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!


Startup Weekend, a breath of fresh air – OP Lab

“Startup Weekend is a breath of fresh air: it is one of those events where you can really sense the innovation and identify the top talent from the rest. We’ve enjoyed every single opportunity that we’ve had in working together with Startup Weekend. As a results, we’ve recruited new people to OP Lab from pretty much every batch.”
– Kristian Luoma, Head of OP Lab

OP Lab’s crew has been taking part in already four Startup Weekends in Finland in the past 2 years. The reason for this is pure and simple: Startup Weekends allow us to best collaborate with local communities and take action while focusing on the most important resource there is – talent.

We are always working hard to find the best talent and getting them onboard to face the exciting future of the financial sector and innovation with us. What could be a better way to locate this talent, if not an intense weekend full of challenges such as Startup Weekend? The phases and intensity of the weekend tends to bring out the best of people, and this is something that we believe will truly make the difference in the future.

We at OP Lab also believe that collaboration plays a key role in development. In the past years OP Financial Group has transformed to a diversified services company. To best continue meeting and exceeding our customer’s needs we are partnering up not only with the best talent but also with the greatest startups out there to create new products and services in a range of fields. Startup Weekends all around are a great representation of collaboration – during these 54 hours, makers and doers from different backgrounds in different industries come together to collaborate in order to steer the path for future innovations. This is what we at the heart of OP’s new innovation strive to do as well.

So – prepare to pitch your great idea, gather a great team around you and iterate your ideas into concrete prototypes. This way you’ll not only be impressing the judges and other participants, but most importantly yourself. We are looking forward to yet another thrilling and fulfilling Startup Weekend experience – and to meet all of you, of course!

See you in Tampere on the 2nd of March and best of luck,

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.

How I get to use my entrepreneurial skills at Stora Enso – Mea Mäkijärvi

Forest industry doesn’t usually fit in the same sentence with entrepreneurship and innovation, or what do you think? Many see the companies in forestry as big, slow and old fashioned. If you keep reading this blog post I hope to change this view.

As our CEO said in one of our all employee calls, even elephants can learn to dance.

When curiosity wins

I’ve always been interested in understanding how and why people behave the way they do. Thinking about it now I should’ve probably studied psychology. But I ended up studying marketing instead. At some point, I felt that my curious nature would actually be best utilized when coming up with new ventures and I ended up doing my Master’s in entrepreneurship. I truly loved the inspiring atmosphere in my studies, the passion of founders we got to meet, the crazy ideation sessions, late nights perfecting pitches and slide decks while having fun working with people from various backgrounds.

Baby steps but in the right direction

Upon graduation, my marketing background helped me to secure my first jobs and I had to lay my entrepreneurial spirit to rest for a bit at first. I joined Stora Enso, a leading provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden construction and paper on global markets, through the GROW trainee program and started learning exciting things about renewable materials and how we source our raw material in Finland. During the past 2.5 years with the company our strategic direction has changed to have a strong focus on innovation and customer orientation. It is clear we need new competences, talent and partners to make it happen.

As our CEO said in one of our all employee calls, even elephants can learn to dance. Stora Enso might be in the beginning of its entrepreneurial journey but in my opinion definitely headed in the right direction:

  • In Stora Enso Accelerator program our employees work together with startups that are active in areas which are important to our future. The aim is to collaborate with the right startups, to improve our understanding of new technologies and to learn lean and quick ways to innovate.
  • We have held our first open innovation challenge #HackThePack with Industryhack a year ago. Eight teams worked on digital solutions that would increase the transparency of our value chain from forest to product.
  • Currently we have partnered up with Kone, Combient and Vertical to get some new perspectives and solutions from startups to defined business challenges. Startups can apply until February 28th (go check out Combient Foundry’s website for more info and the application link)!

When the time is right

In my new position as Innovation Manager for Wood Supply Finland I get to drive lean startup, design thinking and service design among other innovation methods into our everyday life and operations. My aim is to build and foster an innovative culture in my organization that offers good grounds to innovate for both our employees as well as external stakeholders such as startups, customers and other partners. Together we can make great things happen for a more renewable future!

Looking forward to seeing you all in the beginning of March. And in the meanwhile, go see “What a tree can do” at our website.

Mea Mäkijärvi, Innovation Manager, Wood Supply Finland, Stora Enso

How was Startup Weekend – Elisa

In this series we get to know the team members behind Startup Weekend Tampere and their experiences in previous Startup Weekends they have attended. This is Elisa’s story about attending Startup Weekend in Turku in the fall of 2017.

Hello there! Interested in startups and entrepreneurship? Startup Weekend is a perfect opportunity to experience what it is all about in just 54 hours!

My first Startup Weekend experience took me all the way to Turku. I have dreamed of starting my own company for a couple of years but I still had not found the perfect idea. Or had the necessary push element it seems!

I had my idea on the same day that I pitched it in Turku. I had been following the discussion about whether sexual harassment is a problem also in Finland and the engineering half of me started to ponder:

“A lot of talk, but how to solve this with data?”

A little hint, concentrate on the problem you want to solve and don’t love your original concept too much. It will surely change!

On Friday I pitched the idea of gathering data of sexual harassment based on location from anyone with an app. During the weekend this idea developed further into a reporting system which could make it easier for employees to report about incidents which have made them feel uncomfortable.

