October 28, 2016

What you have always wanted to ask from accelerator

Kasper Suomalainen

Director of Community, Startup Sauna

We made a Q&A with Kasper Suomalainen, Head of Community at Startup Sauna, to respond some of the most often heard questions on accelerator programs, pitching and startup scene.

Startup Sauna is a 5-week accelerator for top-notch tech teams focusing on the business development: from pitching to putting together an investor deck and from finding ascalable business model to understanding the target market and customers’ needs. Startup Sauna operates in Northern Europe, Russia, and Eastern Europe and connects the most promising startups with experienced serial entrepreneurs and investors worldwide. 

What are your biggest victories or successes through accelerator programs?

For us, victory means many things, such as our alumni companies raising funding rounds, entering new markets or getting featured by Apple in the App Store, to give just a few examples. Whether it be a big win or a smaller one, we tend to have one question that we push companies to ask: “What’s next?”. So far, Startup Sauna has had 194 alumni startups that have gone on to raise over €100M in funding after the program.

What makes a perfect pitch?

The purpose of any pitch is to be able to explain your message clearly and concisely and to ask for something. With startups, the ‘ask’ is often for funding or other resources such as employees, advisors or co-founders. There isn’t a formula to deliver a pitch that would always be perfect. A perfect startup pitch has so many aspects that have to come together in harmony. Typical pitches include a slogan, the problem & solution, market, business model, traction, competition, team and ‘ask’. This is the basic content, but a perfect pitch has a lot more to it than that.

It’s essentially about storytelling. People inherently remember stories and the more you can make the audience relate to a pitch, the more chance you have in getting your message through. A perfect pitch is able to stretch the ‘hell’ (the world without your product) and the ‘heaven’ (the world with your product) as far from each other as possible, maximising the perceived value gained.

How does the startup scene look in countries in which you operate and are there specific differences between Finland/Sweden and Silicon Valley?

The Nordic startup scene is flourishing with Stockholm and Helsinki being the key players leading the way. In 2015, Finland had the highest GDP investment ratio in Europe, although Sweden had a clear lead of exit value among the Nordic countries. Nevertheless, it’s great to see that the angel and VC markets are maturing in Finland and the Nordics, with companies such as Kiosked, Enevo and Wolt raising rounds in the tens of millions. Silicon Valley still tops the charts for VC investments, startup company exit valuations, entrepreneurial support, talent pool and networks; however, the Nordics are catching up fast.

How could large corporations and startups find more mutually beneficial forms of cooperation?

One of the biggest obstacles we’ve noticed when working with large corporations is the pace. Decisions take time and in order to do something, you need to climb up and down the corporate ladder. What would help a lot (and it’s great to see that some companies are already doing this) would be to speed up the decision-making process when it comes to startup activities - that’s why you see many corporations set up startup teams that have more autonomy and faster decision-making. Startups are a great way of testing new ideas, and being open to even the crazier ideas is valuable to any bigger company out there. If you don’t transform, you won’t stay ahead of the competition.

What are your top tips to nurture and foster the startup ecosystem?

You have to create an environment where it’s okay to try new things and fail. Most startups fail, and having the courage to start a company is a big leap for many. When your surroundings support thinking differently and failing - that’s when a startup ecosystem starts to flourish.

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We are participating in Slush 2016 with the aim to boost innovation and growth together with the vibrant startup ecosystem. It’s a two-day global event held in Finland on 30 November to 1 December, with 15,000 attendees from over 100 countries coming together to innovate, accelerate businesses and explore new technologies.

Our aim is to meet the best talent in the market and also grow out the ecosystem of start-ups for our mutual benefit. Our booth is situated in the Northern entrance, near the pitching stage – see you there!

Check out also our Tieto Data Incubator accelerator program launched last week! The program invites innovators, teams and startups to join forces in creating this data-driven future business!

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