Around 30 start-ups and business ideas from the Turku region, Tallinn and Riga are participating in the third accelerator programme of the Springboard project. In the March kick-off meeting the ideas were processed together with other participants and the business developers that were present as mentors.

Run by the EU’s Central Baltic funding, the Springboard project has made it possible to implement in Turku, Tallinn and Riga a new kind of accelerator programme based on international co-operation. It serves especially business ideas based on international operations and scalability as well as enterprises in initial stages.

Kick-off meeting in Tallinn

The ten-week BusinessUp involves keynote speeches online but also two meetings for all participants. The kick-off meeting for the spring programme was held in Tallinn in mid-March. An intensive two-day meeting in Tallinn familiarised the teams with each other and opened discussions on co-operation cross borders. In addition to networking, the meeting allowed for international mentoring which offered the participants more feedback and encouragement for their ideas.

The Turku-based team UrbanZee is formed by Aschwin van der Woude who is Dutch by birth but has lived in Finland for nearly 20 years and Koki Sugawara from Japan. They have developed a service for measuring the air quality that sends the measurement results online to the parties that use them.

“We have defined air quality monitoring in cities and building as well as private consumers as our key target groups. We are currently testing the service in Rauma. If all goes well, we hope to establish a company within a few weeks. After that our goal is to attract 10 different cities as our customers over a period of 2–3 years. The Netherlands, Italy and Asia are the regions that we will target”, says Aschwin van der Woude who previously worked at Tieto Corporation.

Co-operation cross borders

Aschwin and Koki tell that the Tallinn meeting benefited them in the form of great discussions and new contacts.

“We found out that we are doing the right things at the moment. We also learned to know Karlis Vitols from Latvia and agreed on pursuing possible co-operation with him”, Koki Sugawara says.

Karlis Vitols tells that he is developing a breathing mask that utilises the heat of the exhaled air.

“I want to develop a product with stylish and attractive design. Potential customers include people who need a mask while doing research work in cold conditions e.g. on the North Pole. The mask could be combined, for example, with a scarf or hood.”

“With Ascwin and Koki we discussed the possibility to fit the mask with filters that could protect against different contagious diseases. We might also have common interests in marketing channels. I got a tip from one participant on contacts with possible customers and tests users who are working in Greenland.”

At the Tallinn mentoring event, each team also had to think about the schedule of their own idea for the periods of the next one month, three months and six months.

“My goal is to develop a prototype and run tests on it during the next few months”, Karlis Vitols says.

Positive feedback

Turku-based Lauri Kotaja’s original idea was an application that could condense the key content of an electronic textbook to a few dozen pages.

“It turned out to be too expensive to implement, however, so we are now focusing on the utilisation of part technologies. In Tallinn we found two potential partners and one potential customer.”

Mr Kotaja found the programme very positive.

“Already the first month of the Springboard accelerator programme has been amazing. Our concrete direction has not been defined yet, but this has helped a great deal”, Mr Kotaja commends.