Innovation contests are an opportunity for companies to test ideas and gain important contacts. NIHAK’s VAU!HAUTOMO incubator helps businesses in the region get the most out of their participation.
Natural Indigo Finland entrepreneur Pasi Ainasoja is heading to Tahko in April, and not for an ordinary ski trip. He is heading to a startup event called Tahko Ski Lift Pitch, in which entrepreneurs will compete for investor interest.
“This event is a good testing ground for ideas. If you don’t succeed the way you want, it will still amount to something. Of course, success is also an incentive to move forward,” says Ainasoja.
This is not the first time Natural Indigo Finland is taking part in such a competition. The company participated in Kasvu Open in 2018 and 2020. The first time, the company did not qualify, but the second time it won the popular vote.
Based on his experience, Ainasoja’s recommendation is for companies to enter competitions. No matter the result, by participating, you can only win. The first benefit is that you have to present your business idea to others in a clear way.
“If you keep spinning a business idea on your own, it may fade with time. When you put yourself out there and spar with people, you get to network, find enthusiasm and gain visibility.
The second benefit is precisely the sparring received in competitions from other entrepreneurs and the jury, to whom you have to be able to defend and justify your business idea.
“With some things, it’s worth listening to others and with others, it’s worth keeping close to your chest,” says Ainasoja.
The third benefit is publicity, which can be difficult to gain otherwise. Competitions help both potential customers and financiers to remember your company.
Qualifying in their first competition didn’t happen, but the sparring Natural Indigo gained was worth it. According to Ainasoja, what’s crucial is the way judges can identify the needs of a company at the current stage of its life cycle. “Our company might not even exist, if NIHAK’s Timo Liimatainen had not tipped us to Kasvu Open in 2018. I had to sit down and put my ideas to words. NIHAK’s help has been important at all stages, and they have a top team to support companies,” says Ainasoja.
NIHAK provides practical help
Natural Indigo Finland is by no means the only representative of the region at Tahko. A total of five companies from the NIHAK region are participating in the event, which is a significant share of all participants.
NIHAK actively works to encourage and help businesses in the region to participate in innovation competitions.
“Our work begins with finding suitable events in Finland and abroad and relaying that information to the companies in the region,” says Timo Liimatainen, Project Manager at VAU!HAUTOMO.
Competitions require preparation, time and resources. NIHAK provides support as early as the application stage and also later in the preparation phase. Workshops can be organized for companies on presentation materials and presentation styles.
NIHAK representatives can also be present at the event itself to provide background support and encouragement. Afterwards, we analyze what went well and what needs to be repaired together.
According to Liimatainen, the competition setting is always a little exceptional, and companies should make use of that.
“When a startup entrepreneur usually approaches a financier or potential partner, they don’t necessarily get a reply. Instead, in the competition, the same people, as judges, are eager to hear ideas and provide feedback.
This spring, a number of different competition events will be held in Finland, and most of their application periods are still open. Information about the competitions can be found in the NIHAK event calendar.
“If participation in a competition is new to your company, don’t hesitate to contact us. We will be there to help you at every stage,” says Liimatainen.