Open-minded, courageous, educational – Startup Weekend through the eyes of OP Lab

OP Lab has been a part of Startup Weekends in Oulu since the very first of them that was held in April 2016. Throughout this almost two-year period OP Lab has had representatives in all of the Weekends as judges, speakers, mentors, and participants. We all know that the most important thing that can be asked is why. So what is the reason behind our love towards Startup Weekends? Let’s hear it from our experts.


“Mentoring at Startup Weekend has always been fun and educational. It has been great to notice how open minded and enthusiastic the teams are about their ideas. It is not so self evident when it comes to us Finns”, told Jussi Juntunen, service design lead at OP Lab and a 2-time mentor at Startup Weekend.


When it comes to the Startup Weekend experience itself, it is a no-brainer that even the most experienced people learn from something if they let the Startup Weekend spirit in.



“Often times the teams, with the help of mentors, have to think how to test an idea in practice fast and efficiently. Even though I already have experience in early-stage projects, during Startup Weekend you really have to put a lot of thought into what is the best way to test the idea and learn from the customers”, Jussi continues.


Over the years, several OP Lab’s employees have joined the weekends’ fun as participants, too. Anna-Leena Hetemäki, Junior Development Manager at OP Lab participated in February 2017, when she had just started to work at OP Lab.


“I had just started working at OP Lab, so I wasn’t really sure what my role would exactly be, nevertheless what Startup Weekends are all about. But when I got asked, I immediately agreed to join. The experience was intense and demanding, but it taught me a lot: in my job in OP Lab’s Discovery Team I had to have the courage publish products and services in a fast pace and as efficiently as possible, which is essentially the same thing we did in Startup Weekend”, Anna-Leena explains.


Needless to say, her experiences during the year 2017 in Startup Weekend and afterwards in Discovery Team have helped her career a lot: she also tells us that it is great to notice how you can get valuable customer feedback and develop early-stage products further – fast. Recently Anna-Leena started in a new position as a Junior Development Manager in OP Kevytyrittäjä.


One of the most experienced Startup Weekend goers is however the Head of OP Lab’s Discovery Team, Mats Kyyrö. Having participated in all of the Weekends as a mentor and given multiple speeches on fast iteration and lean service development, he has been contributing to the community a lot and in many ways. But what keeps him coming back?


“Startup Weekend is an event that is easily approachable, and one that teaches something to every single person that comes there”, Mats explains, “And it makes you feel okay about failing every once in a while. That is an important skill.”


It’s evident Startup Weekends have fulfilled their purpose when everyone leaves the event with a bunch of new ideas and learnings – it doesn’t matter whether you are a participant, mentor, judge, organizer, speaker or spectator. That is why we keep coming back.


So, see you again next weekend.

Team OP Lab


OP Lab is the innovation unit of OP Financial Group developing a range of services in the areas of health tech, mobility, living, commerce, and much more. Read more about OP Lab and its products from OP Lab website


Photo credit: Anton Jussila, Lasse Lehto

Been there, done that… and back at it again!

Brian is a Biomedical Engineering master’s student from Sault Ste. Marie, Canada. He studies at the University of Oulu and last year participated in Startup Weekend Oulu, where his team won the opportunity to continue on to the UltraHack event in Helsinki.

This year Brian was our first ticket holder to Startup Weekend, so we decided to talk to him and learn more about the reasons he is participating the event again.


Q: So, Brian, do you remember what originally made you sign up for Startup Weekend last time?

B: I wanted to get involved in the entrepreneurial community in Oulu. Because I was new here, and I was looking for stuff to do.


Q: What was your favorite part about participating at Startup Weekend?

B: I really liked pitching an idea. After last Startup Weekend, I certainly got more comfortable coming up with ideas and presenting them to other people at an event. That really helped me over the next few months, as I went to a couple of different hackathons. So, it was nice that I gained some skills that helped me to do well at those hackathons.


Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

B: Well, at Startup Weekend my team won tickets to a hackathon in Helsinki and there we came in first place. Then from that we got accepted to a Slush side event, where we came in first place as well. So, it was an exciting experience for me.


Q: Are you still continuing on with that project?

B: That’s the thing. The Startup Weekend idea we killed right after the event, but the idea that we came up with at UltraHack with another team – that one actually went a little longer. So, I think that’s the main point I’ve learned about Startup Weekend – it’s not always about the idea you develop or the business you create, it’s the learning experience itself that matters.


Q: I heard that you were the first one to buy your ticket for this year’s SW. So, can you tell me what are you going to do differently this time around?

B: Well this time around I don’t know if I am going to suggest my own idea. I think I’m going to devote myself more to somebody else’s idea. Last year I found that I was going through a lot of my own ideas, but wasn’t following through on any of them. I don’t know if I’m going to be the right person to follow through in the future, but I’d really like to participate in Startup Weekend. So, what I’m going to do is, I’m going to go and help them out as much as I can during that weekend, and then maybe help them out a little bit after the event as well.


Photo credit: Lasse Lehto

From winner to organizer – Eemeli’s Startup Weekend Oulu story

Eemeli was part of the team that won the last Startup Weekend Oulu and has been a driving force in making the next Startup Weekend better than ever!

Yesterday I got to sit down with Eemeli and find out why he chose to get involved in SW and what he hopes to accomplish this year.

Q: What originally made you sign up for Startup Weekend?

E: I think the main reason, back in autumn, was that I’d heard good things about it. It is a global event and you meet a lot of new people. I had just started at the university here in Oulu and thought what would be a better place to meet new people that have the same mindset as me then at Startup Weekend?

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

E: I think during the weekend, the 54 hours, all the skills that you learn starting from making quick decisions to reversing them and making the decision again. I liked walking down the whole path of creating a new company during just one weekend. It’s something that, well, you could study for 150 hours in a classroom or you could just work 54 hours with your friends and see if you can really make it happen. So, I think that’s the biggest takeaway. 

Q: What would you tell other people thinking about participating in Startup Weekend?

E: I would say that it’s an investment in your own life. It’s an investment in your own skills. Also, the networks that you get out of it is something that cannot be measured with money.

Q: If you could do it again would you change anything? Do anything differently?

E: That’s a hard one. I think I would have written a little bit more down, because we didn’t do much writing during the weekend which is totally okay, but for the continuation of the idea I would have written down a little bit more stuff.

Q: What do you remember about those first few hours when it all began?

E: Well, there was a lot of pitches, I think there was more than 25 different ideas on the stage. I didn’t pitch myself because, well, I was feeling a little bit shy since I’m a Finn, but a lot of pitches. There were a lot of great ideas then eventually I think the best ones were chosen so…just meeting new people, right from the start. Going in I knew only around 4 or 5 people, so there were more than 60 people I had never met before…

Q: What made you want to take on the responsibility of setting up this event?

E: I just want to be there to help the community organize this kind of event that actually promotes the entrepreneurial spirit. I like that it gives the chance for anyone to experience how it is to start a business, because for many of us entrepreneurship is not in our DNA but if you just try, maybe it will light a fire in you.


My name is Mariah O’Mara, I am an International Master’s student studying Education and Globalization here at Oulu University. I participated in SW last year and it was such an incredible experience that helped me to build my network and my confidence. This time around I am helping to organize the event and am hoping to make this the best Startup Weekend yet!