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A Garage, a Sauna and some Uni Students? The Aalto Venture Garage – putting the cool into startup schools…

Real innovation happens when you are not trying to be innovative. Real creativity happens when you don’t just copy the last ‘big thing’, you become the ‘next big thing’. Perhaps a rather idealist view, but when the Students of Aaltoes in Finland took it in their own hands to create an environment where creativity and startups could flourish, all they had was an empty warehouse space and some ideas….

Only started in 2010 – this garage hub, has become a Co Working and Accelerator space of some note. Perhaps a reminder to us all that you don’t need loads of cash to start something, just real passion, enthusiasm and a load of heart. Check out their 50 second promo video below and then read our interview with Natalie Gaudet, a key player in the Garage’s success…

Hi there Natalie…..I had read about the Aalto Venture Garage a while back and what stood out for me was that it was a bunch of Students who decided to use a warehouse space to get creative…Is that a romantic view or is this how it really started? Talk us through the early days…

That’s how it really started! At the beginning in 2009, the students of Aaltoes were sitting in a small office in Design Factory in Aalto campus. The events that they organized kept getting bigger and bigger in size. The first ever event that they arranged: they were expecting some 20 people to show up. Over 75 people actually attended! The students realized that they needed a bigger space that they could call their own to channel all their activities.  Next to the Design Factory, there was an empty building that used to be a research lab. The university used it to store hand soap (after the swine flu epidemic)  The students lobbied the university to use the place.  The story goes that it was more like a hijacking than a negotiation. The students took over the building and the university did not stop them.

How did the Aalto Venture Garage grow and did you manged to find a lot of support out there for what you were trying to achieve?

We owe it all to our coaches who are our support and a lifeline.  The coaches are all here on a pro-bono basis. They want to give back to this ecosystem. When they were starting as entrepreneurs, there weren’t these kind of initiatives. The university and Aalto Centre for Entrepreneurship really supports us as it is the university’s mission to be more entrepreneurial and fosters these kinds of activities.

Talk to us about the Startup Sauna, how is this linked with the Aalto Venture Garage?

When we first opened the doors of the Garage, we saw that there were many entrepreneurs and startups that needed the extra boost or help.  Thus we created the seed accelerator program called Startup Sauna. Startup Sauna lives in the Garage.   Aalto Venture Garage is a co-working/event venue/ meeting place for entrepreneurs.

What are the advantages of an accelerator program to someone with a good idea or project?

Startup Sauna is a type of program that will definitely give a boost to any team.  First, the teams get access to the Sauna coaches, they get coaching and valuable feedback. Most of the teams develop a relationships with the coaches and the coaching continues usually far after the program finishes.

Then the Startup Sauna gives the teams participating in the program exposure to foreign markets. To this point, we have excellent ties to the States, specifically Silicon Valley and Shanghai, China.  We send our teams to Silicon Valley for one week during the program so that they can get a feel of the competitiion and a taste of what Silicon Valley offers. Media exposure is another plus! The Startup Sauna teams are treated like rockstars.

What is the Startup scene generally like across the Nordic and Baltic region and is a ‘self start’ mindset quite common?

The culture has been changing here in the Nordics. Telling people that you were an entrepreneur, wasn’t always a good thing here in Finland.  But with groups like the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, they are changing the way that society thinks about entrepreneurship.

I see a lot of teams from Russian and the Baltic states and I noticed that the Baltic startups are hungrier for success when compared to the Nordics Startups. They seem to be more driven. Of course, this is just a generalization.

There are also a lot of other seed accelerators popping up in all different regions as well. I think it’s good to have competition but I honestly don’t think there are enough startups to fill all of these accelerators.  And since this region is small, we should all work together to achieve the same goals.

What’s happening right now? Any exciting new Startups about to launch that we should all know about!?

Ovelin, an alumni of Startup Sauna is one to look out for. ovelin.com. As well as Blaast. blaast.com Both recently launched and secured a great deal of funding. Startup Sauna is going to new and bolder places to finds its’ startups. This time, we are heading to Krasnodar Russia. It will be the first international event that Krasnodar has ever hosted.  We are quite excited to go there….

Thank you Natalie for your time and we at TheEmployable wish you and all the team all the best. 

If you want to read more ‘TheEmployable interviews’ – CLICK HERE

If you are looking to start your own business, think you have a creative idea or you are a self starting business champion then find out more about Startacus the online community celebrating the self starter – launching soon…

If you are looking to start your own business, think you have a creative idea or you are a self starting business champion then find out more about Startacus the online community celebrating the self starter – launching soon…

Discussion

One Response to “A Garage, a Sauna and some Uni Students? The Aalto Venture Garage – putting the cool into startup schools…”

  1. Very inspiring. Thanks!

    Posted by Gustav Larsson | February 21, 2012, 3:38 pm

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