Taneli Tikka wrote an excellent post on his experiences touring with International Business Program, a Finnish nation-wide program to help startups get off the ground and internationalise. Taneli Tikka, to those who are unaware of him, is one of the most acknowledged entrepreneurs in Finland with a lot of financing rounds and a few exits behind him. He has spent the last six months touring with the International Business Program and has seen a good cut of Finnish startups and how they pitch, including what their weaknesses and strengths are.

The program itself defines its goal as: “International Business Program is offering help for digital business companies which have proved to be growth willing and estimated to have potential global competitiveness.”

Taneli Tikka was one of the mentors helping out the startups, giving them advice and consulting them how to do better in the future. While all companies should be considered independently, he found some repetitive manners that need attention in our engineering centric society. So what’s the population of we’re looking at, you may ask?

In total there were 33 companies pitching themselves. Most were young, with innovative products, but there were older companies as well with more mature products and markets, including business models. You can read the complete list of companies from Taneli Tikka’s website.

The number one challenge he states Finnish companies having in their presentation skills (and thinking – if the presentation portrays it correctly) is the way to differentiate your company. Many refer to the excellent technology they have built that is running at the back of the service without focusing on the customer and looking at the whole package from the customer’s point of view. He even goes on to argue that startups shouldn’t concentrate on business models at first – the only thing that matters is differentiation; how to stand out from the competition.

Secondly, according to Taneli Tikka, many companies held back showing their demos or actual working products. I agree that there isn’t a better way to come across what a certain company is doing than going through their actual product. If you’re able to awe the listener with your product, all else will become a lot easier and clearer. This was even the case with companies that had respectable references and working services or products.

To me this doesn’t come as a surprise, but it is still quite shocking to see it in a large scale as this – that it’s actually worth a deep analysis from a professional such as Taneli Tikka. I’ve constantly heard (and this most probably applies to other Nordic and Baltic nations as well) that Finland has a lot of expertise in technical detail, but lacks the marketing and selling side of things. Thus it’s a great reminder for everyone to constantly stop and view things from the customer perspective to see whether you’re making any sense at all. After all, they are the ones that will determine if you’re successful or not.

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