weekend for local entrepreneurial community in the future!

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