March 2014 TANZICT organized another TaFinn trip to Finland. The focus was on organizations either already running processes in supporting entrepreneurship, or seriously planning on starting them. The participants were selected based on an open call. Our group held 8 participants from Universities and tech hubs. Group was split in two as another part visited Tampere for the first two days of the week, while some of the participants were in Jyväskylä until Wednesday.
Instead of writing long trip reports and documents, we asked our participants to answer few short questions to reflect on their journey to Finland. Below you can read some of their comments and experience how was the trip to Finland.
We have added links to some of the names and places, so do click on them and see where the group went.
1. What went well?
“The best theme I can say is the Tiimiakatemia (Team Academy) way of learning. My favorite story I can tell about the week is about the life of entrepreneurs in the school (center). Entrepreneurs there live like a single family; from penguin (first year students) stage to finalists they help each other in making sure that each team company succeeds in their project.”
“The interesting thing about Proakatemia was the all operation process of the project, the complexity and how they have turn it, to their own advantage. The fact that students could supervise themselves and work on real businesses instead of traditional education system was another interesting thing to ear and learn.”
“Most inspiring as an incubator: ProAcademy’s team entrepreneurship model”
“I enjoyed the three days at Tiimiakatemia – so inspiring! The way we were taken through the program, the level of organization, the content, the matching of words with action.”
“The most interesting place we visit was Startup Sauna, the people were amazing, young and energetic. The fact that the place is globally known and is just runned by bunch of students was something very interesting to hear.”
“The story I would like to tell others: Learning by doing is possible, contrary to what Universities and colleges have made us to believe. There should not be a disconnection between academic life and real life.”
“Most inspiring in what we envisioned: the spirit and accomplishments of the student-run Startup Sauna.”
2. What went poorly?
“Due to our over-enthusiasm of trying to meet as many contacts as possible beyond the planned program, we missed part of the session at NewCo Factory which we wish we had fully attended. Nevertheless, our meeting that caused us to miss the start of the session was just as important for us and so we have no regrets.”
“Some of the places I did not feel like they were as relevant to me. But of course there are lessons to pick from everywhere.”
3. What did I learn?
“You can build credibility and ability to work with corporate organizations through commitment and delivery. If the community is organized, good planning and structure of the programs, there is ability to solve corporate problems and turn them into opportunities to community members.”
“Supportive ecosystem is must for a successful entrepreneurship programs and the accelerators are not incubators although both of them helps you to grow your business.”
“I think colleges of engineering in Tanzania need product developments lab if we are to promote local innovations and build local products for our internal and external markets.”
“Coaching not teaching.”
“The key learning point from Hub Tampere was that the hub is about people. Having the right kind of people and by proper management people eventually become productive. It was a place where I learnt how to make your hub sustainable using community raised income has the main source of revenue.”
“Triple-Helix knowledge flow relates to the way in which knowledge flows between academia, industry, and governments. The three work closely together to facilitate innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity in business. For instance, it was learned that Universities in collaboration with government (city of Helsinki) establish learning centers which receive industry projects and business problems. In this way, knowledge is flows and gets applied amongst the three entities. This approach is opens-up the academia to both the industry and the public, while allowing knowledge and innovation to smoothly flow between them.”
“The learning by doing experience became more real to me, and I am already applying it, this time with more confidence than before. I know that the context in which I am trying to apply some of the ideas is different, but I will try my best. Students are also very excited, and that gives me more motivation.”
“The space (Aalto Design Factory) is open for anyone; and still people are committed to use the devices effectively and productively. The University and institutions should give support to initiative that directly aim at building students capacity and skills development.”
“Support given by the University is among the reasons of sustainable and productive co-working spaces in Finland”
“Funding is an important issue for successful innovation and startups. It was learned that, although are allowed to generate income from their own sources, obtain initial funding from universities and the public. For instance, the Helsinki Think Company is funded by the University of Helsinki and the City of Helsinki. In this way, the company is able to pay for basic costs (e.g. rent and facilitation). This provides newly companies with adequate resources and time to stabilize and take-off in business.”
“The innovation system in Finland has been exported to international levels. This allows other countries to apply the Finish business models into their local contexts. A typical example include the EICT ICT Business Accelerator which has a network with nodes in other eight European countries”
“It is relevant to establish a business incubator/academy which will allow students as well as other entrepreneurs to obtain an environment where they can practice, learn, and start their companies.”
“Key learning: teamwork entrepreneurship rather than individual efforts for the purpose of learning rather than necessarily establishing companies.”
4. What could be done differently next time?
“We only wish the trip could have been longer to accommodate even more places and/or give room to visit a place for a second time individually rather than in the entire team, to work on any possible collaboration.”
“It would be great to have a free slot to see Finland, do some shopping, or reflect on some of the meetings.”
“I think a background check on all places to visit and their relevance to participants would help a great deal. Also, as was done, sending participants to places that suit them best is a good thing. I know that due to logistical challenges, it’s not always possible to give everyone what they think they need. So, all in all, I think the trip was 9/10 successful.”
5. What will I take to practice?
“Trying to be a coach not a teacher especially in marketing and entrepreneurship courses”
“You have to try to create a self-motivation culture to the community members and coming up with programs that will encourage them to take lead rather than being followers”
“Transferring knowledge from the books into practice; especially helping small business owners through giving advice on the better way of doing their business as part of business incubation.”
“You need clear working structures on different activities and program conducted at the community. Stuffs like clear time limit, entrance criteria, exit plan, deliverables and goals for programs, they are very important.”
“I made my personal mission for the stakeholders who have participated on that trip to work together to build conducive ecosystem for innovation and technology entrepreneurship in Tanzania.”
“One of the things we are putting into practice is moving from simply considering entrepreneurship within our incubator to encouraging team entrepreneurship. We hope to put this into practice immediately and invite experts of the ProAcademy for a visit.”
“We would like to in the long run have the incubator activities integrated within the university curriculum, have students carry out industry tasks using a similar approach to the Demola and Design factory models, and work with Demola and the Design factory.”
“The entrepreneurship ecosystem is another concept I took from Finland. At the University, we are planning to hold an entrepreneurship week and one of the objectives is to contribute towards the creation of an entrepreneurship ecosystem. Some companies and members from the community will participate in this event and one of the things we shall talk about is how do we support each other to make better entrepreneurs.”
“The volunteer spirit saw and willingness to work together. I think this is a spirit I want to promote even more in our community. We need each other, and I saw that in Finland.”
TANZICT of course hopes that there will be concrete outcomes from the trip, and that the participants will be able to implement what they learned from the trip. Some of the universities are currently either starting or discussing collaboration with their Finnish counterparts, and we expect to see interesting things happening both in Iringa and in Dar es Salaam as a result.