Incubator Blogs: “You Don’t Need to Follow a Cookie-Cutter Kind of Journey” — Compass Experiences, Part I

Annika Lundström and Caterina Mandalios applied to the University of Helsinki’s Compass pre-incubator with an open mind, despite only having a rough idea of what they wanted to start working on. Now, they have a clearer idea of where they’re headed.

With several new batches of our pre-incubators kicking off this autumn, it is time to hear more alumni stories! First up, we had the absolute joy of meeting Molecular Biosciences master's students Annika Lundström and Caterina Mandalios in the sunny Kaisaniemi Botanical Gardens. Lundström and Mandalios participated in last spring’s deep tech, AI, and sustainability pre-incubator programme Compass with their solution ReMinded, a research-based company in the process of developing a health tech device that helps users to optimise their mental performance in everyday situations, in real-time.

Lundström and Mandalios were urged to apply to Compass by the health and pharma incubator SPARK Finland. With an idea that was still very much in its early stages, Compass felt like the way to go: “We didn’t really know what kind of path we were supposed to take when it comes to developing an idea into something tangible. I think joining Compass was a really good way to get us on the right course,” CEO Lundström says. Coming into Compass, Lundström and Mandalios had only a very preliminary concept of what they wanted to start working on. “Our starting point was to offer a solution to mental health issues through an application heavily backed by research regarding neuroplasticity. From there, our idea evolved into taking a more comprehensive view of wellbeing, and we started developing a physical HealthTech device that measures biometric data, combined with an integrated app,” COO Mandalios explains. “We differ from other health tech providers by not only relying on heart rate measurements to provide insights about well-being. Instead, we integrate biosensors that also detect hormonal and respiratory data. Implementing a psychological aspect into the user interface is also something that we are putting great emphasis on, since there is only so much that health metrics can tell in terms of your mental state,” Lundström adds.

ReMinded aims to make health tracking more accessible and to bridge the knowledge gap that people have about their bodies and minds: “Our intention is not to become just another health tracker in the expanding field of HealthTech. Rather, we want to spread awareness about the body and mind being closely interconnected and that even the more ‘negative’ internal events are part of everyone's lives every now and then—we simply need to detect them in order to prevent them from developing into more serious conditions,” Lundström says.

“The only thing that matters is that you’re willing to put in the work and show that you have a vision that you want to pursue”

Compass helped Lundström and Mandalios grasp all the things that entrepreneurship truly means: “I got a much better idea that, OK, a lot of work is required when you're starting something from scratch,” Lundström describes. Mandalios agrees and adds: “The programme gave me an idea of how things work. We got a lot of opportunities to network with people from different industries. Besides that, all the expert advice we got was very helpful, for example regarding contracts, agreements, and legal matters.”

Initially, Lundström and Mandalios were slightly intimidated by the fact that they were one of the youngest participating teams: “There were a lot of teams who had more experience and were further along with their projects, with great ideas. But I think we overcame that insecurity quite fast,” Mandalios says. “At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you’re willing to put in the work and show that you have a vision that you want to pursue. Things like your age or your gender or the amount of experience you have shouldn't stop you from pursuing your dreams,” Lundström remarks.

ReMinded was given an honorary mention in the programme’s final in March 2023. “I think that definitely was our biggest accomplishment,” says Manadalios. “Given that our idea wasn’t that developed yet, it was nice to get that recognition. We got the proof that we had something real and something that people were interested in,” Lundström continues. “That was a great boost for us, and it certainly motivated us to move forward.”

Another thing that encouraged the duo was the support of the Compass community. “It was great to get to showcase our vision in a safe environment like that, with other people in the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys. For me, the best thing about Compass was to connect with people who passionately work on their dreams and visions,” Lundström says, and continues: “I’ve always had a narrow idea of my future. For a long time, I was sure academia was the only path for me. But seeing the world of other possible options and getting inspired by other people's projects made all the difference.”

“If you see yourself doing something in ten years, why wait until then?”

Lundström and Mandalios haven’t pressed on any brakes since the end of Compass. Soon after, they got accepted to Tech Nordic Advocates, the leading tech and start-up community in Northern Europe, on top of which they’ve worked on growing their social media community. Over the summer, Lundström and Mandalios have also been conducting their first research trial due to be finished soon, as well as developing a prototype of their device. “We have a couple of signposts that we’re aiming for right now. After recently being registered as a limited liability company in Finland, we’ll be expanding our team soon. We’re also finalising a couple of international partnerships that’ll be crucial for the technical development of our hardware as well as in accelerating the overall growth of our business. We'll see how everything goes!” Lundström says with a smile.

What advice would the team give to anyone starting out in entrepreneurship? “I think that having passion towards your project is the key to succeeding. And you need to be able to evolve and change up your idea according to what is needed”, says Mandalios. “If you have a vision and want to pursue it, you must be willing to make sacrifices for noteworthy results. You don't have to be the smartest or the strongest one out there, but you need to have the right kind of work ethic,” Lundström, in turn, says. “My personal motto is ‘Give it your all and see what happens—you either succeed or you learn something. But if you don't, you’ll never know what could’ve been’.”

Lundström and Mandalios are hard believers in fearlessly setting out to realise one’s dreams, even if it’s uncommon at a certain age: “If you see yourself doing something in ten years, why wait until then? Starting your journey now in an incubator programme here at the University is a great gateway to get into that whole world of exciting new things you probably wouldn’t get to experience otherwise,” Lundström says. “You don’t need to follow a cookie-cutter kind of journey, in which you wait until you’re 36 with three PhDs—if you have a good idea and it's being received well by other people, then there's nothing that should stop you from getting out there now!”

Apply Now

Applications are open to the third round of the Compass pre-incubator. Read more about the programme here and apply by 27 September!

Apply Now

Applications are open to the third round of the Compass pre-incubator. Read more about the programme here and apply by 27 September!