Yesterday Kristoffer Lawson of Holvi and Mike Bradshaw of Startup Sauna ended their "Burning Platform" tour of the Finnish cities that either have or once had Nokia offices. Nestled in a parking space between the highway and the Nokia Offices was the Travelling Salesman's Land Rover and portable sauna, proudly named the burning platform.
The goal of the trip was to preach the gospel of entrepreneurship and meet ex-Nokians who have dreams of building their own companies. My goal of being there was to hopefully see the cops show up (or at least the fire department), or maybe to see Nokia CEO Stephen Elop shake an angry fist out the window. Either would be a compelling story. The Kick Network guys are clearly more proactive journalists than I am, as they suggested calling the cops themselves.
But in hindsight, luckily that didn't happen. A good group of more than 25 people gathered outside the Sauna to network and talk about their experiences with Nokia. The Travelling salesmen each gave a talk about how to get involved with the entrepreneurship scene, how to pitch your companies, and how to get access to capital.
"The thinking was to go out there to meet people, and actually get a picture of what's really happening," said Lawson. "We look at Nokia's downfall as an opportunity."
After the presentations came the startup idea pitches. For many, this was the first time pitching their idea to an audience, which was exactly what the Travelling Salesmen were trying to accomplish. I/O Ventures' Paul Bragiel (Currently based in Tallinn with the Gamefounders Accelerator) was in attendance, so it was great opportunity for many of these first-time entrepreneurs to get meaningful feedback.
The week-long trip across Finland had its fair share of ups and downs, as chronicled on their blog. They were plagued by a shoestring budget, poor weather, mixed turnouts, and a week of towing a two-ton sauna around. But as the group started piling into the hot sauna right outside the Nokia Headquarters it became obvious that Lawson and Bradshaw are doing god's work for Finland. There's an amazing amount of disenfranchised talent stored away in every corner of Finland, but someone needs to be there to make first contact.
Even though their roadshow is over, I'm sure Lawson or Bradshaw would still be happy to talk to any ex-Nokians (or anyone with an idea). Their contact details can be found on their website.