What we learned about startup life two weeks ago

Text by Elisa Kitunen
Photos by Saara Pörsti

Startuplifers held the cheerful info event about the upcoming batch and career opportunities that startups behold. If you missed it, check out the key points!
At Startup Sauna, you can feel the spirit and excitement of new ideas from talented people reaching the ceiling. Handful of this group hopped on the stage to share their experiences.
 

From the left: Sakari, Severi, Jaakko and Lisa
 
Startuplifers alumni Jaakko Hynynen, Sakari Pesola, Lisa Dai and Severi Haverila shared their tips with the other open-minded students interested in the program:
1) Apply right away!
Don’t do like Sakari and Severi and drink 3 bottles of champagne before writing the application at the final night. Do it now! “You don’t need to have 5 years of relevant work experience; just show that you’re thirsty to learn more”, Jaakko emphasizes. The team further reminded people about the fast pace at the startups’ end – they are curious to hear from the Finnish talents already now. That been said, the applicant might end up on an introduction list already within a few days from applying.

2) Prepare yourself for remote job interviews!
Interviews differ by the company, some of them are more challenging than others. But the advice from the group is clear: Be prepared to everything! While Lisa was interviewed four times, Sakari got the job based on one discussion: “We talked for an hour and he said he trusts me”. In tech context, companies are straightforward and tell what technologies they use and require you to pass the coding test. Employers want to know your knowledge base related to the current topics in the field. Express your own clear opinions: as a designer, they may want to know if you prefer Sketch or Photoshop.
3) Explore the environment!
All the four alumni spent their startup internship in San Francisco – and they praise the city and its surroundings! Despite the fact that it’s known as the most expensive city in the world their free time was well spent with low costs. Just to a mention few, surfing, climbing and travelling opportunities are incredible. One of the guys spent the best Christmas so far in a local Asian nudist spa.
4) Put it on your CV!
Alumni rejoice the fact that their LinkedIn inbox got full pretty soon after the internship. “Working abroad itself tells a lot about you and your openness to challenges”, says Jaakko.
5) Re-estimate yourself!
“I really understood how valuable I am. I’m actually great,” Jaakko continues. The internship can be described as a confidence boost. There is strong evidence among alumni that it helps to get a dream job in Finland and deepens the interest in entrepreneurship.  
 

The first keynote speaker of the night, Henrietta Kekäläinen, comes straight from San Francisco. She’s running her second startup, Carbo Culture, that produces high-value biocarbon products from waste using walnut shells, now piloting in California. She calls it vision-driven company.

“Action to result’ is the aspect I personally admire in startup life”, she highlights.

The main advice from Henrietta’s insightful speech was: Don’t think, just do it! No alumnus can verbally describe well enough about the nature of startup experience.
Here’s some more insights from Henrietta’s speech:
1) Pay attention to the stage of a startup
At first, when the startup doesn’t know what to accomplish, it’s all about ‘trial and error’. That’s why Henrietta advise everybody to look at the stage of the startup when applying. If the company is in its early stage and direction isn’t clear yet there is a higher possibility that your job description will be rearranged and colleagues change. On the other hand, it can let you see the whole intriguing path from slight idea to significant innovation.
2) Prepare for highs and lows
Working at a startup is full of opposites. You’re able to feel the whole scale of emotions in one day – in Henrietta’s words: “It’s super fun and it’s super frustrating”. Obviously, no innovative thing can be done without pain. Hence, the reality can be a combination of dirty office, continuous lack of sleep, and painful layoffs.

Conclusion: If you are looking for a stable situation, don’t bother! If you’re looking for an adventure, don’t wait!

3) Build the professional you
While normal company has 5 levels of hierarchy, startup could have zero. “If a startup has less than 20 employees you can be sure you’ll get to do everything and you need to be involved in everything.” Henrietta emphasizes. The freedom and responsibility to plan your next week every Monday morning is a one big concretization of it. In a fast-growing company, people openly challenge each other. That means your skillset will widely expand.

“I don’t know what else I want to do in my life so badly” Henrietta reveals. Even though startup life has meant eating tuna and noodles six months in a row and giving up relationships, it’s worth it.

 

Kalle Freese, second keynote, and the most impressive speaker according to the audience, has very concrete and personal experience from Silicon Valley.
Kalle is two-time Finnish Barista Champion and was ranked as the 9th best barista in the world in 2015. Serving coffee for 100 people a day wasn’t enough for Kalle. He traveled to Silicon Valley, attended the world-famous accelerator program, Y Combinator, and developed the instant coffee brand Sudden Coffee with his co-founder. Read more: https://www.suddencoffee.com/
Kalle has dived deep into startup hype in Silicon Valley. Thus, we all wanted to hear what makes Californian startup people so unique. “Those are normal people who just work hard”, he simply argues.
We heard a lot about San Francisco during the event.

“The density of really smart people is huge out there!” Kalle says. “Because of that, competition among job seekers is insane”, he adds. That’s why Startuplifers exists, answers the team.

But Kalle reminds us that SF doesn’t have to be THE place. The startup scene is expanding: Tokyo, Seattle, New York, etc. are taking place. We in Startuplifers want to emphasize that you should learn how to work in a startup – possibly to get keys to having your own. It can happen anywhere.

One more prop for SF from Kalle: “There are so many Finns it almost feels like living in Canary Islands. You can work with Finns, have a beer with them and build a proper network.”
 


Staruplifers’ mission is to send the most potential students from Finland to the world.

“The quality that companies get from us is the same than from Stanford”, Mirva, one of the Program Coordinators, says to all the students. As the focal points of the global market are strongly shifting towards Asia, Tokyo and Shanghai as the new destinations were launched this spring.

Startuplifers introduces you to the company that matches your needs in order to make your experience as educational and memorable as possible. They help you with the practical arrangements by organizing the flights and visa and supporting with the applications, interviews and, overall, make the whole immigration process as smooth as possible.

 

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