World-class services provided on a personal level – Helsinki’s commitment to startups is already showing results
” Finally, before I end my speech, I would like to invite the producer of our program, Mia-Stiina Heikkala on stage with me.”
This is how startup-entrepreneur Rami Lappalainen, founder of Alfons Education, ended his five-minute-long pitch at the EdTech Incubator Helsinki Gala. The spectators, investors, and invited guests were left baffled, wondering what was going on.
“We’ve saved this historic moment just for this event. I now ask Mia-Stiina to click the button, which will launch our service for everyone to access,” Lappalainen announced.
Thus, accompanied by a roar of applause, a text stating “System check”, followed by a log in screen appeared on the presentation screen and the Gala-event got a start to remember.
” I have to admit I’ve never seen a pitch end this way! All in all, these nine pitches exceeded my expectations. There has been a clear development amongst the teams during the program,” summarized Marko Kyyrönen, partner at Sparkmind VC.
Kyyrönen and his colleague Titta Mantila from the investing firm Oppiva Invest shared their expertise and gave feedback to the startups trying to impress them during the event.
“The work done here have been good and it shows in the products and performances of the startups. I think the participants of the incubator program are a diverse group of people and it’s great to experience an international vibe here.”
The final event of the Incubator program functions as a sort of graduation ceremony for the companies, but also as a unique chance to get to present solutions to an international audience and carefully selected investors. Building networks is a large part of the program, and through events the entrepreneurs get to personally meet important influencers of the EdTech industry. As investing firms specialized in EdTech, Sparkmind and Oppiva Invest are able to judge the products from a broader perspective.
“You have to stay realistic. In the startup world, few succeed on a larger scale. It’s impossible to say, whether any of these startups will become companies worth tens of millions, but after seeing these pitches, it’s also impossible to rule out,” Kyyrönen envisions.
The Incubator provides practical skills and support
Early-stage companies often hope for rapid success, but it usually takes startups several years to make their business profitable. EdTech Incubator Helsinki is aimed at early-stage startup companies. One of the objectives is to help them develop the business plan and take initial steps toward the scaling phase. A good example of this is MusicUs, one of the music education companies that participated in the incubator. During the program, MusicUs established a company, found a third founding member, built a business and product concept, compiled a pitch deck to showcase the company and created a road map for the next year.
Besides tangible progress, the program also helps to find useful partners and provides business guidance. Yazeed Maswadeh, the founder and CEO of Beesh, a participant specializing in sexual education, wants to highlight these unique opportunities.
“With the help of the program, we were able to jointly develop our solution in line with the Finnish pedagogical approach. In four months, we got a finished product that is not only a learning platform but a platform with high pedagogical impact,” describes Maswadeh.
“Now that the incubation program is completed, our next step is to pilot the solution through the City of Helsinki’s Testbed platform (https://testbed.helsinki/edtech/),” says Maswadeh.
Beesh and its CEO are a good example of Finland and Helsinki’s appeal and start-up infrastructure. Originally from Jordan, Maswadeh got to know a Finnish doctor while studying at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, with whom the idea of a sexual education service became concrete. Maswadeh is ambitiously aiming for global success with an international team consisting, among others, of Finnish, Jordanian, Russian, and American employees.
“Of the about 200 countries in the world, only 48 provide scientific sexual education. In 150 countries, it is up to the teachers to decide what kind of information they share, and they may not have received proper sexual education themselves either. It is a problem we set out to solve,” Maswadeh explains.
Like Silicon Valley, but in Finland
For those interested in the incubator program, Maswadeh praises Helsinki as a great place for early-stage companies. If the goal is to start a business, the City of Helsinki provides the entrepreneur with the right tools and advice.
“It’s like Silicon Valley, but in Finland. Helsinki offers the same level of expertise and support for companies, but everything is more business-friendly and on a personal level.”
As for future incubator participants, Maswadeh hopes the global pandemic will ease. Even with the convenient online participation option, there is no substitute for personal interaction.
“You always meet new people at the Helsinki Education Hub and being there in person strengthens the community spirit.”
The next EdTech Incubator Helsinki application period starts already in the late spring. For up-to-date information, please follow the Helsinki Education Hub’s social media accounts or contact the project experts (https://educationhubhelsinki.fi/contact/).
Participants in the first EdTech Incubator Helsinki programme: Alfons Education, Beesh, Big Ear Games, Language Clubhouse, Loru Games, MusicUs, Onni Education, Oppi AI and XR Tutor.