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 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

Behind the Scenes of Startup Weekend Oulu – Elina

Elina Kaihua – Member of the Marketing Team

I’ve planned a robot that pours coffee into one’s mouth before the person is fully awake.

I love to do planning and create lists. I also love to go for a coffee and shopping. It’s a shame that I don’t love jogging because it really could enhance my life.

I secretly live like an average grandma. I love knitting and watching cake decoration clips on Instagram. I like to do scrapbooks and go to bed early.

I really love to sniff puppies. They have such a sweet scent.

The best thing in Oulu is to go to the market square in summer.

I’ve had lots of inspiring Startup Weekend experiences but it always sticks into mind when it’s time to go for the final pitch in front of the judges, and the most nervous ones manage to deliver the greatest pitches ever!

Top Secret business idea of mine is the morning robot. I’ve planned a robot that pours coffee into one’s mouth before the person is fully awake. And of course the robot cooks the coffee first. And takes the dog out in the morning. The robot also performs a professional neck massage when ordered.

Behind Startup Weekend Oulu

Startup Dictionary – Validation

Validation is the phase which too many new entrepreneurs will unfortunately skip. It separates the organized innovators from the just hopeful and enthusiastic ones. Validating your business idea basically means asking questions, considering your ideas, choosing the best and discussing about it with experts and potential customers.

Validation saves time and money. Usually the most useful question is whether the potential customer is willing and capable to pay for your service or product. Ideas are cheap. You must also ask yourself if you are willing and capable to produce the service or product. The goal of the validation process is to find out if the product is viable. And always you should remember to leave the building: go out and discuss your ideas.  

Behind the Scenes of Startup Weekend Oulu – Udgum

Udgum Khadka – Marketing Team

My mindshift shifted from then. 

I love travelling and meeting new people.

A secret favorite of mine is a Salmiakki cake. Salmiakki is a salty liquorice tasting candy which Finns love.  

Favorite part about Oulu is the compact, amicable and supporting community.

The one special experience related to Startup Weekend is obviously when I participated and won the first ever Startup Weekend Oulu. My mindset shifted from then.

Top secret business idea is a business letting a person experience opposite gender’s life for some days or even weeks!

ROAR! – measuring decibels at Startup Weekend leads to Melutek

The team Edukate, now known as Melutek from Startup Weekend Oulu’s February 2017 edition, is two-months later happy to announce that their product is being tested in four locations around Oulu. Their stylish noise-detection and instantaneous reporting device was born within 54 hours and since then the progress has been fast. Melutek got a boost as they won Kielo Growth’s hardware track prize from Startup Weekend Oulu which awarded them with coworking space and mentoring from the hardware experts at Kielo.

We sat down for a chat with the team to catch up.

Melutek in Startup Weekend Oulu
Melutek in Startup Weekend Oulu

Why did you decide to join Startup Weekend?

One of our teammates had heard about Startup Weekend from his friend and persuaded the rest of us to join. School was winding down and we knew we would now have some free time and we really wanted to start some new project. Startup Weekend seemed like a good way to kickstart something new. Before the event we were brainstorming for new ideas, and settled on an idea for measuring the sound level in a room.

What happened at Startup Weekend?

We got there, and were excited to meet new people and liked the atmosphere instantly. We didn’t really know what to expect, and we were really nervous about sharing our idea. Luckily Henkka was brave enough to pitch, and he went in front of the 70 people to share it. Even though there were like 30 ideas, our idea was voted on to continue. We got a few more team members to join our team and we got started.

Welding the MVP
Welding the MVP

We started brainstorming potential uses for it, and realized fast that we need to find a target audience and figure out if there is any demand for it. If we would have made just a general gadget, maybe no one would have needed it. Soon we realized that classrooms could really use a device like this.

We wanted to physically build the product, and so we divided our team roles well. 2 focused on the business and 3 on the product. One of the mentors even brought cables for us to attach to Arduino because otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten it done. The premises in the Fingersoft building were incredible since there was space to weld.

On Sunday night, 44 hours after starting the work, we were already pitching to investors and the audience. However, two hours before the pitch we were missing some crucial cables. Luckily Tuomas found two old mouses from the trash and we turned those into a potentiometer and the cable for the push button.

Melutek MVP- Minimum Viable Product
Melutek MVP- Minimum Viable Product

We knew that we needed to wow the jury, and so we had to fake how our product works. As it was the Startup Weekend right before Polar Bear Pitching, the whole SW had been using the bear roar to energize the group. In the middle of our pitch we asked for the group to roar, and wanted our noise detector to react to it. We were missing the microphone, so during the roar we faked and put the readings in ourselves 😀 Fake it till you make it, right? Now it works naturally of course.

What happened after Startup Weekend?

We won the Kielo prize from Ari Takanen, and thus we got coworking and mentoring from the Kielo Hardware Incubator. This was an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by so many great businesses who were also building new products, and were able to give us so much advice! Without them we wouldn’t even be where we are now. Also having one common location for us to meet up was important.

One guy we actually met at Kielo became excited about our idea and funded our prototypes so that we could do more testing and validation. We’ve really gotten to experience the startup life, sometimes working until 5 AM because of a deadline, and we love it!

Melutek device being tested in Tellus Innovation Arena
Melutek device being tested in Tellus Innovation Arena

Now we have summer jobs and need to focus on those. But it’s good that now our products are visible in five different locations around Oulu and are being tested. You can see it in Tellus, OP Lab, OAMK, Oulun nuorten työpaja, and in Touhula daycare center. We need the valuable information from testing to be able to further develop our product.

When we brought our noise detector to the daycare center, they loved it so much that they asked us to bring them another one since they had two groups and the other group was jealous. They had had a manual cardboard version trying to achieve the same thing and were super happy for a digital one, and asked what would the price for this be.

Any tips or advice for others who are considering if they should join Startup Weekend?

Just go! And really don’t worry about it being in English. Startup Weekend being in English was actually a really good way to learn it more since nobody cares how good your English is! Go there, meet new people and have fun while learning! SW is also the place to be even for building hardware projects. Also do go to SW as soon as possible, our only regret is that we didn’t go sooner.

In the Melutek team now:
Tuomas Toppinen
Atte Väyrynen
Henri Niskanen
Lukas Fitz