From Student to Startup Founder

At Slush 2021, the series of side events included a session that focused on a path international students in Finland might end up taking: starting up their own companies.

The session, dubbed “From Student to Startup Founder” was organised at the Maria01 space by NewCo. Helsinki, Business Finland, the Shortcut and others. In addition to an infoblast from expert speakers about the kind of support and services that are available for starting up a company, there was also a panel discussion that gathered together international students-turned-startup founders from Turku, Helsinki, Espoo and Tampere: Nitin Agrawal, Sepideh Parvanian, Janina Mbuthia and Pavel Marek.

Among the representatives of organisations, Turku Science Park Ltd.’s very own Arto Branders was there, informing potential business founders about the various growth programmes and guidance services that are freely available to potential entrepreneurs.

From left to right: Janina Mbuthia, Sepideh Parvanian, Nitin Agrawal and Pavel Marek.

Best Lessons from Those Who Made It

After the informative presentations, it was time for the panel discussion. It soon became clear that the interlocutors represented a wide range of backgrounds, expertises and stages in the lifecycle of a company’s development. Despite the differences, similarities presented themselves in how each founder had received invaluable support from both public and private organisations in their quest. Most often, this succour dealt with applying for permits, writing grants, securing funding and navigating the legal issues like patents.

For the panelists, the need for ever more support cannot be understated. Taxation is a issue that is particularly adept at confusing international businesses in Finland. Fascinatingly, every panelist emphasised having the boldness to simply ask for help; people are more likely to help than not. This came up a during a discussion of how the non-tech-educated panelists managed to get their platforms off the ground. The answer, for them, was networking and finding the right tech-educated people to help you.

The house at Maria01 was as packed as the safety guidelines allowed. Turku Science Park Ltd’s Growth Advisor Arto Branders on stage.

From the Academic to the Startup Side of Things

Making the move from an academic context to the private sector might worry some potential entrepreneurs. Pavel Marek pointed out that there are instruments at every university to help with the transition. For example, he had received help in finding funding that supported the commercialisation of his idea. However, these instruments exist outside of the university as well. Nitin Agrawal, a graduate of Turku Science Park Ltd.’s BusinessUp programme, shared his experience of receiving similarly crucial support from the programme, which, in his words “taught him everything”.

Overall, the From Student to Startup Founder event was a way to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs through example. While the road to being the head of a fully-fledged business may be a long one, it is important to know that international talents in Finland are not alone. Universities, the authorities and public organisations such as Turku Science Park Ltd. are there to help every step of the way.

If you are an international talent in Turku (student or otherwise) and interested in entrepreneurship, Turku Science Park Ltd. provides free services to get your idea off the ground. Attend our Start Info, book time with our Business Advisors and network with your peers and our experts at our events. More information on the Turku Business Region website.