Everyone rejoiced when the implementing partners of the two-year Northbound Startups project from Turku, Tallinn and Västerås and the startups and investors involved got to meet each other face to face. The services directed at startups and investors were reborn during the coronavirus pandemic, and there was no attempt to hide the feelings of success. The inspiring and forward-looking final event gathered nearly one hundred participants to the bank of the River Aura. Although the project is ending, the co-operation continues, and new international services are already on drawing board.
The key task of the Northbound Startups project, which Included training, mentoring, matchmaking and international networking, was to bring the investors and startups together and increase the readiness of startups to attract investments and customers. International co-operation has provided a great deal of further understanding and leverage for helping the target groups. A total of 16 startups completed the NBS Accelerator programme, and 10 of those received a certificate for the Investment Readiness Process coaching developed for the project in Sweden and implemented in connection with both accelerator programmes. Arto Branders from Turku Science Park Ltd who coached the NBS startups says that the IRP process helped to find several interesting investors for one of the startups already during the first accelerator programme. The process was also presented in workshops aimed at investors with 70 investors from Finland, Estonia, Sweden and Norway participating. The hackathons, matchmakings and networking events gathered hundreds of participants, and more than 100 investors took part in NBS training and events. “In addition, our own readiness to help both startups and investors improved considerably”, says project’s manager Johanna Puhtila from Turku Science Park Ltd.
The project culminated on 24–25 May in the Northbound Startups Sails with Å Pitch event in Turku. Nearly all startups that went through the seven-month NBS Accelerator programme got up on stage to discuss the expectations for the project and the achievements related thereto, the Investment Readiness Process, and the importance of sustainability as the value driving factor. In the keynote speech ‘Angel investors Accelerating Growth – Story of Jungle Juice Bar’, Noora Fagerström, the founder of the Finnish company Jungle Juice Bar, told the story of her company and spoke about the importance of investors to the operations of startups. A Board member of the Finnish Business Angel Network (FiBAN), Ms Fagerström founded Jungle Juice Bar with her husband in 2010, and in 2019 the company employed over 500 people and recorded a turnover of over EUR 18.5 million.
In addition to startup founders, there was a panel with e.g. Björn Larsson, founder of Investment Readiness Process, and Otso Laakkonen, startup investor and founder of investor company Aikainen Oy, discussing the topic ‘Investing for a Sustainable Future – New Normal in Doing Business’. The panel members reviewed examples of investments in sustainable business companies and pondered the challenges, opportunities and future outlook of ’Do good’ enterprises on the investment market.
The event continued on the River Aura in the international Å Pitch startup competition. “We combined the Å Pitch competition with the NBS Final Event, because the target group consisted of the same people: investors, startups and business developers. We wanted to offer more in one package. In addition, the themes of sustainable development and impact investment joined the events closely together”, says Johanna Puhtila. Among the 12 competitors there were two startups from the Northbound Startups project, and of those the audience favourite Voxmate also won the first prize of the pitching competition. 50 startups and investors participated in the matchmaking event on the second day, and meetings were also set eagerly on site in addition to those agreed on beforehand.
Photos taken by Niko Sieppi – Rabbit Visuals, Lotta Kujanpää and Arto Branders.
Funded by Central Baltic Interreg, the Northbound Startups project was implemented from 1 February 2020 – 31 May 2022. Partners: Turku Science Park Ltd, Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol, and Västerås Science Park. Further information: Johanna Puhtila, tel. +358 400 247 023.