Have you ever dreamt of becoming a movie star? For the teams of Kiuas Accelerator, it became a reality as they got the opportunity to demo their solution on the widescreen of the biggest cinema in Helsinki. In between the demos, prominent VCs shared their insights on the startup ecosystem.

Last night, Kiuas held its Demo Day for the 17 startups that made into their Accelerator Batch of 2019. After 9 weeks of intensive coaching, the early stage startups got their unique recipe and all necessary tools for product-market fit, customer acquisition, growth, marketing, branding, team building, and scaling. This year, solutions presented by the teams covered a wide range from health and nutrition to AI, enterprise softwares or deep tech.

Think bigger

In between presentations, a panel discussion took place: Ilkka Kivimäki, Founding Partner, Maki.vc, Inka Mero, Founding Partner, Voima Ventures  and Sami Lampinen, Founding Partner, Inventure shared their insights on the current trends, strengths and weaknesses and overall challenges of the Finnish startup ecosystem.

Ambition is to be improved according to the VCs. Aiming for the moonshots, solving global problems combining science and growth entrepreneurship is something that should be in focus.

“We should – all the startups, the colleagues, stakeholders backing and supporting the ecosystem – think bigger. A 100 million is a good figure, be it the number of clicks, revenue, site visits, whatever. Start from there, and execute it as fast as you can  – said Sami Lampinen.

For growth, you also need talent: diverse, multitalented teams with international experience. Right now there is a shortage of talent in many areas, and that needs to be solved by figuring out how to attract them.

Teams are the secret sauce

Teams are usually in focus when talking about investment decisions: but how do VCs see and evaluate teams? 

Usually, there is a strong founding team with deep technical knowledge but shallow understanding of the market fit, resulting in slower decision making. They are looking for a team that is capable of executing fast and is international as early on as possible. They advise to go out and look for talented members outside of your network and find the skilled and talented individuals. You will also need to be able to attract them, create a built-in hype that will make talents want to join you on your journey. It also helps if the investor can be a part of this team – they don’t need to be your friend, but honesty, trust and open communication needs to be built for a successful cooperation.

And the winners are

Nordea’s prize: Rentle
Rentle is a B2B start-up solving the problems of the consumer rental industry with a SaaS solution that also processes payment both online and offline. Their entry market is the recreational rental market which means customers such as ski resorts, bike rentals, and watersport rentals, but the product works also for tool rentals, car rentals etc.

Crowd’s favourite (voted by the audience on the spot): Gubbe
Gubbe.io is the best solution for finding a happy and trustworthy companion for your elderly loved one. The platform connects students to seniors who need help with housework, staying active, transportation, technology lessons and more. Gubbe.io enables elderly people to live a longer happier life in their homes. Gubbe.io creates real meaningful jobs for students and prevents early social exclusion. Friendship across generations.

Community prize (voted amongst the batch): Pricetap and Dealsign
With Pricetap, in-store shoppers scan price tags (e.g. on a dress) to create wish lists and get rewards. This generates purchase-intent data that retailers use to “discreetly”, dynamically, and personally manage sales; thereby, drastically reducing the need for visible “deep” discounting that is both unprofitable, expensive to run, and bad for the brand image.
Dealsign is an easy to use negotiation and contracting service in the cloud. Their mission is to make negotiating, signing and managing contracts easy and fast for mid-sized and large enterprises. Dealsign’s innovations make it possible to negotiate with multiple parties online, in real time, with no worries about versions and change histories.

Next up is the Kiuas Start program for teams that are looking to make their idea into reality. The 3-week pre-accelerator is focused on validation, product development, iteration, sales, and various other topics that are important in the earliest stages of a startup’s journey.
Application opens soon.