What entrepreneurship means to Aino Piirtola, former Head of Slush Global Impact Accelerator (GIA)


Date: March 14, 2019

By: Beirut Digital District

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Each fall in Helsinki, leading actors of the global tech ecosystem come together, to drive the growth of startups. This is no small feat. In 2018, over 20,000 people attended the Slush event, from over 130 countries. Driving this non-profit event is Aino Piirtola, former Head of Slush Global Impact Accelerator (GIA), together with a group of ambitious entrepreneurs, top industry experts, investors and students. 


Their core mission? “To help drive the next generation of great companies and founders forward.” It is an event by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. 

 

The basis of all Slush’s work is centered on the Global Startup phenomenon: helping startups develop their businesses. 

 

“We help startups meet investors, talent, and potential clients, in order to give them an advantage in the field,” says Aino, explaining that, “During Slush, pitching competitions, accelerator workshops and networking events are organized to bring the community together.”

 

To date, through the efforts of Slush:

  • On a yearly basis, Slush Helsinki supports approximately 3,500 startups (49% Nordic start up, 29% Europe Start up, 22% rest of the world)
  • From these top industries: 

        -    500 Startups Analytics & big data

        -    400 AI

        -    300 E-commerce & online, enterprise software, and mobile

        -    200 IoT


“While the Nordics represent only 3% population, it has managed to make almost 10% of all billion dollar exits in the world,” says Aino.


When asked about entrepreneurship and the key takeaways, Aino didn’t hesitate to respond. She shares:


On growing your network: “In my opinion creating visibility is all about making a network. Well, at least for me it was about promoting whatever I do when I meet people, with just conversation. Having someone you know to introduce you to somebody is always the easiest and best way to start off, imagine it as a referral. 

 

On facing challenges: “You might have a business idea but you rarely think about challenges or constraints the startup may face with the original business idea when building up. So, stay alert with keeping your eyes and ears open to the negative possibilities. Remember to think outside the box and see it through someone else’s lenses and not just yours. Always see what you do or say from another perceptive.  

 

On giving back to the community: In Finland what they do is they give back to the community later on when they’ve become successful, specifically by the startup centers or hubs. Since when you come back with solid industry experience, you then can mentor or support the upcoming startups, with intellectual understanding or resource funding. Contributing to the community with the knowledge you possess can engage and prosper your community.

 

On entrepreneurship in general: Entrepreneurship brings people together regardless of their background. It is a tool to solve complex challenges and the best solutions are often invented on the grassroot level, but supported from the top.


In summary, the “entrepreneurial mindset is the best tool to change the world,” she concludes.