Aalto ENT’s Corporate Startup changed the way we work. We achieved amazing internal strides.

Helsinki Business Hub is the regional development agency for the Greater Helsinki area. Our goal is to boost growth in the region by stimulating emerging business ecosystems and accelerating existing ones - the aim being to create jobs and thus prosperity and well being in Finland. We focus on supporting forward-looking companies and investors, local or foreign, already here or considering joining the community.

“Our original job was to find foreign companies and sell them the existing business ecosystem. At the beginning of this year, our organization’s mandate was extended to include development activities. We saw it as a huge opportunity. In essence, it enabled us to not only sell the product but also work on improving it,” says Deputy CEO of Helsinki Business Hub, Micah Gland.

“We were hungry for the change. In our line of business, the game is tough and it’s global, with countries and cities around the world competing for talent and investments. We have to stay one step ahead of the game to survive.”
Gland explains that Helsinki Business Hub wanted a change management program that would help them live up to their new mandate and simultaneously empower and teach them how to become more like their customers:

“We wanted to follow the same kind of rhythm as our clients do; think like them. We prided ourselves in being an agile and quick organization to begin with, but we wanted new tools, data and practice to make us more entrepreneurial. We needed the mind-set of a startup to achieve this change.”

“When we scored the bids, Aalto ENT cleaned up. They were simply that much better than anybody else. All the other consultants were giving us run of the mill – Aalto was different. It involved many of our stakeholders in the training as coaches and mentors: our owners, partners, and private sector organisations. They gave us immediate feedback and priceless advice.

“The experience was tough, which was exactly what we asked for! It was like a compact startup MBA in three short months,” Gland admits. “Aalto’s Corporate Startup changed the way we work. We achieved amazing internal strides. Aalto divided us into teams; my personal team was called Growth Capital. We made incredible progress in our thinking together throughout the program. Already during the training I started noticing how the program helped me deal with my customers. I was speaking the same language as them.”

Aalto ENT’s Corporate Startup training is organized in modules. Gland describes one module in particular as a key learning experience: “The Lean Launch Pad was not merely relevant to our work. It actually was our work. Business model innovation is at the core of everything we do: we actively help develop the local ecosystem and draw in the right kind of investments; ultimately creating virtuous circles,” Gland underlines.

“Before Aalto’s program, we did really good planning. We had great ideas, got the right stakeholders together, made sure everything was approved by decision makers, set a steering group, and so on. It’s not a bad approach, in fact it works extremely well if you are dealing with something you know. But when you are trying to do something disruptive and innovative and different–where you don’t have all the information and you have no idea what will happen 6 months down the line–you have to approach things in a completely different way.  Now we have the tools to do that as well,” Gland explains. 

“We have identified a number of new projects that we are looking at from a startup perspective. Of course some will die, just like many startups do – but some won’t. In these projects we don’t plan, we don’t ask permission, and we don’t over think. We put together a really quick concept and we go out and test it. Once we know something works we may come back and then ask permission.”

Gland is excited about the future. “Our success is measured on the amount of jobs we help create. The payback calculation on our expenses is easy. I am confident the payback for Aalto ENT’s Corporate Startup will be impressive. We left our comfort zone far behind and achieved radical, disruptive change.”

Corporate Startup