As the room swells with people and the Helsinki Startup Weekend GSB edition T-shirts go on, people start to discuss the meaning of their shirt color groupings. As we make it past the introductions the tension starts to build. Orange for organisers, volunteers and coaches, purple for engineers, red for developers, blue business, yellow for designers and green for do it alls/generalists.
My first observation is how enjoyable it is to see such a diverse mix of people – students, more seasoned veterans, and enthusiasts all gathered together under no pretext. All the participants came to work hard this weekend, learn and build something. The event is accomplished through a grass roots volunteer effort and it is a truly whimsical environment. Catering was done by meal.fi (Epic Foods).
Epic Foods is a startup that was initiated during one of the previous Startup Weekends in Helsinki. For this event all participants and volunteers are lucky to have Mario Di Florio, Ekaterina Perfilyeva, Steve Peltonen and Armand Dupuis – the four who run the community in Finland.
Mario is a self-proclaimed everyman. His enthusiasm exudes as he smiles and delegates responsibilities to members of his team. When asked how it feels to be in charge of the event his reply is: “No one is in charge, we are a team.” This man’s energy is enough to get the whole crowd to their feet.
Ekaterina is like a general in command – she is soft spoken and handles problems and challenges as gracefully as a Russian figure skater doing a triple axle. Steve is a true professional – very diplomatic and not afraid to get his hands dirty. Armand is very busy and hard to pin down as he gives all of the participant’s hands on personal service.
First up one of the sponsors – Zervant. Tanya Lindner, their online marketing manager, was very motivational. Her talk let people understand how quickly things can happen in this industry. She spoke about growth models and about how small media budgets can make a big impact. Her info on blogs, delivering the right content at the right time was encouraging and she informed the crowd to speak and get their message out there. “If we can blog about online invoicing software, you can do it. Blogging is a great center piece for your online presence”.
Faraday – winners of the last Startup Weekend Helsinki June 2015 – is a car sharing service; where someone can put a car into the system and get paid, as well as paying for use of a car. The team spoke about their successes and challenges coupled with the up and downs they went through in the last 6 months. They spoke about their time using Aalto Startup Center and Biz Spark. They were very excited for their product alpha testing which is coming up in the next month.
Next Up Toni Perämäki from Microsoft BizSpark, who gave quite a directed and indispensable presentation – no holds bared, right to the point. “I’m with the new Microsoft and we are here to help. The team of ten is here for you anytime in anyway. This is what you get – BizSpark – this is how long you can use it, and I am running to another event, good luck. I will be seeing the winning team very soon.”
Next up Victoria Stoyanova – she is the facilitator from London sent from Startup Weekend Europe. First engagement – she started speaking, and from the first word she controlled the energy and pace of the event. Breaking the groups into teams, giving encouragement before the pitches, and generally creating an environment where this group of people could work hard and grow into a community. The plan is for this new community to enter with a warm welcome as the next entrants into the Helsinki startup ecosystem.
By: K.Andrew Thomas