Last week I joined the other ten teams taking part in Startup Journey 2016 by Boost Turku on a trip to Kotka, to attend *ship Festival and the Pitch Captain 2016 competition organized there. Despite some slight misunderstandings with the preparations for the trip, we got underway soon enough. The atmosphere on the bus was electric with anticipation; each team had been honing their pitches since the start of the program, and Kotka was one of the two major goals of that training. The previous weekend we’d had some really great sessions with Elsa Ervasti, who taught us about the performance side of pitching. All in all, every team seemed confident in their pitch and their ability to convince the judges and showcase the strength of their concept. We arrived at our accomodations late tuesday night, and got a good nights sleep in before the big show.
Wednesday morning we made our way to *ship itself. The event was held at Maritime Centre Vellamo, an absolutely stunning venue in terms of architecture and the conference spaces inside. The main stage was right in the middle of the main museum floor, with beautiful old boats and related accessories on all sides. The participating startups were divided into four batches: Sleepy Sentry was slotted in with other game teams as well as a motley crew of other startups, from manufacturing and selling high-tech wallets to a new kind of event organizing and tracking app. We started our day with quick mentoring sessions, where we basically just pitched our startups and got a couple of questions in before switching. After this, some of us Turku game people were approached by a reporter from Yle, the finnish national media. We gave short on-camera interviews, and I along with Kasperi from Saibor Games even ended up on TV in southeastern Finland, as well as on a web article.
Our batch was the last of the day to get our shot at the pitching competition, so there was a lot of time to watch the other teams. I saw most of the pitches for the other teams of Startup Journey, and as many noted at the event I have to say we did a hell of a job as a whole. While there were some really good pitches among the other participants as well, the average quality of Boost teams was in my opinion head and shoulders above the average quality of the whole event. The judges seemed to agree, as we took five out of ten berths in the finals: congratulations to Morrow Games, Vint, Loimu, Saibor Games and Rekorder! Sadly, Sleepy Sentry didn’t make it to the final round, but I’m still extremely happy with how the pitch went and the feedback I received for it was overwhelmingly positive. We also impressed the judges as a group with the overwhelming support and cheers for each Startup Journey team. I’d even go so far as to say that our team spirit not only within the same startup but within the same accelerator program was what really set the Boost group apart from the rest of the participants.
Thursday rolled around with a relaxed mood for those who did not make it to the finals, and an even more intense atmosphere for those who did. I got to see a very interesting presentation by an industry veteran: John Hare, of Sensible Software fame. He walked the audience through a tale of the games he has built, and a multitude of lessons learned (usually the hard way) through the process. After that, we had a lovely lunch while taking in the archipelago around Kotka on a boat. The Boost crew, for the most part, retired to a quiet section of Vellamo afterwards, to help the finalists perfect their pitches and prepare for questions from the judges. The finals took place in the sunny and warm market square of Kotka, in front of hundreds of people. Our guys and girls did really well despite some technical difficulties: shoutouts to Saibor Games and Morrow Games for the best game pitches of the competition, and to Rekorder for getting second place out of all 38 teams. The winner ended up being Lääkärihinta.fi from Helsinki, with their striking and energetic pitch for a price-comparison tool for healthcare operations. Big congratulations to them, certainly a well-deserved victory! The party on thursday night was something else, and for me personally ended with a 5am dip in the rapids near our accomodations. After a good two hours of sleep, it was time to head back to Turku.
I’d like to thank the *ship organizers and staff for a great and fun event, and the mentors / judges for giving up some of the most beautiful days of summer to help us out and listen to our pitches. I’d also like to thank the rest of the Startup Journey teams for making the trip an unforgettable experience, and Leo and Juhis of Boost for coaching us and pushing us to be the best we can.
-Juhani Kyrki, CEO