In 2009, a group of enthusiastic students from Aalto University started the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society. AaltoES operates to this day as a student-run startup community, organizing more than 100 events per year, helping new companies get started and bringing enthusiastic people together.
Startup Sauna was launched one year later as a spin-off of AaltoES, because some of the more advanced startups needed systematic acceleration support. Since the founding of Startup Sauna, 126 companies have graduated from its program and raised more than 28 million euros of external funding.
Startup Sauna is currently running its tenth program. It organizes two programs per year, offering each group one month of intensive training and support. In that time, the participants get thorough help and lots of contacts in addition to learning from top-notch coaches what it takes to build a successful startup.
– This is our most international program yet, 19 startups from 13 countries. Most of them are from the Nordic countries, Eastern Europe and Russia, but we also have participants from Korea, Lebanon and Kenya. In addition to our program, we organize one-day coaching events together with other startup communities and universities both in Finland and all over the world. We’re seeing a lot of interest toward Helsinki and Finland, says Juho Kokkola, CEO of Startup Sauna.
– It’s great that the startup movement has taken root in so many Finnish cities and universities, and that new hubs are springing up everywhere. It encourages people to try and build their own thing and to find like-minded company, Kokkola says.
Startup Sauna and AaltoES have also scaled up the annual Slush startup event and given birth to Startup Life. The latter is an international internship program, which sends graduating students and alumni to work in Silicon Valley growth companies for 3–12 months. This family of startup organizations continues to cooperate closely, although each now has its own team of full-time employees.
Text: Anu Jussila