Excitement was in the air last Thursday, when the first ever Circulator pre-incubator programme held its final, an exhbition-style event, at the Helsinki Think Company's Viikki space. The evening was filled with delicious food, inspiring words, and a roomful of like-minded, motivated people excited to show what they had been working on for the past two months.
Programme lead Santeri Tuovila began the showcase by thanking everyone involved, particularly the participants themselves, who had demonstrated great spirit over the intensive two month programme. Followed by this, the head of Viikki Innovation Platform Harriet Gullstén gave a presentation on the ways in which the University of Helsinki can provide future support for the programme participants if they wish to continue their entrepreneurial journeys. Gullstén made an apt analogy with Olympic medalists: just like them, our University students and researchers need support and coaching to succeed.
Then it was time to see what the participants had been up to. Five teams had jumped at the opportunity to pitch their end products in front of a crowd. There was CapsLook, who introduced a platform solution for facilitating the buying and maintaining of a sustainable wardrobe, and Crowd for Impact, whose service makes sustainable employee rewarding and purchasing sustainability services from impact enterprises easier for companies. Kiklos presented the idea of an all-encompassing, easy to use subscription service for all the childcare products a parent needs, while Bhagyashri Khot, with a yet unnamed solution, campaigned for a single-point decision system for biodiversity restoration. Finally, RD Physics presented their Circular Sound loudspeakers, which use 3D printing to renew the usability of old loudspeakers, cutting the excessive use of natural resources. The pitches were, nevertheless, only the beginning.
After the pitches, the other teams present took to the floor to showcase their solutions at stands afterwards. During the exhibition part of the event, attendees and participants were able to mingle and meet many people operating in the field of circular economy, even potential partners and investors.
We got a chance to grab Santeri Tuovila by the sleeve and interview him about his experience leading the project. The programme being the first of its kind, Tuovila wasn't able to say what to expect now that it has ended. “What I do know is that this has been an amazing way to bring ‘ecosystem people’ together” Tuovila states, referring to the many networking possibilities participants were presented with over the course of the two months. For example, one intriguing collaboration was made with the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, whose sustainability practices the participants of Circulator got the chance to hear about. Tuovila says that he is very proud of all the teams. For him, the best thing was to witness the participants take initiative by researching and contacting people independently.
Tuovila’s sentiments were echoed by the participants themselves: Muruuu Oy’s Saana Siivola, for example, who makes baby products with purity and sustainability in mind, says that the best part of the programme was all the new knowledge she received and the connections she made. Another participant, Circular Sound’s Kim-Niklas Antin, laughs and says that the best thing was that there was a community to be accountable to—a common schedule to follow and “homework” to do. He also agrees that peer support had a big role in his experience in the programme.
Walking around the exhibition space it became clear that the programme worked wonders! A great number of teams had come up with ideas that could easily be further developed into workable entrepreneurial solutions. What the final showcase definitely showed is that great things can be achieved when enthusiastic and curious minds come together.