iEER partner Maria Leye from the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences kicks off the iEER blog series with a story of her November 2016 visit to Helsinki. Throughout 2017 iEER project partners will share their stories and perspectives on the project and its activities. Stay tuned!

“No one in their right mind would think of visiting Helsinki in November … except us and 17.500 others”

The iEER project has done so far pretty well. We were starting in April and had our very first meeting as an official Interreg Europe Project in May. While improving the way of working together we already handled one high-level kick-off event and two learning camps. Going further our first peer assessment started in November.

The visit to Helsinki started for the Brandenburg people on Monday the 28th of November from Berlin. While our stay we experienced a pretty cold and calm weather with slippery streets and very little snow. The city seemed to be rushing around and even if it was dark and cold outside many people were enjoying to stay outside with all the Christmas lights. There were even a few people running in the cold.

The City of Helsinki is a very tiny “big city” which leads to very short ways for arriving at the point you want to go. Very practical when you are trying to handle a 15 persons strong group of international people and different venues for an event. One of the venues was the Maria HUB where we experienced an old hospital renovated by young startups for their own use. A great opportunity to have an incubator (both ways around!). In this case, the rules are as followed: “The longer you stay in the house – the more you have to pay”. Great way of charging. The operator also called it “House of Weirds” – a hub with approximately 100 startups that were mostly in the seed up phase.

Very impressive was the fact that the startups are just coming because this is the place to be. There were no real marketing campaigns needed. Compared to coworking or incubation activities in Germany – this is rare. In this hub we also took part in the local iEER kick-off for the Helsinki-Uusimaa Region. We got to know different projects and activities that are taking part in the region. The most interesting fact, most of these activities are organized and initiated by students.

One very impressive example was SLUSH 

SLUSH is a very huge and nowadays well-known startup fair. Arriving at SLUSH was like arriving at a whole day after work party. It was kind of dark everywhere and the location was highlighted by spots at the stage and at the meetings areas. There were different areas with in total 4 stages that had different designs and were decorated with special flat-pack furniture for example made out of pallets. The stages all had different speakers and great programs with different trends that will come up in the future.

One stage was just for pitching. You could sit there the whole day and watch different startups from all branches pitching their ideas in front of a jury. This pitching was for the SLUSH 100 – a contest where the startups could win prize money. Additionally, all participants had a huge name batch with a category – for example startups could easily see who is an investor and where does he come from. This is such an easy way of bringing people together. SLUSH was also very great for some Brandenburg startups that won tickets and travel costs within a Brandenburg competition. They could exhibit and pitch at a side event organized by Techcode, a Chinese partner of Berlin-Brandenburg.

All in one the visit to Helsinki was impressive and applaudable. The organization of the trip was great and the SLUSH was mind blowing. Thank you very much to our iEER Team!

By: Maria Leye, Project manager, Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences