Kristo Ovaska and Linda Liukas founded Startup Life as a part of Aalto University”s partnership with Stanford Technology Ventures Program in Spring 2011. Kristo comments the motivation driving the inception:
We created Startup Life to help the brightest students at Aalto to reach their full potential.
Since then, we”ve seen Startup Life alumni to start companies themselves, joining hot Finnish startups and taking steps towards the top spots in Finnish technology industry. Read the full story below and get to know this amazing group of individuals.
Nelli Lähteenmäki – Startup Life 1/2011, Eucalyptus Systems
Nelli had worked in Silicon Valley for IBM and co-founded sales consultancy Symbioosi, before her internship at Eucalyptus Systems. This aspiring entrepreneur wanted to combine the two worlds by working at a technology startup. She started as a sales intern and later did sales and marketing full-time there for one year. She returned to Finland to found HealthPuzzle in summer 2012. HealthPuzzle is a mobile health startup building an app, that combines the user’s lifestyle data with genetic data and medical history information. Currently she acts as the CEO of the company. Follow @nellieliina on Twitter.
Mikito Takada – Startup Life 1/2011, Zendesk
Mikito became known as the guy who redefined how to find startup jobs: he had startups competing of him. He picked Zendesk, on-demand helpdesk service, where he worked as a full-time software engineer for almost two years. During the time, he wrote Radar, Zendesk’s real-time notification engine, among others. 2013 he joined San Francisco -based Trifacta, a software company developing productivity platforms for data analysis. Mikito hasn”t lost his inner researcher, though (he first jumped into startup life from Aalto University School of Business, where he was a PhD student) – he has published articles and e-books on app development, including Single Page Apps in Depth. Follow @mikitotakada on Twitter and read his blog at https://mixu.net/.
Jori Lallo – Startup Life 1/2011, Grove.io
Jori interned at YC Winter 2011 company Convore, where he spent his time building hosted IRC for teams, which later became Grove.io as Convore as a standalone service was shut down and Jori was working on the new startup alone together with the founder Leah Culver. He jumped off in winter 2012, when he co-founded Kippt, a startup building collaborative bookmarking tool, together with another Finn Karri Saarinen. One year after Jori had joined YC-alumnus Grove, Kippt got accepted into YCS12 batch as a first Finnish company ever. Currently, Jori lives in San Francisco and is working on Kippt, which just recently launched a team communication service Inc. Jori wasn”t in the game for the first time, though. He was also one of the founders of Gapps, Finland”s first Google Apps specified solution provider at the time of his graduation from Aalto University School of Science in 2010. Follow @jorilallo on Twitter.
Mikko Mutanen – Startup Life 1/2011, Zendesk
Mikko already had many years of experience working as a graphic designer, developer, 3D animator and lecturer to bring to the table prior to joining Zendesk as a part of the first Startup Life batch. He had been a part of the marketing agency Bolder, in the early days of current startup boom in Finland. At Zendesk, he went on to design, build and launch Zendesk’s new social features, specifically the Facebook integration. With the help of the service, support teams became able to respond to Facebook wall posts from within the customer support system. After spending 10 months in San Francisco, Mikko returned to Finland in spring 2012 and joined design agency Fjord where he is designing applications and living services.
Sanja Scepanovic- Startup Life 1/2011, Seven Networks
What does it take to be a rocket scientist? Well, first, joining a startup doesn’t at least do you any harm as Sanja proved. She started as an analytics intern at SEVEN Networks, a company building mobile software solutions for carriers and device manufacturers. After spending a year there she got accepted to International Space University Summer postgraduate program, held in Summer 2012 at Kennedy space center in Florida. Sanja returned to Finland in Fall 2012 to finish her PhD studies at Aalto University School of Science. Her main research interests are cryptography, computer security and data mining.
Puneeth Prasad – Startup Life 1/2011, Eucalyptus Systems
Puneeth came to Aalto for Master’s studies in computer science from India and engaged with the startup scene straight away as he joined the born-global crowdfunding platform Grow VC. Startups weren’t new to him, though – as early as 2007 he had HeadStart network to promote entrepreneurship in India. In summer 2011 he flew over to Silicon Valley for his internship at the cloud computing company Eucalyptus Systems, where he worked first as an intern, later full-time. In addition to his alliance work he served as one of the team leaders of Eucalyptus in India. He left Eucalyptus after 1,5 years and continued his work at HeadStart, in Bangalore, India, where he lives. Follow @puneeth on Twitter.
Jussi Valtonen – Startup Life 1/2012, Eucalyptus Systems
As a long-time student club active and the first President of Aalto University Student Union, Jussi sure was ready to tackle some big projects. Eucalyptus had him to come over and join them as program manager of their new professional services program. Jussi spent five months at Eucalyptus, returned to Finland and joined IBM as a strategy consultant. Eucalyptus experience gave Jussi deep-dive into technologies which he’s now able to use in advantage of customers of IBM. Jussi has a M.Sc. (tech) from Aalto in industrial engineering and management.
Anne Liiri – Startup Life 1/2012, Apptivo
Anne had an international business degree from Aalto University School of Business Mikkeli campus, and she was in the middle of finishing her M.Sc. in New Zealand when applying to Startup Life became appealing. She did it, landed an internship at Apptivo and worked on their social eCommerce platform as the only business person in the company. The experience sure had an impact: after she returned to Finland, she joined the one of the most rapidly growing tech companies in Finland, Dreambroker. Currently she works there as an account executive.
Hung Dao – Startup Life 1/2012, Ditto.me (acquired by Groupon)
From Vietnam to Kuopio, then via Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Program to Startup Life, Hung sure had a breathtaking journey. In January 2012 Hung joined Ditto.me , location mobile app startup founded by Finnish serial entrepreneur Jyri Engeström. After four months, Ditto was acquired by Groupon, and Hung moved on to work on Groupon’s new point of sale and mobile payments apps, called Breadcrumb. Currently, Hung works on many aspects of the Breadcrumb development and lives in San Francisco. Follow @zocoi on Twitter.
Raimo Tuisku – Startup Life 1/2012, UserVoice
Raimo has quickly become a living legend within the Startup Life community. Prior to Startup Life, he already had 10 years of experience as a developer and a M.Sc. degree in computer science from Aalto University School of Science. Raimo picked UserVoice, a creator of customer feedback and helpdesk tools. At UserVoice, he primarily worked on UserVoice’s API and integrations with other services. Soon after the start of his internship, he got a full-time position at UserVoice. He extended his stay after being admitted an O-1 visa, a visa for immigrants with extraordinary talent. He lives in San Francisco. Follow @raimo_t on Twitter.
Otto Vehviläinen – Startup Life 1/2012, Findery
Even though Otto had a study background in technical physics at Aalto University School of Science, he was really a skilled full-stack developer. He was hired by 2bkco, the new startup of Caterina Fake, the co-founder of Flickr and Hunch. 2bkco launched Findery, a location-based note sharing app. He ended up extending his internship from the original 3 months to 7 months, after which he returned to complete his master’s degree. At the same time, he started working simultaneously for the iconic Finnish startup Flowdock, founded by Otto Hilska, Tuomas Silen and Mikael Roos. Flowdock had already become a place where young, hungry entrepreneurs (including Karri Saarinen of Kippt and Jyri Tuulos of Bitdeli) had worked and later founded new companies. Flowdock was acquired by Rally Software, a Denver-based company in spring 2013, after which it became a part of Rally. Currently, Otto is working at Rally Software’s Helsinki office. He lives in Helsinki. Follow @Mumakil on Twitter.
Ilkka Kelaranta – Startup Life 1/2012, Anybots
To build robots. Every little (and also big) boy’s dream come true. Ilkka, an industrial design graduate from Lahti Institute of Design and a Master’s student at Aalto University School of Art and Design, accepted the challenge when he joined Anybots, a pioneering telepresence robot company. After making the first sketches on his first day, he ended up spending one year with the company. The founding team got acquired by Facebook, but the company went on to launch a new line of products, some with Ilkka’s design. Later Ilkka also designed for the cloud infrastructure company Nebula. After he returned to Finland, he started his Master’s thesis work and plans to graduate from the creative sustainability program this year. Meanwhile, he has a specific project on the works, about which we”re going to HEAR more in the near future.
Pekka Hartikainen – Startup Life 1/2012, Findery
As a graduate of both Helsinki (Aalto) School of Economics and Aalto University School of Art and Design, plus having run the creative agency Bolder as a CEO, Pekka sure had what it took to take the leap to the fast-paced startup life. In January 2012, he joined Ditto, founded by Finnish serial entrepreneur Jyri Engeström. He worked on the design of the product and after Ditto was acquired by Groupon, Pekka returned to Finland and was recruited by the user experience design agency Idean, this time for a senior designer role. Pekka lives in Helsinki. Follow @Pastorator on Twitter.
Tele Hao – Startup Life 2/2012, BetterDoctor
Tele was born in a small village in Inner Mongolia, China, and is currently working at the Helsinki office of the U.S. startup BetterDoctor (founded by Finnish entrepreneurs Ari Tulla and Tapio Tolvanen). What happened in between? This talented computer engineer did his B.Sc. in China and M.Sc. at Aalto University’s master’s program in machine learning and data mining. Around the time of graduating, he joined BetterDoctor – a maker of web and mobile apps to help you find the best doctor near you – in June 2012. He moved to San Francisco and stayed there for almost a year. At BetterDoctor, he worked on their data aggregation, document clustering and algorithms. After returning to Finland, he continued to work at BetterDoctor at their new Helsinki office. Moreover, he’s pursuing a PhD in computer science, focusing on deep artificial neural networks, at Aalto University. Follow @hotloo_xiranood on Twitter.
