Helping a high growth digital business can be both immensely challenging and rewarding. One of the areas that I really enjoy is helping young businesses at the really early stages – it’s more of a labour of love – and it’s shared by many others in my local community where pro bono activity or putting something back to the community is a natural and rewarding activity, and actually can be fun!

On the 8th May I had the pleasure of being one of three judges at PitchMeUp’s Annual Pitching Competition held by the Joensuu Entrepreneurship Society at the Joensuu Science Park in Finland.

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The Jury; Rob Connell, Kim Väisänen and Timo Saranpää. Photos property of Joensuu Science Park

The Joensuu Entrepreneurship Societies (JoensuuES) aim is to bring entrepreneurial people of different backgrounds together, with a vision to ‘encourage start-up entrepreneurship, internationalisation, growth and out-of-the-box thinking’ through organised events and informal gatherings focussing on networking, collaborative learning and development. They are an international and multidisciplinary community with fields ranging from science and engineering to business and arts. Currently, there are more than 50 creative people and 20 start-ups representing more than 15 nationalities involved in the community activities.

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Joensuu Science Park’s Network Oasis proved to be a great venue. Photos property of Joensuu Science Park

On the day there was also a ceremony for the winners of Start Me Up! The first prize of 15,000 Euros being awarded to ‘CareCare’, the Green Growth award of 3,000 Euros went to PKP Flex Ltd, and the Best Idea Award of 2,000 Euros going to Anti Vikman an entrepreneurial software developer who I have the pleasure of working with from time to time on other high growth digital business ventures.

As the guest of JoensuuES and Joensuu Science Park I was glad to be able to support budding entrepreneurs and early stage companies in my local community. I started the day tired from a busy schedule, but by the end of the day the infectious energy from both the young and not so young attending really rubbed off.

I was honored to be in the company of a former client Kim Väisänen; who as the Managing Director of Blancco has just successfully exited, having sold the company for €60m to UK based Regenersis PLC (who subsequently saw their share price rise). I was also joined by Timo Saranpää, a serial entrepreneur and Chairman of The Finnish Association of Business School Graduates.

16 pitches were given on the day, with the first prize for PitchMeUp of 1,000 Euros going to Modti for their 3D programmable surfaces venture. I now hope to see many of those who pitched become the next high growth digital businesses and to achieve their own successful exits.

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The winning pitch by Shane Allen from Modti Photos property of Joensuu Science Park

In time old Finnish tradition the well organised formalities were followed by an evening of networking over drinks and visits to the sauna! Yours truly enjoyed some good local food catered by local startups and a single glass of excellent local sparkling berry wine…departing before the sauna was ready. Perhaps this stuffy English businessman is not yet fully acclimatised for that much fun!

Sophie Fraser