ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Startup Sauna Diary. Part 2. Week 1

4/28/2012 7:42:52 AM

So week #1 of Startup Sauna is over. It was pretty busy so it went really fast. 2 of the bigger sessions of the week were dedicated to pitching and even though they had slightly contradictory advice both were really good.

On Tuesday we’ve spent almost the whole day with Mike Bradshaw and tried pitching without slides for a random number of minutes. We just had to fetch a pool ball from a bag before we went on stage and the number on it told you how long your pitch should be. Challenging, interesting, useful.

Then we had a team-building exercise. As a totally introverted  geek I was skeptical and “annoyed” by the fact at first but it turned out pretty cool. We were randomly divided into 6 teams and had to make 2 dishes. And we actually even managed to win by just taking edible stuff and making a salad out of it :)


On Wednesday Juha Ruohonen had a session on pitching and we tried to pitch again. This time the time was known upfront (2 minutes), still no slides. Very good tips and feedback.

And then in the afternoon we had a chance to pitch to actual VCs from Infocomm Investments. Just like that. On day 3 of Sauna. It’s unclear if the investors were actually interested in our batch as real potential investment targets but it was a really good real life practice nevertheless.

On a side note there were only a few PCs in the room and they hooked up to a projector without a hitch, but half of the Macs failed :P

Overall I kind of thought that pitching tips and advice is always the same and generic, but these 2 days proved me totally wrong and were very good, useful and to the point.

Then on day 4 we had 1on1 meetings with coaches. Every team got to meet a different set of coaches. We get to meet 6 of them and they were really good. That was were I realized that even though Finland is only slightly bigger than Lithuania in terms of population, we have still a huge way to go in terms of startup ecosystem people. It’s hard to explain this but I’d say that Ilja Laurs, the only startup “god” in Lithuania, would fit in there but not stand out. And that was only the first batch of coaches.

Overall we got mostly positive and useful feedback and were really challenged by 1 coach which didn’t feel all that great emotionally but was really to the point and extremely useful.

The last day consisted of the weekly summary session called “Kick the shit out”. Luckily no shit was kicked out (at least not that I know of) and we will continue sharing the Aalto Venture Garage with all the awesome teams next week.

But that’s not all. On Friday night we had a housewarming party at Goodbuzz’s recently rented apartment and even though someone (no, not me, I’m always driving here) had too much to drink and got pseudo-offensive, hopefully the other guys understand that it was vodka talking and we will continue to have the awesome atmosphere in the batch we had so far.

And to wrap this up  (I should take more pictures) here’s a pic of a nice Finnish tank:



Startup Sauna Diary. Part 1. The Trip and Day 1

4/24/2012 6:46:56 AM

So we are here in Finland and Spring ‘12 batch of Startup Sauna kicked off yesterday.

Finding a place to stay in Helsinki wasn’t an easy task and the upcoming Hockey World Cup definitely doesn’t help. The best price/performance option we were able to find was about 20km away from the Aalto Venture Garage and it takes about 1.5 hour to get there using public transportation. So we made a decision to go by car. This also allowed us to bring more stuff (monitors, etc.)

The trip and Helsinki sightseeing


Luckily the trip was pretty uneventful. Except for missing a Hesburger in Parnu due to a new road that goes around the city, there were no surprises. The most memorable thing was a ferry trip from Tallinn to Helsinki.


And the most memorable thing on the ferry was the sheer amount of alcohol Finns were buying to bring home. Looking at their carts I don’t think I could consume that much alco in a year.

The trip took the whole Saturday and on Sunday we went shopping for stuff for the apartment to the nearby huge shopping mall appropriately called Jumbo. The funny thing is that it hosts 2 different enormous supermarkets next to each other.

And then we went for a sightseeing walk around Helsinki center. The weather was nice, the city is nice, great stuff!


Startup Sauna Day 1

The official part of Startup Sauna was scheduled to start at 3pm but we’ve arrived to Aalto Venture Garage early – around 10am.


That turned out to be a good idea because even though there’s probably enough room for all the teams, we brought our monitors and wanted to secure a suitable desk. I’m also a little picky about chairs (due to the old programmer’s back) and the ones we have upstairs are really good. So, without further ado let me introduce the Finnish AdDuplex HQ:


At 3pm the official program started, the teams were introduced, orientation given, t-shirts and flip-flops presented and the heat is officially on.

The first guest was Christopher Karltorp – CEO of Zerply – who gave a horror story talk with a happy ending which mostly concentrated on their struggles fundraising. It was both scary and inspirational and a really interesting story. Add a little Aaron Sorkin and you can get a decent Social Network sequel.

And then was traditional Wednesday BBQ (on Monday this time). We had burgers and most people had beer, but not me, because I’m driving and Paulius is younger than my car insurance would allow. But that could be a good thing. Beer is ridiculously overpriced here anyway.

So, that’s it for now. The easy part has ended and serious stuff starts today…


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