Anders Rex – Startup Life 2/2012, BetterDoctor
Having just graduated from the Intelligent Products M.Sc. program of Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering, Anders went over to BetterDoctor to do web development. That wasn’t new to him though – he had already few years of experience of the topic. Anders was quickly hired full-time and he stayed in San Francisco for 12 months. He quickly became one of the key members of the Startup Life community and a maker of few hobby app projects, including an AngelHack 2012 project Ratrace with Tele Hao and Hung Dao, and FreeBeerNow – an app for everyone who”s thirsty in San Francisco. Anders returned to Finland in summer 2013, and works at BetterDoctor Helsinki office.
Hilla Pyykkönen – Startup Life 2/2012, Granify
Hilla was destined to take Startup Life. This aspiring entrepreneur has a B.Sc. from Aalto School of Business in addition to which she had completed the Summer International Honors Program at Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley. When her classmates set up Granify, an e-commerce analytics startup, she was recruited there as the first business person. Granify got into an accelerator in Toronto, and Hilla followed, as did she when the company re-located to Edmonton, Alberta, afterwards. Hilla worked on customer development, market analysis and visual design. After her internship, she completed a semester abroad in ESSEC Paris, France. She returned to Finland at the end of 2012 to complete her master studies at Aalto, and thinking potential startup ideas. We’ll be hearing more shortly.
Vuokko Aro – Startup Life 2/2012, Adsafe Media
A business student turned into professional designer, artist and copywriter sure sounds like Startup Life material. After graduating with M.Sc. in economics and business administration from Turku School of Economics, she started at Aalto University master’s program in New Media. Finnish Academy of Fine Arts followed year later. She was the first Startup Life intern in New York City, where Mikko Hagelberg launched Startup Life in 2012. Vuokko joined Adsafe Media (nowadays called Integral Ad Science), the startup making a preventive brand safety tools, as a visual designer in June 2012. She stayed at Adsafe for a year, after moving to Amsterdam for the summer 2013 where she works for Integral Ad Science. She fell totally in love with New York, and plans to go back there later. Follow @vuokko on Twitter.
Charlotta Liukas – Startup Life 2/2012, Simpa Networks
As a part of the Startup Life global expansion in 2012, Charlotta Liukas, an Aaltoes alumna, took a chance and joined a Bangalore, India based startup Simpa Networks, a for-profit social enterprise that offers pay-as-you-go financing for solar home systems. At Simpa, she created marketing materials and instructions for different user groups. She has a B.Sc. in international business from Aalto University School of Business, and she completed her CEMS Masters in international business in 2012. Charlotta has been one of the main organizers of Slush conference since 2011 and a prominent figure of Helsinki startup scene through the boom years. She also curated Helsinki Startup Digest in 2011-2012. Currently, she is working on Slush 2013 conference and a family planning project in developing countries for Finnish social enterprise M4ID. Follow @charlottaliukas on Twitter.
Lauri Hynynen – Startup Life 2/2012, Wooga
Serial entrepreneur, a startup handyman Lauri had entrepreneurship flooding in his veins. Studying both marketing at Aalto University School of Business and computer science at University of Helsinki, he had found time to serve in Aaltoes team and board 2010 and found two companies already, Experq (acquired) and Tuubio (shut down) prior to joining the Berlin-based social gaming company Wooga as our first Startup Life intern in the Central European startup capital. At Wooga, Lauri worked on business intelligence and database integrations. After returning to Finland in September 2012, he set up the startup-investor matchmaking at Slush 2012 prior to moving to San Francisco in Spring 2013, where he joined Backlift – a startup building a backend-as-a-service tool for front-end developers – as their 1st employee. Currently, Lauri lives in San Francisco and works full-time at Backlift. Follow @laurihy on Twitter.
Tushar Malhotra – Startup Life 2/2012, Readmill
Tushar had a great deal of software developing experience from working on several Microsoft projects while and after studying for a B.Sc. in India. He came to Aalto University to study at the multidisciplinary International Design Business Management program, and continued working as a software developer. He applied to the Berlin startup Readmill, building a social and shareable reading platform. There he worked on Read Rover – a tool which helps you to explore the Readmill”s reading landscape – discover books and fellow readers, and DotNet library for Readmill. After the summer in Berlin, Tushar came back to Aalto to finish his studies and attending Aalto-Stanford product development course ME310. Follow @totobogy on Twitter.
