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Making startup entrepreneurship more accessible – why you should care

At Slush 2019, we co-launched Starting Up, a free and open-for-all online course on the fundamentals of startup entrepreneurship – but why?

Niklas Hellström

January 24, 2020

In spring 2019, a certain topic constantly came up among the Kiuas team. Despite the increasing awareness and interest towards entrepreneurship, for the majority of young professionals and students, actually becoming an entrepreneur seemed like a distant thing. This might sound contradictory considering the current startup boom, so let me explain more.

Our Kiuas team, consisting of students, interacts closely with hundreds of early-stage entrepreneurs every year. Thereby, we claim to have a pretty good hunch about what’s happening in the Finnish startup ecosystem at the grass-root level.

What we have noticed is that practical know-how, e.g. how one can benefit from entrepreneurial thinking and develop an early-stage idea, or what startup entrepreneurship actually is, isn’t accessible for everyone. There are many great resources and supportive organizations, but the majority of people don’t know how to access them.

The public image of startup entrepreneurship might be misleading as public stories often highlight the largest funding rounds, famous tech leaders painting the future, and festival-like tech gatherings. Thus, startups can seem to be only about hype and buzz – or how people call it in Finland, “pöhinää”. This is far from what everyday entrepreneurship actually is.

Not finding practical knowledge combined with the misleading public image can result in many people not finding startup entrepreneurship relevant for them or finding it hard to enter the startup world, despite the initial interest. As we started to discuss the phenomenon with others it turned out that this is not only in Finland or only among young people, but can be noticed in other countries and communities also.

We could almost argue that there seems to be a rather distinct division into “startup people” and “others”. We don’t mean new people don’t enter the startup ecosystem, but it’s often similar people with similar backgrounds who end up there.

We believe startup entrepreneurship could have much to offer for many more people.


Startups can have a great impact on the future, both for the individuals involved and society. Everyone should have access to shape their future in the way they want. It is a huge injustice if only a minority of people can affect their future through growth companies.

We see entrepreneurship as one of the best ways to solve significant problems. Different people have different problems. Thus, we should have people with various backgrounds solving problems. Otherwise, future technology companies might be solving problems only from certain angles. Actually, we have seen that some of the most exciting new companies are built by people with surprising backgrounds.

The working life is changing and will continue to change. Entrepreneurial know-how is essential not only for future founders but for everyone. According to F-Secure Founder & Nokia Chairman Risto Siilasmaa: “Having an entrepreneurial mindset and skills will be even more important in the future. I believe that in the future people will work more independently, for example as freelancers, but also that the structures of bigger organizations will be more flexible and people will have to take greater responsibility in order to succeed.” (From his Starting Up course interview).

For us, startup entrepreneurship is a tool to scale new and better solutions rapidly and globally. Thus, there shouldn’t be “the startup people” and “the others” – instead, everyone should have access to this tool called startup entrepreneurship.

Starting Up – making practical knowledge available for all

We aim to achieve the following:

1) More people with various backgrounds see startup entrepreneurship as a relevant option.
2) Startup entrepreneurship is more accessible for everyone.

The Kiuas programs are based on experienced startup entrepreneurs, operators, and investors giving practical advice for new entrepreneurs. We believe the best advice comes from people who have been there and done that. However, we can only support a selected group of entrepreneurs – roughly 50 companies a year.

The idea behind Starting Up was to create a scalable way of distributing the learnings of successful entrepreneurs and making the content super practical and easily approachable for everyone.

The course covers the fundamentals of startup entrepreneurship: working as an entrepreneur, idea validation, product development, market-entry, team building, company formation, early-stage financing and how startups impact our world. Each topic includes real-life examples from successful entrepreneurs interviewed for the course. Doing the interviews, we learned plenty from founders of companies like Wolt, Supercell, Relex, Kahoot and others. In all of these success stories, a lot has happened behind the scenes, thus it feels great to make those learnings available for everyone.

Anyone can complete the online course anywhere, at any time. The course is completely text-based and created with a mobile-first design, so it’s super easy to study e.g. while commuting.

Starting Up is for anyone interested to start their own business, kickstart a venture inside an organization, or to simply understand and discuss the topic. If you are interested, sign up here. And, please share it with someone unexpected – you never know where the greatest potential lies.

For creating Starting Up, we were privileged to be joined by Reaktor Education, the creator of Elements of AI, Maki.vc, a new top-tier venture capital fund and Aalto University and their Aalto Ventures Program. We couldn’t have created Starting Up without you, so a huge thank you.

Niklas Hellström

January 24, 2020

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