The development during the weekend was fast-paced with the coaching of the amazing mentors and 3 validation rounds at the local Shopping mall. With an app prototyping tool named Hotgloo we even built a really simple interface for our app in order to test it out.

On Sunday we were sitting nervous in our seats waiting for our turn to pitch. Just when I was finalizing our slides I got the news. Kauppalehti, a Finnish business magazine, had just published an article where two experts had just said that we need anonymous reporting tools to tackle sexual harassment in Finland. Talk about perfect timing!

Everything had fallen perfectly in place and we won the Startup Weekend, receiving 4 months of office space in Turku and Polar Bear Pitching tickets as a prize! However, the most important prizes from the weekend were the people that you meet. People who are like-minded, creative and supportive.

In case you have ever thought about either starting your company or working in a startup, mark 2-4.3.2018 in your calendar and buy a ticket to the first ever Startup Weekend Tampere! I will welcome you there with our amazing team of organizers from Y-kampus, Tampere ES and Tribe Tampere.

Send us a message on Facebook to Startup Weekend Tampere if you have any questions or doubts whatsoever!



Elisa is part of the team organizing Startup Weekend Tampere in March 2018.

How was Startup Weekend – Aino

In this series we get to know the team members behind Startup Weekend Tampere and their experiences in previous Startup Weekends they have attended.

Who are you?

I am Aino. I graduated last year from the University of Tampere and have now been working at Tampere University of Technology entrepreneurship and innovation services, Y-kampus, for almost a year.

Among Startup Weekend participants I would probably fall into the category of designers as I do graphic design and photography in my free time. I could also fall into the “other” category since I studied law and business. Anyway this event is not all about these categories, but mixing different skills and backgrounds together so that’s what they are mostly for.

What is your role in organizing Startup Weekend Tampere?

My responsibility in creating this event is mostly marketing and marketing materials. Peace.

Have you attended a Startup Weekend before? When and where?

I attended Startup Weekend in Oulu about a one year ago. I participated just for fun, I had nothing to do that weekend so I bought the ticket after reading some stuff about the event and then went to learn something new and meet new people. “Creating a startup in 54 hours. Eat, sleep, create, repeat. No talk, all action.” Sold!

What was your experience like in Startup Weekend?

The event was just great. We formed a team and worked our project called “Rack”. It was a mobile application to trade your unboxed clothing and we actually came in second if I remember correctly. We even went out to ask people what they think about this idea and our MVP. I learned so much in one weekend about building a business.

Have you continued working with the project that you worked on in Startup Weekend and/or the people you met there after the event? How?

We have been in touch and some of us have had meetings after. Anyway continuing the project was the intention because we were very excited about our idea but it was challenging with everyone living in different cities.

What do you think was the biggest benefit you got from attending Startup Weekend? What did you enjoy the most?

I enjoyed the teamwork and doing the best we could in short amount of time. I really enjoyed working hard with my team and also getting to know other teams and people. After all I went to Oulu and I knew literally no-one from there in the beginning.

Also a big thing was that our team had so much different people also from different countries: one university researcher, students, one high school student and people working for different companies. We had so much to learn from each other.  

Why do you want to bring Startup Weekend to Tampere?

Immediately after the event I thought this has to be brought to Tampere, because I had a really good and educational experience in Oulu (and also because even Turku has Startup Weekend now, but we don’t). Startup community is growing fast in Tampere so this is the best time to attend and meet amazing new people with different backgrounds!

For whom would you recommend attending Startup Weekend Tampere?

I recommend this event to anyone with an idea to test or anyone without an idea who wants to simply meet new people, learn many things, eat and use their weekend for creating something new.

I also recommend this specifically to designers who want to get more experience in creating fast mockups or designs in a very short amount of time or otherwise want to try working in a startup team for a while. Great way to present your work to people and also test your skills!

Aino is part of the team organizing Startup Weekend Tampere in March 2018.

Startup Dictionary – Pitching

Giving a pitch means telling about your company or idea in a short, captivating way that gets the potential investors interested in your thing. A good pitch includes explaining why your business is going to succeed. It’s also important to talk about the market size and how are you going to make the money. It’s all about making your business idea attractive for investors.

Other good aspects of a promising pitch is telling about the strengths of your team, and of course the numbers. What do you need, or, how much and what for?

Behind the Scenes of Startup Weekend Oulu – Anastasia

Anastasia Shiverskikh – Finance and Sponsors

I want to create a portable sun for the long Finnish winters.”

I am passionate about music and love seeing artists perform live.

The secret favorite song of mine is Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, but don’t tell anyone.

The best about Oulu is that it has everything one would need for comfortable living. You get nature, opportunities for professional development, fun events to attend and nice places to go out.

I had a special experience related to Startup Weekend when I participated it about a year ago and the first day of the event was on my birthday.

Top secret business idea of mine is to create a portable sun for the long Finnish winters.


Startup Dictionary – Minimum Viable Product

Launching the MVP is basically testing your hypothesis fast and cheap. The minimum viable product has just enough features to satisfy the early customers. You’ll get customer feedback fast and you’ll find out if the product is market fit. The feedback of the MVP tells you if the problem you’re solving is big enough and the solution you’re offering is good enough. And when we say viable, we mean saleable