A land rover, a sauna and 100 Finnish startups

We had a meeting before the summer on potential locations for our roadshow in the fall. Our head coach, Mike Bradshaw, suggested more cities in Finland. Most of our companies are from outside of Finland, but since this year it’s Finland’s centenary celebration, Suomi100, we thought it would be fitting. But we weren’t ready for when he came back the next day with a list of 15 cities that he scheduled for 2 weeks, driven with a Land Rover, while towing a real sauna. With the help of our partners Ilmarinen and Espoo Innovation Garden, we made it happen.

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence, so we decided to set a goal of meeting 100 startups.
We called this #100Finnishstartups!

The first week proved that the idea of sitting in a Land Rover (Landy) and driving it around Finland while scouting for great companies was a brilliant, but also literally, and occasionally, a huge pain in the ass.

We had rocking start to the tour, kicking off the tour in all-time favourite Finnish city, Turku, the crown jewel of Southwest Finland.

Turku event happened shortly after Turku Boost’s 10-week long accelerator program – and you could see the teams were prepared for the 1on1s, they knew what to ask and how to answer the questions, shortly and concisely.

Great meeting local superstars such as Gloriana Games, who just won Turku Boost Accelerator. Another great local acquaintance was company called Valohai, machine learning masterminds. Looking forward to hear about their future endeavours.

Another pleasant surprise was Pori showcasing, once again, the importance of great local partners. Kudos to Prizztech Oy for gathering great crowd of hungry founders.

The next leg made us doubt the actual idea of #100Finnishstartups. After 191 kilometres of driving non-stop, we arrived to Vaasa, where we met one (1) team. Note that we had three coaches with us. Well, at least we broke some records, coach-to-startup ratio, and provided that one team undivided attention.

In Kuopio we found passionate teams in desperate need of coaching. The most impressive team was Own Surround whose software provides personalised 3D audio playback on headphones.

In Joensuu, on the other hand, we discovered the importance of selecting the right local partner. As it seems there are communication issues even within small cities in Finland. As we did not find out about the local tech festival until we were preparing to leave.

After half of the tour concluded done, we parked our beloved Sauna at a scrap yard in Jyväskylä and shipped in the second half of our team to continue the tour. Unfortunately, our three and a half (3.5) hour ride in a packed budget express (you know who you are) gave us back problems even before we got into our Land Rover.

From the scrap yard we headed to our venue in Jyväskylä, were Jyväskylän yritystehdas does their startup magic. The second week of the tour started off with bang as we saw 10 teams with some form of an MVP ready. We met 3 gaming teams and the strongest one was Add inspiration, a gaming company that designs games with a touch of comedy and a brand that persists through all of their games.

We strapped our sauna to our Landy and headed off for a 115km trip to Mikkeli. Our partner Miksei Oy prepared a lakeside venue where we met 6 startups, many of them with an industrial focus, but there we met a marketing agency called Groteski who are pushing out a truly cool social media software.

Then it was Kouvola’s turn. A military base turned university campus. The ecosystem here, Startup Passion and PatteriES, showed a true DOer attitude. They showed us a startup with a product that would fit a crowdfunding model called Iteroi, an all purpose tripod for camping, called Juju. Cool stuff for camping enthusiasts, and proper space saver.

Lahti was our next stop, we encountered a full house at Co/Malski. Pokitto, a DIY pocket console was a true crowd pleaser. They offered their console in over 300 colors variations on kickstarter. Thanks Ladec Oy for the full house!

Historically Tampere, our next city, has had fewer startups each year. Now, however, the newly revitalised Tampere Startup Hub and Tribe managed to get some great talent into a fresh space. Chainfrog, a startup that aims to connect legacy and blockchain databases made an impact with their product.

Hämeenlinna was our second last stop. According to our partner Crazy Town this was the first actual startup event in the city. The venue was packed and there was enough pizza to feed a small army. BrightCharger was a proper show stopper here, not with their pitch but with their immense traction, like truly huge.

Last but not least was our event at Turbiini in Vantaa. We found an interesting startup called Showerloop, it’s Water recycling shower that lets you shower forever with less resources. Then we fired up the sauna in the parking lot of one of the most corporate looking places ever, it gave us some looks.

This concluded our tour and this is how it looked in numbers:

2169 kilometers
106 Startups
56 hours in sauna
7 aching backs