Startup Sauna, a Finnish business accelerator which so far has helped businessmen acquire over USD 43 M in financing, has come to Gdańsk for the first time. On 10 September 2015, as part of the Startup Sauna in Gdańsk event, presentations of 15 Tricity startups were made before an international jury in the O4 innovation space. The winner will go to Helsinki in November to attend the largest startup conference – Slush.
For the first time in the Tricity and for the second time in Poland (after Kraków) a Startup Sauna event was organised that presents the most interesting business ideas with ambitions to conquer global markets. The event took place in the new O4 innovation development space at Olivia Business Centre, opened in June 2015. It was organised as a result of the activity and efforts of the people creating the space along with the Finnish Startup Sauna organisation – the organiser of Slush, the largest startup conference. The event was co-organised by all entities active in the startup environment in the Tricity, including: Gdańsk Entrepreneurship Incubator STARTER, Gdańsk Science and Technology Park, Business Link Trójmiasto and Pomeranian Science and Technology Park.
The objective of Startup Sauna in Gdańsk was to support startups by mentors and coaches with reliable information on the ideas they present. The group of coaches in the event included business people and investors: Peter Vesterbacka (Angry Birds brand author), Artturi Tarjanne (Nexit Ventures), Jarmo Kuusivuori (Wolfcorner), Harri Myllylä (East Wings Venture Accelerator), Pierre-Olivier Monteil (Playsoft Polska), Maciej Grabski (Olivia Business Centre), Łukasz Osowski (Amazon, founder of Ivona Software).
The mentors listened to 15 presentations and identified six teams that in the next stage will be given an opportunity to have individual business consultations with each expert. The teams that were promoted to the finals were as follows: 5pillows, Dr Pocket, Iris Check, Professor Why, Quantum Lab and RoomAuction. Finally, the mentors invited to participate in the Slush conference the Iris Check team from Kaliningrad – authors of a system supporting early diagnosing of ADHD in children (and also other illnesses in the future).
The companies that made their presentations before the mentors and investors include both startups and developed business, active in international markets. According to Jaakko Hynynena, the Startup Sauna project coordinator, the Gdańsk edition was characterised by the quality and original nature of ideas as compared to other editions of the cycle organised in other places in Europe:
“You have companies that grow fast, operate intelligently and globally, providing customers with admirable solutions. As a standard we meet very young groups without a developed product, often just with an idea of a product. In Gdańsk the presentation level was surprisingly high, primarily in view of the business awareness of the companies that we saw here. Usually, out of fifteen presentations, two look solid and present interesting projects. Among the teams in the Tricity, such teams made up one half which means that your business ecosystem acts dynamically and will continue to develop”.
One of the mentors, Maciej Grabski, president of Olivia Business Centre, speaks of the rank and importance of the Startup Sauna project in Gdańsk:
“Once again the event showed that Olivia Business Centre is something more than buildings. We support development of innovative business ideas and we do a lot in those fields, offering not only space to develop companies as well as our international relations with partners all over the world. Olivia Business Centre as a location and O4 as space and community create ideal conditions for development of such projects that we could see today. I am happy with the high level of the competition stressed by our friends from Finland as this shows that we are on a good way in our efforts to export business idea from Pomerania to the world at large”.
On the level and quality of the business ideas speaks one of the international guests – Artturi Tarjanne, General Partner at Nexit Ventures, an investment fund with offices in Helsinki, Stockholm and the Silicon Valley:
„As a coach of Startup Sauna I have been trying to visit as many places as possible. The event in Gdańsk is one of the best organised Startup Saunas. I was much impressed with high quality presentations and the excellent command of English among the participants.”
About the most important factor required to achieve a global success speaks Jarmo Kuusivuori Wolfcorner and Startup Sauna:
“Startups must first of all be well scaled, have a clearly set entry model to the market and obviously offer a unique quality to customers. Those are simple conditions but finally all of them have to be complied with for a startup to be successful globally. Certain startups underestimate competitors or fail to check the market needs sufficiently – they only copy certain solutions. However, it is a well thought over differentiation from others that underlies a successful business. Some of the startups that made their presentation today do have large potential”.
On the strength of feedback and opportunity to establish new business relations speaks Patryk Lewandowski from the Outsounders project:
“I am not disappointed with my participation in the project although my team failed to qualify to the next part of personal couching. Our project is at an early stage of development, we have lots of work ahead of us and as a result of the opportunity to meet so many interesting people at one place we had a chance to verify our business model and to establish new contacts. We have come exactly for that and with O4 we were given the opportunity. We hope there will be more of such initiatives”.
On the Startup Sauna in Gdańsk project and on the mentors speaks Łukasz Miądowicz who has been creating events in the Tricity business ecosystem, CEO Appsterds:
“There are not enough of such events in Gdańsk so I am very happy that O4 has established cooperation with Startup Sauna and that as a result someone from here will find the way to the Slush conference. Everything has been going on very well, in American style. When I was setting up my first company three years ago there were no such events in Gdańsk, we had to travel abroad to show we existed. I think that for many startups the most important thing is to show their product, get some strong feedback and draw conclusions. With really good mentors, with a large contact network, the knowledge of startups from the Tricity and the entire environment will go to the world at large. Their experience shows the way to follow: from a startup and work in a garage through sales to become a seed or VC fund. The knowledge that may be acquired at such event is substantial for the development of new business ideas”.
About Startup Sauna:
Startup Sauna is an accelerator operating as a non-profit organisation at Aalto University (Helsinki), managed by the Startup Sauna Foundation, organising Slush or the world’s largest startup event. In the three years of its operation, the Finnish accelerator supported over 150 young entrepreneurs from Scandinavian countries, Eastern Europe and Russia for whom it has collected financing totalling USD 43 M. The reason underlying the establishment of the Startup Sauna Foundation was to create an entity providing long-term support (scores of years) in developing a startup ecosystem in the north and east of Europe.
About the Slush conference:
Slush is the world’s largest startup conference, concentrating in two days over 3500 companies and 14 thousand entrepreneurs, international investors and media representative. So far Slush has hosted representatives of e.g. Spotify, Wikimedia, Rakuten (one of the largest e-commerce services in the world) as well as the President of Estonia, Prime Minister of Finland or Deputy Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China.
Slush is a non-profit event. It is organised every November in Helsinki by a team of over 300 people. Every time there are about 300 speakers and over 700 journalists from 45 countries report the event reaching 190 million people. Despite the enormous scale of the project, the underlying idea remains unchanged: support to new generations of companies in development and conquering the world. The winner of the pitching completion at Slush will be provided with tangible assistance – in 2014 financing of EUR 500 thousand was the prize.
More on O4:
O4 is an innovation development space dedicated to small and medium-sized enterprises, created jointly by the Gdańsk Global Foundation and by Olivia Business Centre. Now about 150 persons from 25 companies work there. O4 is located on the ground and first floor of the Olivia Four building. On the ground floor there is a multimedia conference centre and on the first floor there are offices of various sizes, coworking space and social facilities. Soon O4 will be expanded by another floor reaching the area of almost 3 000 square metres. In terms of the program the project is based on four pillars – support to companies in: financing, internationalisation, ongoing adjustment of office space (Smart Space) and effective education.