A panoramic gaze around you spoke for itself: the large space was packed with audience, only a few vacant seats within the rows of chairs left scattered here and there. A good deal of people had found their spots alongside the mezzanine that encircled the room from above, leaving the spiral staircases that connected the two levels equally occupied. All eyes we’re fixed on the stage.

That was pretty much the description of how the Startup Sauna Spring ’14 Demo Day looked like at the startup sauna co-working space two days ago. Just like the first batch announcement four years back, this Spring’s demo day included keynotes, pitches and of course a steady flow of beer.

Inka Mero, who was the head coach for the latest batch, will move on to other projects, but not before she was awarded with a whip by the Startup Sauna captains as a sign of gratitude and for the mercilessness that made her pupils tougher. FiBAN founder Riku Asikainen will take her place as the new head coach for the batch to come.

The opening remarks from the Startup Sauna crew talked us through how the ecosystem has grown in the last five years and about the travels Startup Sauna has done in search of great new companies to include in it’s alumni, which as of today total to 126 (from nine separate batches). The travels has resulted in 90 local events where a 900 startups have been coached and given advice on how to get business going.

After the opening remarks, Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen kicked off the evening with a keynote filled with advice. First wondering perhaps more to himself than with the audience, Paananen recalled with a slight touch of melancholy how he too was a student at Aalto University 14 years ago. The speech wasn’t about nostalgia though; Paananen had some real life business life advice which he materialized into guidelines that could help entrepreneurs reach their goals.

Dream big

Paananen emphasized the importance of always aiming high and encouraged entrepreneurs to go for the biggest markets possible. Since creating a million dollar company is as stressful as it gets, why not go after a billion dollar company?

Find the right people to work with

Paananen suggested you hire people who make you better and people that you can make better, a Magical Pair as he put it.

Focus

Focus, according to Paananen, is single hardest thing in being an entrepreneur.  With that, in mind, “No” is always the standard answer at Supercell, which can later turn into a yes or a maybe. This way they can focus on doing just one thing.

The fourth unofficial tip (I don’t even know if an “official” tip even exists) was to listen to everybody but doing the final decision yourself.

After a big round of applause, the next man on stage was Miki Kuusi who officially announced the next SLUSH conference, which will open sales and have the location of the event announced next week.

Finally the evening was smoothly brought down to networking grounds, but not before the peak of the night, which was – of course – the pitches.

This year’s first batch saw 17 startups from the original 20 that graduated. Here’s the full list:

Sensotrend – Sensotrend makes life with diabetes easier, with an automated diabetes diary. Simplifies data collection by utilizing both medical devices and modern wellness trackers, and visualizes the information in a way that’s optimized for diabetes treatment.

BombSquare – Bombsquare is from Siberia and had pretty funny presentation. They’ve developed a location based war game with players from across the globe.

Minutizer – Minutizer is the “Paypal for time”. It’s a pay-per-minute for live interactions with 16000 accounts and $151,000 in transactions in 9 months. By measuring time on Skype it charges for the conversation.

OCEANS – Oceans is a digital tool for ocean exploration, allowing scuba divers and the ocean community to explore, log and share underwater adventures with friends and divers around the world, making it a diver social network.

RealSpeaker – RealSpeaker Lab develops the audio-visual speech recognition application RealSpeaker. The solution uses additional video information, which allows as to improve voice recognition accuracy by at least 20-30 per cent. 250,000 downloads.

Smartifik – Smartifik provides language technology and artificial intelligence solutions for online customer service.

IroFit – Mobile card payments for African merchants- No Internet needed. Also, one of the Arctic15 Top 15 finalist.

DUSKWAR – Urban fantasy online game with real world cities, venues and casual puzzle combat. Massive multiplayer war with All sorts of werewolves.

RENDER.st – RenderStreet is a cloud based rendering platform. Fast and affordable, but has a lot of competition.

Pilvi – Pilvi Marketplace enables you to search, compare and purchase different cloud services and deploy them instantly. Instead of purchasing new clouds, you may also import your current services to Pilvi.

Chromosome Group – People dont care about plants, and they fix it – every person transformed into a professional plant grower.

Awakening of Heroes – Indie game for mid-core gamers, a balance between casual Facebook games and pretty demanding Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre.

RateMySpeech – How good are you at public speaking? Public speaking education.

SocialMart – SocialMart for publishers: price comparison high-conversion widgets that help publishers to monetize their web-sites and provide e-stores with quality traffic.

SocioTransit – Basically the AirBnB for packages. It’s a marketplace which connects travellers with seekers for peer-peer shipping. SocioTransit is a way for a traveller to earn extra money during their travels

MageFlow – MageFlow is going to double the productivity of web development teams with a simple SaaS solution that automates the entire application release cycle.

Wooffer – Wooffer is taking the dog videos into the next level. With Wooffer, you can organize virtual dog shows and attend to biggest dog shows in internet and become an internet champion.

As always, good things must come to an end. But there are good and bad ways of ending things.

Bad way: landing on your testicles after performing the skateboard trick of your life.
Good way: Barbecue, beer and best of all, sauna.

Luckily demo day went with the latter one. More on the coming batch next fall!

Image courtesy of Lauri Lehtovuori