Startups show Finnish innovation in Oulu

Each year at Midnight Pitch Fest in Oulu, innovative startups seek fame and fortune. We talk to some of the best.

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Over 150 of Finland’s most innovative entrepreneurs received an opportunity to pitch for fame and fortune in the northern city of Oulu this summer.

An annual business incubator event called Midnight Pitch Fest (because the sun sets after midnight in northern Finland during the summer) runs a two-day pitching competition to match startups needing funding with investors looking for future profits.

Netsono, one of the winning startups in Oulu: (from left) Joni Komulainen, Hanna Sirviö, Petri Hyyppä, Juha Torvinen and Jarkko Immonen.

Netsono, one of the winning startups in Oulu: (from left) Joni Komulainen, Hanna Sirviö, Petri Hyyppä, Juha Torvinen and Jarkko Immonen.Photo: Ari Kettunen

One of the winners was Netsono, which offers up-and-coming musicians an online music production service. Netsono’s Petri Hyyppä says band members can be on three different continents and still record, mix and launch a best-selling album together. “They can also run online auditions,” he says, “which can save everyone time and lots of nerves!”

Perhaps Netsono’s greatest trump card is Juha Torvinen, an original member of one of the most popular rock bands in Finland, Eppu Normaali. As a member of the Netsono team, this old rocker offers feedback to unsigned artists based on his 38-year experience in the music industry. “This program just makes it so simple to make and launch an album,” he says.

World’s first “breaking ice cube”

This new kind of ice cube sits over the mouth of the glass, then breaks into small ice cubes when struck.

This new kind of ice cube sits over the mouth of the glass, then breaks into small ice cubes when struck.Photo: Sipi Hintsanen

Claiming to be a world first, Sipi Hintsanen’s patent-pending Breaking Ice Cube is a circular ice cap that sits atop a drinking glass. Designed to crack into five perfect cubes and tumble into a drinking glass with a gentle knock from a knuckle, this unique Finnish innovation needs 200,000 euros to crack into the big time. Hintsanen’s hand-picked advisory team includes an award-winning Finnish bartender; the American Bar at Solo Sokos Hotel Torni in Helsinki; and Snowhow Ltd (snow and ice construction specialists based in Oulu).

Juho Risku, one of the Midnight Pitch Fest judges and a cofounder and partner at Finnish venture capitalist firm Butterfly, says the main criteria he looks for in startups pitching at this event are the size of the potential market; capital efficiency; and the quality of the business team and their product. “I’ve seen a big improvement in the quality of pitching in Finland over the last few years,” he says.

Keep a mobile microscope

This microscope-magnified picture of a piece of fabric is taken with a regular mobile device using KeepLoop’s mobile microscope.

This microscope-magnified picture of a piece of fabric is taken with a regular mobile device using KeepLoop’s mobile microscope.Photo: KeepLoop

Would you like to turn your smartphone into a microscope? Finland’s KeepLoop Mobile Microscope was on show at Midnight Pitch Fest. By attaching a thin, magnetic microscope module over a smartphone or tablet camera lens, anyone can snap high-quality microscopic photographs of anything, from fingerprints and blood samples to insects and fabrics. Even videos of microscopic organisms can be captured and shared on social media.

“The idea is to open up the microscopic world and make it available to everyone,” says KeepLoop CEO Jaakko Raukola. “School students can use them on biology excursions, storing thousands of images on their phones or tablets and then going back to the classroom to analyse them on computer screens.”

While a few other similar products exist on the market, this one, designed and manufactured in Finland, possesses two unique features: a flat lens structure, making it extremely light and easy to carry in your pocket, and compatibility with all smartphones and tablets no matter what brand and model. As a startup company, KeepLoop is seeking capital to boost distribution and sales channels across the globe. As with many recent Finnish innovations, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland was involved in the early designs.

By Mark Badham, July 2014

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