Over the past few months our team has had an opportunity to oversee the accelerator scene, both here in Finland and abroad. From this we discovered a common theme, majority of these accelerators spend large amounts of time getting teams prepared to talk to investors, much more so, than getting the teams to approach customers.
Having decided to start a brand new program, we naturally needed a name, and looking through the ancient Finnish myths the perfect word suggested itself - Sampo.
For those that don't know, the Sampo is a device that produces wealth, and is produced by a blacksmith, the original technical entrepreneur.
As Chris Haley, Partner at 01Ventures told us recently, "So many programmes do an excellent job of training startups to pitch to investors but nothing speaks louder than customer traction. Sampo's focus on building customer relationships, especially for tech-dominated startup teams, is a much-needed angle not just for the region but for start-ups in general."
We have decided to focus on helping technical founders build great companies. This decision was made partially due to our head coach Mike's experience running both the AppCademy Mobile App accelerator program, along with his 8 years of coaching Startup Sauna's teams to pitch. This experience has given him a singular insight into what technical founding teams need to do to take their companies to the next stage of their journey.
We are targeting first or second time co-founders with a science/ engineering or design background as this is the sort of person who we can help the most through our experienced coach pool. As we began to recruit our pool of coaches, one of the first to sign up was Richard von Kaufmann, who as a entrepreneur and founder of Pricetap said "For service-based businesses, there is no substitute for talking, talking, talking and more talking with potential customers and users. This is the only way you can learn if your initial idea is viable, or how to adapt it. In addition, you will soon learn if you have founder-product fit. Selling an idea face-to-face, again and again and again will become soul destroying if you don’t truly madly deeply love your idea and enjoy the company of the people you will be serving.”
From prior experience we have learned that it is easier to communicate with potential customers if the team has a working prototype. The short focused program is of most value to companies when they are nearing launch, however pre- or post-launch are acceptable as well.
Sampo Accelerator has a zero equity model, i.e. we take nothing from the companies who are accepted into the program, once they grow into successful companies we ask they give back to the next generation of entrepreneurs through an alumni support model.
In summary, Sampo Accelerator is looking for companies that have a demo-able product, that was built by tech or design founded team.
We select companies for our program based on the team, not a specific technology, industry or business model.
As Kristoffer Lawson add’s, "With the loss of Startup Sauna, there is a huge hole in the ecosystem of Northern Europe. A hole for an accelerator that focuses on creating real businesses, not just investor funded ones, and one that aims to maintain Finland’s position as a hub for major innovations."