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Summer of Startups in Aalto Venture Garage reached a climax today as the ten companies that have been founded over the summer went on stage and to pitch their products and services. The companies have gone through two months of development and today their progress was measured. A jury of 5 members judged the development and gave feedback to the companies. The jury was Sami Heikkiniemi from Tekes, Antti Aarnio from Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship, Juha Ruohonen from Aalto Venture Garage, Kristo Ovaska from Aalto Venture Garage and Ramine Darahiba theHead Coach for Summer of Startups.

This was the first time something of this magnitude was organised to help create startups. It was a major effort put forward by Aalto Venture Garage and having seen the quality of the pitches, I have to say these groups are top notch startup potential. Not only did the quality of the pitches surprise me, but the readiness to present in front of the crowd with prototypes or very well developed service demos. There were no groups without some sort of demo and thus Demo Day in its meaning was a success from the organisers – the young companies are now well on their way to further developing their products and services.

The winner of the Demo Day was Arada Services, a company which aims to bring simplicity and efficiency in purchasing travel tickets with mobile phones. The company had already a working demo and a very realistic approach to the problem, especially from the go-to-market point of view.

Runners up, or the companies that won the Best Progress as well as the Best Demo category were Pamoja Innovations and Living Canvas, respectively. According to Ramine Darabiha, Pamoja Innovations was a bunch of consultants without scalable products or product ideas – this however changed in three weeks and the company eventually came up with a digester solution that is able to create energy for much below the market prices, albeit a large investment upfront for the solution.

Living Canvas took home the Best Demo award with a 3-metre tall and 1,5 metre wide wall that reminded of a rain forest. The wall was covered with exotic plants and the innovation was able to water the plants for a duration of 8 minutes daily and all the extra water would get reused the next day. Selling somewhere around 3000 euros for a modular piece, it was a beautiful although a little pricey piece of design.

Below are the companies in random order and a little analysis on how they performed.

  • MiDA – a mobile service to scan and collect info of your diet in real-time
    MiDA wanted to bring a bar code scanner to the mobile to help determine nutrition values from foods. A great idea, although they did have some challenges in gathering the nutrition information from foods as well as including a little bit too many features in their application. Possible uses for such a product with a little bit of focus though.
  • Incspark – “Internal Facebook for companies”
    Incspark is approaching a somewhat competed area of productivity applications. However, an interesting change to the pitches was that the company had actually a client of the product pitch it to the crowd. Although he couldn’t answer all the specifics of the plans, it was a refreshing change to the ways of pitching.
  • Arada Services – provides easy and affordable access to inter city transportation via mobile phone in East Africa
    Arada Services, the winner of the Demo Day, had a solid concept with a working demo as well a very realistic approach to the solution. Strong pitch with well laid out arguments made this a strong winner.
  • Living Canvas – creates “Rainforest in a box” for office spaces.
    Living Canvas began their pitch by breaking plant pots to show the difficulty of having house hold plants. Although there were some demo effects with the slide show, as were with other companies’ as well, Living Canvas did awe the audience with their demo – a huge wall of exotic plants with a working watering system.
  • Refetch – location-based reminders (ex: “buy toothpaste” when in supermarket)
    Refetch is a GTD based application with a twist – instead of keeping a constant list of things to do, why not remind yourself with those items once you reach the spot where the action for that item must be taken. A neat idea, but the pitch lacked edge to still remember the company and the idea after a while.
  • Octarine – Helps to organize information from your social networks around your life experiences
    Somewhat of a solid pitch with an interesting idea. However, I think the examples could have been slightly more thought out – then again, not a lot of development can be done in a time period of two months.
  • Buffee – a platform for social games to collect feedback from users regardless of their mother tongue
    An idea to tackle a huge market, but somehow they failed to arouse my interest – despite being a former game company sales director.
  • eXperQ – increasing customer-company interaction to make the world a better place to be a customer
    A different kind of an approach to get customer feedback with mobile phones. Refreshingly, the company had also thought of other aspects such as showing the data in a valubale way instead of focusing on technology. Furthermore, some thought had been put into the collection of data as well, which was well demoed during the pitch in interaction with the audience.
  • Pamoja Innovations – promotes development of greentech and renewable energy in East Africa
    Pamoja Innovations, claimed to be a group of consultants at the start of the program, came up with an innovative way to create an energy source for people in Africa. Interestingly the financing of the product for local people had also been thought out well as even microloans were part of the solution to sell their product.
  • Dealmachine – Deal Machine is all about exciting sales. The web service rewards salespeople for every step they take towards a sale
    Despite not winning anything, Dealmachine was both in their pitch and product concept my clear favorite. Adding game mechanics to enterprise level software is a great way to add motivational pushes for the users. Also, DealMachine’s pitch included a marketing video which leaned on many cliches in a positive way and did get the audience laughing every now and then.

All in all, a very lean and interesting way to get 10 companies well off their feet and on their way to new opportunities. I sincerely hope this will become a tradition with Aalto Venture Garage, even though the concept is still somewhat looking for its place in the Finnish growth ecosystem. With events like these, it will become an easy concept to love and praise.

Photos by Lari Haataja

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