Networking to Global Recognition

The success of a growth company or its international breakthrough is rarely a coincidence. There are often tenacious years of development work in the background, as well as countless negotiations and sparring between various parties. Secapp, Layette, Fibion and Aiwo are successful startups at growth accelerators Venture Academy Finland and Kasvu Open. They are saying the most valuable assets gained in the programs have been the internationalizing networks.

Venture Academy Finland is a joint program for growth companies created by HHub (formerly Hippos2020 ecosystem network) and EBAN Members Business Jyväskylä and Sophia Business Angels Network.

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  • Jyväskylä-based software company, founded in 2011
  • Kasvu Open: Winner of the Cyber Security Path 2014. Winner of the Future Health and Wellbeing Growth Path 2020, Growth Company of the Year 2020
  • Venture Academy Finland finalist 2020
  • Energy Starter business Accelerator (Europe) growth program 2020
  • IFC Techmerge finalist
  • 2019 net sales + 70%, 2020 net sales + 100%

Secapp offers a service for alerting, crisis communication and security. It has sought to boost its business via domestic and international programs. According to CEO Kari Aho, the way Venture Academy Finland was executed was exceptional. “During meetings, the program leaders would seriously challenge us and gave us valuable insight into what would best attract the interest of investors in our business”, he praises. “Our conversations have resulted in a much clearer picture of how we should present our company’s core messages, business, values and financing needs, especially from the perspective of potential investors”.

Aho is also pleased with the international contacts made through the program. “The organizers of Venture Academy have tremendous personal business skills and, above all else, plenty of networks directly with potential partners. We have had tangible introductions to the wider world through them”.


  • Tampere-based software company, founded in 2015, application launched in 2018
  • Kasvu Open Digital Health Path Winner 2016, Future Health and Wellbeing Path Winner 2019
  • Venture Academy Finland finalist 2020

Layette is a maternity counselling application conceived by CEO Sini Havukainen while she was living in Silicon Valley, California. “Finland has a low maternal mortality rate and a good maternity clinic system. Our business idea was to export Finnish maternity guidance abroad, Havukainen, who previously worked as a midwife, sums up”. Presently, about half of those waiting in Finland use the application and an internationalization opportunity has already opened up in Japan. Negotiations are taking place in China and European countries.

Layette is one of the finalists of Venture Academy Finland. According to Havukainen, words can’t describe the added value of the program. “Venture Academy has really changed our future, she sighs. We have gotten to know investors from all over Europe. We are now going through the right round of financing and the contacts we have are more worth their weight in gold for us. It’s definitely of the greatest value since we are looking for international investors who are serious in their intentions”, she says.

Havukainen especially appreciates the way angel investors have raised the team to the top of the list: “I love the idea that an investor wants to get to know the people and the team first. If the relationships work, plans can then be refined together”.

Layette’s new additional service, the virtual maternity clinic, will soon be launched both in Finland and abroad. “We have advertisers in Finland, while abroad our business is based on licenses”, Havukainen says.


  • Jyväskylä-based software company, founded in 2014
  • Kasvu Open: Future Health and Wellbeing Growth Paths 2019 and 2020, Kasvu Open Pitch competition Top 3 (Future Health and Wellbeing)
  • Venture Academy Finland finalist 2020
  • Currently in The Startup Factory growth incubator

Founded six years ago, Fibion has developed its operations moderately and thoughtfully. “Although our turnover is still small, we are on solid footing, and we have a great product ready that we were able to develop without external investors. Customer feedback has been really good, and we have satisfied customers. Now’s the right time to start developing sales and marketing”, says CEO Olli Tikkanen. “Venture Academy was a great experience for Fibion. It is by no means easy to get in touch with European investors. We got sparring and coaching from real international experts”, he praises.

“In the workshop, we worked on building our vision and strategy – fundamental issues on which the entire business is based on”. “The go-to-market may seem very simple, but we picked up on some good points from our discussions that we hadn’t examined before – even though we probably should have”, Tikkanen laughs. “It is often thought that it’s enough to get in contact with the customer, but in reality, the process should be much more systematic and cost-effective”.

“Fibion is currently weighing whether they should also target the healthcare market. Reducing sitting and inactivity combined with exercise is a better way to prevent lifestyle diseases than medication, and they have no side effects”. “There is great potential in doctor-recommended, knowledge-based disease prevention and management. However, entering the market is more challenging and would require more investors”, Tikkanen ponders.

Aiwo Digital

  • Jyväskylä-based software company, founded in 2018
  • Kasvu Open Smart Data Growth Path Winner 2020, Kasvu Open Carnival 2nd place 2020
  • Participated in the Venture Academy Finland program 2020
  • Net sales 2019 + 78K€, 2020 +700 K€

Atso Vesterinen, CEO of Aiwo Digital, a rapidly growing software company, believes the same laws apply to finding suitable investment partners as in customer sales. Vesterinen has just had several discussions in the past three weeks with various investors. The more options we have at the beginning of the funnel, the more likely we are to find a suitable partner for us, he describes. We are not just looking for financing, but an investor who can genuinely help us internationalize. Just like the investor is interested in our business, we are interested in what kind of person or organization the investor is. Sometimes the connection is there right away, sometimes we’ll have conversations much longer before the right one comes along.

Vesterinen’s experiences with sparring programs vary, but he emphasizes that there is something to be gained every time experts from different fields get together.
A lot depends on who you end up with. For example, at Kasvu Open, I spoke with a company that gets 90% of its customer relationships from inbound marketing. This got us thinking whether we could increase the share of inbound marketing in our own sales too, Vesterinen says.

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