Timo Ahopelto, Blyk's Head of Strategy and Business Development and a co-founder and the founding CEO at CRF Health is leaving Blyk to join co-founders of a new Finnish startup accelerator, Lifeline Ventures. Lifeline Ventures is also part of the Vigo initiative (see our previous story on Lifeline Ventures here).
Ahopelto said that he has enjoyed his time at Blyk, being part of the very first team, but that he had been thinking about setting up a startup accelerator already for a while, and when the team heard about Vigo they didn't wait. Blyk moving to its mobile operator partnering model, Ahopelto assures that Blyk is growing fast and the future for the company as youth media looks promising, even though some have their doubts. As an example of the new evolved strategy is Blyk's first deal with Vodafone in the Netherlands, where Vodafone will provide Blyk-branded consumer services to young people under Blyk user experience and ad formats.
Ahopelto revealed more on how Lifeline Ventures itself will be working. He said each of the three founding partners will be managing a total of two startups, even though Vigo let's each partner to take a total of three under their management. This is where Vigo accelerators differ significantly from traditional Venture Capital funds where one partner might easily have 5+ board seats. "We want to become very hands-on co-entrepreneurs with the founding team, and focus on a very selected number of companies", says Ahopelto.
Further, Lifeline Ventures looks for promising startups in life sciences as well as telecommunications sector. Roughly 80% of the investments go to health sector and 20% to telecommunications area - health ranging from biotechs and medical device companies to software. "All our projects have a very strong core - either a scientific or procedural one, based on an innovation or process improvement made while doing a real work, either at a lab or on the field", says Ahopelto. The interesting and rather unusual mix comes directly from the partners’ experience: Ahopelto has experience from CRF Health (software for clinical trial data capture direct from the patient) and Blyk (mobile youth engagement media) whereas Jarkko Joki-Tokola has experience from IHQ Life (medical devices company with a novel device for diabetes self management) and CRF Health. The third team member has still not been revealed, but based on the division of investments it's highly likely that the third team member has a strong telecommunications expertise.
Lifeline Ventures has been busy all summer scanning so far close to 40 startup projects. Out of the 40 they are moving forward with 10 and will eventually choose 2 to 5 to start out with.
Even though Lifeline Ventures has already scanned quite a few startups, they are still far from being done. During September they will still need to choose the startups they will invest in; raise the fund -no small feat in the current economy and get a solid advisory board together.
We will keep a close eye on them as well as the other two Vigo accelerators. For Lifeline Ventures the prospects for success are promising as long as Finland has enough startups to accelerate in the sectors. For one, the life science technology sector is behind the curve compared to the more mainstream web and there are large opportunities for a team that can hit the ground running. "Especially interesting are projects at the cross-roads of medtech, telecoms and media", says Ahopelto.