EdTech Incubator Helsinki is Finland’s first business incubation programme focused on early-stage education technology companies. The selected companies develop their ideas into marketable, scalable and international business concepts with the help of City of Helsinki experts and professionals in the field of education. The free incubation programme lasts 18 weeks.
EdTech Incubator Helsinki’s first incubation programme culminated in a gala event at the end of March, with nine early-stage education technology teams presenting their solutions developed in the programme to the investors, decision-makers and EdTech influencers.
Network creation is a big part of the incubation programme objectives. These kinds of events allow entrepreneurs to get to know the important players in the sector face to face. The incubation programme is also a unique opportunity to present solutions to an international audience and carefully selected investors. Investment companies Sparkmind and Oppiva Invest, which are specialised in education technology, participated in the EdTech Incubator Helsinki Gala and assessed the companies’ products from a broader perspective.
“As a whole, the nine different pitches and business ideas exceeded my expectations: clear progress has been made during the programme,” says Marko Kyyrönen, Partner at the Sparkmind investment company.
“The excellent work done in the programme is reflected in the start-up products and presentations. The entrepreneurs participating in the incubator are a diverse group, and it is great to see international ambition. Still, we have to be realistic. Only a few actually succeed in the start-up world, and it is impossible to say whether the participants will develop into companies worth tens of millions. However, based on what we saw, it is certainly not ruled out,” Kyyrönen says.
Incubator provides practical skills and support
Early-stage companies often hope for rapid success, but it usually takes start-ups several years to make their business profitable. EdTech Incubator Helsinki is aimed at early-stage start-up companies. One of the objectives is to help them develop the business plan and take initial steps toward the scaling phase. A good example of this is MusicUs, one of the music education companies that participated in the incubator. In the course of the programme, MusicUs established a company, found a third founding member, built a business and product concept, compiled a pitch deck to showcase the company and created a road map for the next year.
Besides tangible progress, the programme also helps to find useful partners and provides business guidance. Yazeed Maswadeh, the founder and CEO of Beesh, a participant specialising in sexual education, wants to highlight these unique opportunities.
“With the help of the programme, we were able to jointly develop our solution in line with the Finnish pedagogical approach. In four months, we got a finished product that is not only a learning platform but a platform with high pedagogical impact,” describes Maswadeh.
“Now that the incubation programme is completed, our next step is to pilot the solution through the City of Helsinki’s Testbed platform,” says Maswadeh.
Beesh and its CEO are a good example of Finland and Helsinki’s appeal and start-up infrastructure. Originally from Jordan, Maswadeh got to know a Finnish doctor while studying at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, with whom the idea of a sexual education service became concrete. Maswadeh is ambitiously aiming for global success with an international team consisting, among others, of Finnish, Jordanian, Russian and American employees.
“Of the about 200 countries in the world, only 48 provide scientific sexual education. In 150 countries, it is up to the teachers to decide what kind of information they share, and they may not have received proper sexual education themselves either. It is a problem we set out to solve,” Maswadeh explains.
Like Silicon Valley, but in Finland
For those interested in the incubator programme, Maswadeh praises Helsinki as a great place for early-stage companies. If the goal is to start a business, the City of Helsinki provides the entrepreneur with the right tools and advice.
“It’s like Silicon Valley, but in Finland. Helsinki offers the same level of expertise and support for companies, but everything is more business-friendly and on a personal level.”
As for future incubator participants, Maswadeh hopes the global pandemic will ease. Even with the convenient online participation option, there is no substitute for personal interaction.
“You always meet new people at the Helsinki Education Hub, and being there in person strengthens the community spirit.”
The next EdTech Incubator Helsinki application period starts already in the late spring. For up-to-date information, please follow the Helsinki Education Hub’s social media accounts or contact the project experts.
Participants in the first EdTech Incubator Helsinki programme: Alfons Education, Beesh, Big Ear Games, Language Clubhouse, Loru Games, MusicUs, Onni Education, Oppi AI and XR Tutor.
News photo: Andi Balogh.