Firing up entrepreneurs, the Finnish way

Moumita Bakshi Chatterjee Recently in Helsinki | Updated on December 19, 2011

Aalto Venture Garage offers free work space, connectivity and coffee to start-ups

This is one Garage that gives a whole new dimension to the stereotypical Western notion of garage start-ups.

For Aalto Venture Garage near Helsinki invites entrepreneurs to step in and use its work space, open halls and meeting corners, free of charge. It even throws in free internet and unlimited coffee to fire-up entrepreneurial dreams.

“The idea is to foster an environment where many entrepreneurs can work together. It is meant to be a co-working space and a seed accelerator for Baltic and Nordic entrepreneurs,” says Ms Natalie Gaudet, the chatelaine of the Aalto Venture Garage.

The Garage gets its funding from the Aalto University (created from the merger of three Finnish universities). It is run by Aalto Entrepreneurship Society.

Covers wide area

The Garage operates from a big industrial hall. The interiors have been optimised for entrepreneurs to work together, and shipping containers have been brought in to create extra rooms. Even the container roofs have been transformed into office space, with stairs leading to the top and onto a maze of chairs and tables. The Garage, at regular intervals, holds events and invites eminent speakers to address budding entrepreneurs. There are currently 10 companies based in the Garage.

And since Finns love their sauna, the Garage even has a programme named after it. The ‘Startup Sauna', is a six-week programme that virtually steams up entrepreneurs to come up with winning strategies. It handpicks start-ups from across different cities and provides them intense sessions on how to take fledgling ideas to the market. The meeting of minds takes place in a Sauna-like setting.

Ms Petra Soderling, Founder of Mobile Brain Bank — a two-year-old start-up that operates in the mobile apps space — is among the entrepreneurs who have been selected for the programme. “It helped me define my business plan. I had assets which I knew I could monetise. But I did not know the best way to do so. Today my company looks very different from what it was six weeks ago,” she says.

As part of the programme, Ms Soderling recently travelled to the Silicon Valley where she interacted with venture capitalists.

“This place symbolises entrepreneurship, talent and innovation. It allows you to collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurs,” says Mr Aape Pohjavirta, who is working on a project ‘Inclusion', in the mobile learning space.

This correspondent travelled to Finland at the invitation of Finnfacts.


Published on December 19, 2011

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