Nils Paajanen – Startup Life 1/2013, YourMechanic
Nils made an exit from Aaltoes with style: after the year as a president of the student organization, he joined YourMechanic, the Mountain View-based marketplace for car repairs startup – a winner of TC Disrupt SF ’12 – as their first junior business employee. Nils had an amazing track record of making big projects happen: Aaltoes Fair, Day For Failure and Founders’ Week, in addition to a BA degree in Economics from London University and entrepreneurship studies at Aalto University School of Business. At YourMechanic, Nils is working on their business development and partnerships. He lives in San Francisco. Follow @_nippe on Twitter.
Sarun Pinuarat – Startup Life 1/2013, Breezy
Sarun flew to Helsinki from Thailand, where he had graduated with a BA in graphic design from Chulalongkorn University, to study at Aalto University School of Art and Design. He soon became interested in UX design, and having co-founded design agency Fuum! Studio already in Thailand, jumping for a lead designer role in a tech startup in Oakland, CA, was an intriguing option for this super-talented designer. The company of his choice, Breezy, is developing hassle-free cloud printing solutions. After joining as an intern, he soon was promoted and he stayed full-time as a lead designer, somewhat different experience than working for a design agency. He graduated from Aalto in June 2013. Currently, Sarun is working for Breezy and commuting there every day from his home in San Francisco. Follow @pinyarat_s on Twitter.
Aino Hanttu – Startup Life 1/2013, BetterDoctor
A service designer with MA major studies in Industrial Design and in the multidisciplinary International Design Business Management program at Aalto University School of Art and Design, Aino was the kind of designer any startup would desire. She applied to Startup Life and was hired by BetterDoctor, the San Francisco based company building a service to find the best doctors for you. She had been working already for the design agency Fjord, but fell in love with the startups. Currently, she lives in San Francisco and works for BetterDoctor for full-time. Follow @ainohanttu on Twitter.
Viacheslav “Slava” Panasenko – Startup Life 1/2013, Breezy
Recently graduated from University of Jyväskylä with a M.Sc. in computer science, this originally Ukrainian Kharkiv University CS graduate and experienced mobile developer decided to jump aboard on Breezy, cloud-based printing solution startup, located in Oakland. Previously, he had also worked as mobile developer at Gapps, the first Google apps provider founded by Aaltoes/Startup Life alumni Jori Lallo, Linda Liukas and Perttu Ojansuu. At Breezy, Slava has been responsible of their mobile development, focusing on Android. Currently, Slava works full-time at Breezy. He lives in Piedmont, CA. Follow @usver on Twitter.
Antonio Macías Ojeda – Startup Life 1/2013, Kanjoya
Antonio has studied his B.Sc. in computer science in Canary Islands, and had come to via Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and Concordia University, Montreal. While at Aalto, he met Tele Hao and decided to apply to Startup Life. He joined Kanjoya, a company building an emotion and experience sharing tools and analytics. Antonio works on emotion analysis platform Crane, mainly focusing on NLP algorithms and data analysis. Currently, Antonio works at Kanjoya full-time. He lives in San Francisco. Follow @AMaciasOjeda on Twitter.
Panu Keski-Pukkila – Startup Life 1/2013, Kollabora
Panu had spent somewhat few of his winters skiing in Switzerland, while completing his bachelor”s and master’s degrees at Aalto University School of Business. In addition to his affinity to powder snow, he’s been keen on starting companies: first Saekki custom skateboards and, after winning the Aaltoes Build it hackathon in Fall 2012, the company Caktus, aiming to change hydration habits through a solution consisting of a sensor band and a companion mobile application working as a hydration coach. Along came Startup Life, which took Panu over to New York to intern at Kollabora, a social platform company for DIY communities. Panu worked in all aspects on the business, but after 5 months, he left Kollabora to focus more on Caktus. Caktus had got an excited reception at Slush 2012, so the idea was cultivated through the Spring 2013 and Panu was busy presenting the idea within NYC tight-knit startup community. In June, the rest of the Caktus team flew over to Big Apple and Caktus was incorporated in the U.S. Currently, Panu lives in New York City, and works on New Jersey side of Hudson river, where Caktus is a part of TechLaunch accelerator program, since May 2013. Follow @panukp and @SmartHydration on Twitter!
The program itself has grown – after Kristo & Linda first under the management of Lauri Lehtovuori and soon after him, under mine. This was the first post of a series of three posts about the results of Startup Life program up to this date. It doesn”t include the most recent batch – 2/2013 – interns who have just begun their journey. The next post will be more of analysis of the results, a sort of deep-dive into the data. In the last post, I”m going to reflect these results as my term as Startup Life program manager is coming to the end. Stay tuned!