Friday, November 09, 2012

Revving up a world-class entrepreneurship program in a year?


            AALTO: initial thoughts from October visit

I recently spent 10 days visiting the entrepreneurship program at the new Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland [a/ka/ "Stanford East"]. This school is amazing – and shows what can be done very quickly with a solid strategic vision, great passion, deep community engagement and the right people!

While I was enviously thinking about missed opportunities in Idaho, the 'lessons learned' apply broadly. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Who is Aalto University?
            Only TWO years ago they merged three top-quality Helsinki universities in Aalto: Business, engineering and design. [http://www.aalto.fi/en/] Partnering with TOP universities, especially Stanford and my friends at its legendary Stanford Technology ventures Program (STVP).
            Already seeing payoffs... ...though tensions/rivalries persist ;) ... most of this got started in less than 1 year. (So what is YOUR excuse??)
            Incredibly entrepreneurial support for entrepreneurship – read on! [http://avp.aalto.fi/]

Aalto’s Entrepreneurial Success Factors:
* Provides activities (courses and non-courses) at each stage of entrepreneurial development and for various target groups.
* Get the right content, right approach, and especially the right people.

            Implication for Idaho/elsewhere: As Jim Collins says, "get the right people on the bus in the right seats..." (no matter what the political/bureaucratic aggravations)

* Student-centric, student-led: Mostly STUDENT driven [http://aaltoes.com]

            Implication for Idaho/elsewhere: This is 100% doable, just needs right leadership


Startup Sauna: this model made me salivate ;)
* A residential accelerator (housed in Aalto Venture Garage, which also contains killer co-working space)  [www.startupsauna.com] [http://aaltovg.com/]
* SS scouts talented teams via tour of 1-day coaching [1 on 1] – meeting with 200-250 teams across the region
* “Homework” as screening [interested teams have a hurdle to jump]
* Typically get 10-12 teams per cohort
* TechStars style immersion in pool of A+ mentors but also the “perfect” coach
                        [if Sauna can’t identify a close-to-perfect coach, the team may not make the cut]
* Supported by TEKES [Finns’ version of NSF], Aalto, local foundations
* Startup Sauna takes ZERO equity
* SLUSH conference to bring together ecosystem [short on keynotes, long on small group coaching]

            Implication for Idaho/elsewhere: High value, quick payoff but will require starting from scratch [clearly detaching from existing entities/programs] & identifying mentor/coach pool

AppCampus [www.appcampus.fi]
* Nokia & Microsoft each plunked down 9 million euros (~$11.5 million)
* Teams developing brand-new apps can get up to $50K to bring to market
                        [focus is on Windows Phone platform, but idea obviously generalizes]
* Killer training ground for prospective app makers on any platform!

            Implication for Idaho: Have students apply to AppCampus?


“Summer of Startups” [http://aaltoes.com/sos/]
* small grants for students to explore “the entrepreneurial life” and/or develop some personally-viable opportunities


 Aalto Centre for Entrepreneurship [ACE]
* Tech transfer effort
* 300 disclosures/year -> if serious (~250 of them) they get 5K euros seed, no strings
  [adds education process for inventors/labs]
* ~50 teams make progress, then get up to 50K euros [deal is negotiated re royalties, equity, etc.]
* Then ~10 make it to point of spinout, they get up to 300K euros to launch the firm
* Fewer still get fully rolling but by this point, outside equity is already coming in
* Incubator or accelerator support & biz skills trainng, customized as needed

            Implication for Idaho/elsewhere: Need deep co-immersion in entrep community and blocking meddlers.
            Implication for Idaho/other low density areas: Will need to aggregate across all of Idaho's schools - one school is NOT enough. Maybe attract private sector IP (INL too?)


Aalto Incubators - sponsored largely by angels/VCs
* Major emphasis on iterating biz model, prototype and pitch and...
* Business/management skills (under watchful eye of local experts)

            Implication for Idaho: Low-hanging fruit has to be the basic biz training


StartupLife [another drool-worthy]
Up to 50 Aalto students get 3-9 month internships with hot startups in Silicon Valley & NYC  [www.startuplife.fi] (for business, techie and design students) At least 2 of the last crop of interns didn't return because... they are now CEOs ;)

            Implication for Idaho: I've already asked Aalto if Idaho firms and/or INL could get added to the list, but we could imitate. Will need to aggregate across all of Idaho's schools - one school is not enough.


"Soft Landings"
* Support programs for firms going global - EASILY replicable
* For local firm trying to expand overseas OR for overseas firms wanting to establish operations locally

            Implication for Idaho: District Export Council could do this in their sleep! [See also www.EDNaccess.com -potential exporters will like]


Building the Global Pipeline
* Universities, polytechnics/community colleges - all making concerted efforts to make it easy for scholar/educator exchanges across borders.
* It appears that Finland & China are building a two-way pipeline that has eliminated most of the red tape

            Implication for Idaho: Would seem replicable if we so desire-> build relationships, then make obsessive commitment to slashing red tape. We have a strong District Export Council; why not use them to take the lead?


And yes.... I did get exposed to the people who wrecked my productivity... ROVIO!!!
            Implication for Idaho/Everywhere: Quit playing Angry Birds?? :)

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