Last Friday, 100+ people gathered in a converted workshop in Otaniemi to witness the results of the latest AaltoVG Bootcamp. After the traditional welcome words, the teams were lined up and delivered the latest version of their one line/sentence summary of their idea, and having seen them just one week ago the transformation was remarkable.

The program provided a pair of keynote speakers. First up was Joe Wilson from Microsoft. Joe gave his view on the 10 things that startups don’t know, and why other companies should follow Microsoft’s example and support entrepreneurship. Next Up was Jaan Tallinn (one of the founding engineers of Skype) who showed, via a number of the significant events from his career, how we are approaching the point of the singularity.

After a short break, each of the teams then each had 5 minutes to present their idea. In the order they presented they were:

Deal Machine
Deal Machine makes sales more exciting for sales teams in SME companies by using game mechanics to enhance sense of mastery and allow for self-directioni leading to growth in profits for the whole company
Hookie Technologies
A sports application for the internet age
Liisa Monitoring
Provides the tools to listen to what is being said about brands online in Eastern and Central European countries
Dentatube
A professional network for sharing dental videos for education and knowledge across the globe
Titan BGA
A scalable solution for repairing electonics at affordable prices
Lifeportfolio
Organize information from your social networks around your life experiences
MetroDRT
Congestion Free Future by enabling high-quality public transport
StageCraft
We are making the greatest complete game you can enjoy in one evening! Play with friends to create your own unique story
Cohousing Suomi
Power to the people in Construction! Let the people come first, then the house after that
FunRank
FunRank finds fun activities for you

Read that list again, and look at all of the different areas that are being targeted. It was not just wild, Web2.0 hype driven, “get lots of users and figure the model out later” type companies.
Apart from MetroDRT, StageCraft and Cohousing Suomi all the teams had an actual product that could be demoed on the day, at least for the fundamental functionality to prove the concept out.

At the halfway mark all the the teams were enthusiastic, but a number of them were not able to clearly explain their core idea in in a short pitch. By the end of the two weeks there was a much smaller range in the quality of the pitches, and all of them were at the sort of level where I think they would be able to compete at on a global stage (even if their idea is by definition limited to a local market). A few of the teams seemed to still be working at exactly what problem and solution they are providing, but hopefully the lessons learnt at Bootcamp will be carried forward and they will continue to improve.

After the pitches, the judges deliberated to find the top three teams and then came back with a decision that they wanted to reward 4 of the teams! The criteria used was; broad potential of the idea, team competence & commitment, ability to execute (mostly during the BootCamp).

Liisa Monitoring was the “problem child” as their commitment of coming to Bootcamp without any real accommodation plans got significant coverage, and so an extra prize was added to the list in recognition of this.

Deal Machine’s persistence (they were not initially selected for SummerOfStarups, they just kept turning up) and continued improvement won them third place.

Dentatube took second place, if only so that more people would get to see the scary video in their pitch 😉 The winners were StageCraft. I think the answer of “possibly *some* investment” to the question of “What are you looking for?”, was the clincher for them, the fact that the computer games industry in Finland is a hot item right now can’t have hurt either.

You can see videos of the winning pitches here. The winning teams get; office space for 6 months, continued access to the coaches and sponsorship for the upcoming trip to Silicon Valley.

So is Bootcamp improving the Finnish startup scene? From what I saw, definitely. I think the very different backgrounds of the teams (research, corporate life and small consultancy) added to the dynamic of the two weeks by allowing the teams to see how different approaches could result in similar goals. The links to Latvia and Murmansk can not hurt either.

Editors note: This is a guest post by Mike Bradshaw, an active individual in the Finnish startup scene organising unconferences such as BarCampHelsinki. You can find out more about him over here.

Image by CarbonNYC