14.6. 2016 Blogi

Tartu and Turku, sparkling start-up cities!

"You never can tell what you neighbours are like, what they can give you and what you can give them before you go and say hello and learn to know them. That also applies to the Estonian guests who visited the first SHIFT business event arranged in Turku at the turn of May and June", writes Li Chen in her SPARK blog post.

A few years ago, we found our dream house. I asked the owner about the neighbour. “There lives an old lady who likes to be by herself”, he said.

We moved in. Sometimes the old lady was working in her yard. I wondered whether I should go and say hello. Maybe not, if she wanted to be alone.

Life with our unknown neighbour had gone on for two years. Christmas Eve was approaching, and we stayed home instead of going to Central Finland where my husband’s parents live.

“Why don’t we ask the neighbour to have Christmas dinner with us, as she lives alone, and our party is missing a grandma”, my husband said and went over invite her.

“I guessed right away that you’re not originally Finnish when I was invited”, the old lady said.

We stayed in touch even after the Christmas Eve. She had lived and worked in Great Britain in her youth and reads a lot, which has given her a very open and sharp mind. She is very much interested in many things. We never seemed to have enough time when she taught me Finnish language and history, and I told her about Chinese culture and society. We have eaten together food cooked by Muslims on Restaurant Day, read Alfred P. Sloan Jr’s book ‘My Years with General Motors’, and visited a Vietnamese lantern festival. We have spent quality time together and become friends, although the old lady is my own grandmother’s age.

You never can tell what you neighbours are like, what they can give you and what you can give them before you go and say hello and learn to know them. That also applies to the Estonian guests who visited the first SHIFT business event arranged in Turku at the turn of May and June.

Finnish-Estonian start-up co-operation

26-year-old Estonian entrepreneur Madis Uuemaa came to the Turku Castle to pitch his start-up business Smart Load Solutions which stemmed from his own doctoral dissertation. SLS offers an open, intelligent cloud service that automatically optimises electrical appliances based on real-time electricity price.

Business magazine Forbes has compiled its annual 30 UNDER 30 EUROPE list, and Dr Uuemaa can be found on the Science & Healthcare list. The young and serious-looking guy collaborates with the Finnish start-up Salusfin.

“At least from our point of view, the Finnish start-ups are older than our Estonian start-ups. Sometimes it feels like it takes a long time before a project starts moving on. On the other hand, the Finns have a lot of experience from which we can learn and benefit”, Dr Uuemaa contemplates.

That’s true. Salusfin was founded in 2013 by three men, two of them former Nokia employees. Tapio Toivanen and Henrik Jakobsson have years of experience in international business. According to their website, the company’s goal is to develop an affordable, intelligent and extendable home automation platform. The youthful Salusfin has entered the markets in India, Germany, the United States, and China.

“SLS has developed optimisation software for heating systems. Salusfin offers a smart home solution. We are now joining forces so that Salusfin will use the SLS optimisation to offer its customers on-demand response service in the near future”, Dr Uuemaa says.

When visiting Turku for the first time, Dr Uuemaa fell in love with the city. He has tasted a popcorn hamburger in restaurant Rantakerttu and walked along the Aura riverbank. “Yes, I will be back”, the young entrepreneur says and smiles.

You can watch Madis Uuemaa’s pitch at The SHIFT 2016 pitching competition here: https://youtu.be/flIJuFRBR2E

Towards an entrepreneurship university

Entrepreneurship was the key word when Andres Kuusik and Kirsi Peura discussed at the University of Turku’s stand in The SHIFT event. Dr Kuusik is the Head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Tartu, and Ms Peura is the Manager of the entrepreneurship programme in the University of Turku.

Andres Kuusik, Head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Tartu, and Kirsi Peura, Manager of the entrepreneurship programme in the University of Turku, met at The SHIFT business festival.

“Our society requires our universities to change from academic institutes to entrepreneurship universities and promote the commercialisation of research results”, Dr Kuusik says. Opened in 2014, the purpose of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is to develop attractive training for the 20,000 students in Tartu so that private entrepreneurship would be a natural choice for them after graduation.

“Entrepreneurship training is thoroughly integrated into a number of curricula. Entrepreneurs need transferable skills, such as project management, regardless of their specialisation”, Dr Kuusik explains.

Ms Peura agrees: “The boundaries between branches of science are beginning to fade. Just think about it; design is an important concept in technology, and creative industries can be very technical.” She recommends the operating model of Boost Turku for Dr Kuusik who is wondering how to activate the students to stay in the city in the summer. Dr Kuusik commends the recently started network of the alumnis of the University of Tartu to Ms Peura who would like the alumnis to take a stronger role in the local ecosystem of start-ups. The network comprises some 70,000 graduates.

Turku Science Park Ltd and Tartu Science Park started this spring a joint project called SPARKS Sparkling Startups. “Both universities have a similar background, challenges and problems. Together we will find good solutions quickly”, reminds Vaido Mikheim, head of the SPARKS project.

Li Chen and Vaido Mikheim are responsible for the SPARKS project being implemented in Turku and Tartu which builds co-operation models between start-up companies in the two cities.

See you at sTARTUp Day

Lauri Sokk walks around on the site of The SHIFT, the lawn in the Turku Castle Park. As the main organiser of the first business festival in Tartu he wants to gather ideas for his own event.

“We are extremely interested in the event. For us it’s an exploration from which we will learn best”, says the Project Manager of sTARTUp Day.

The enthusiastic messenger of the Tartu festival has been given a permission by The SHIFT to show a video of the upcoming event on the main stage. He thinks that The SHIFT was great and the organiser team was professional. The presentations of keynote speakers Stephen Lake and Keiichi Matsuda were very impressive.

“The feeling throughout the festival is very relaxed, and that’s what we are aiming at, too. A business event need not always be formal”, Mr Sokk says.

The sTARTUp Day will be arranged on 9 December this year, and the organisers expect around 1,000 visitors and 30 speakers from around the world. The theme of the event will be ’how to earn if there is nothing to burn’. Mr Sokk tells that the theme came about when traditional entrepreneurs had criticised start-up companies for burning the money of the investors instead of earning money. The organisers hope to see both old hands and beginners. The government and media are discussing loud and proud about different business operation models. The programme also includes a pitching competition.

Can we learn something useful from our neighbours? Whether it’s a question of neighbours in a residential area or international co-operation, it’s always worthwhile to throw out your prejudice and be curious. That’s how we get the chance to complement each other, find solutions side by side, and become more intelligent.

Li Chen
The writer is responsible for the implementation of the EU-funded SPARKS Sparkling Startups project in Turku Science Park Ltd. At the turn of May and June, Li hosted the project partners from Tartu who visited The SHIFT event in Turku.