Startups Stemming from the Aalto MBA

The Aalto MBA is known for advancing careers – a lesser known fact is that it creates promising startups. Kaisa Savola, Erdal Kilinc and Aku Wilenius share their stories.

Joanna Sinclair, 20.05.2019

“A lightbulb went on in my head during Kristiina Mäkelä’s Strategic HR module. The idea for my company was born,” Kaisa Savola describes.

Prior to starting her MBA, Savola had over 15 years of corporate experience, working for example with SAP, sales, distribution, and logistics. Talent management had always intrigued her, and at that pivotal moment she knew that she could be a game changer in the field.

“I suddenly saw the answer to a question I had thought about for a long time: how to fix what is broken in the process of personal development. I realized that this is my thing, this makes me tick,” Savola affirms.

As a result, she founded Talbit. It is a cloud-based service designed to capture and visualize employee development plans and goals: growing employee talent bit by bit. Talbit connects supervisors and employees in a new way, providing organizations a user-friendly platform that helps create a more open, inspiring, engaging, and goal oriented working culture.

A lightbulb went on in my head during the Strategic HR module. The idea for my company was born."

Talbit was launched in November 2018 with a number of Savola’s MBA peers as corporate advisors. The company already has users in the US, UK, and Finland, and is receiving tremendous feedback.

“Growing into the role of CEO, building a team and acquiring customers – the MBA made this process much smoother. The New Venture Workshop with Fabian Sepulveda and Will Cardwell, for example, was immensely beneficial for learning the ropes of entrepreneurship. This said, each and every MBA module has had an important role in my journey,” Savola says.

Free C-suite consulting

Aalto MBA essentially gives you the most expensive C-suite consulting for free, Erdal Kilinc notes.

His company, Deal Room, provides a digital platform that increases meeting efficiency up to five-fold during events, enabling people to book meetings, network, and meet face-to-face. After only two years on the market, Deal Room has been used in more than sixty events in over fifteen European countries, the US and Thailand, receiving rave reviews and a fast-growing client base.

“We are re-connecting people from Finland again. Deal Room is not about return on investment, it is about return on people,” Kilinc remarks.

The MBA expanded my network, linking me to a new ecosystem that helped build the company."

Kilinc confirms that the MBA provided a valuable boost for his company in its early stages. He used Deal Room as a case study in all his courses and electives during the MBA. He gives a great deal of credit to his fellow MBA students, claiming he himself often merely acted as a facilitator, opening doors as his diverse team of peers helped shape the company.

“From product and business design to marketing, pricing, growth, and strategy – each step of the way, I had an MBA module that helped me develop Deal Room. Moreover, the MBA expanded my network, linking me to a new ecosystem that helped build the company,” Kilinc says.

Developing a startup hand-in-hand with the MBA

Aku Wilenius is a seasoned professional in sales engineering, with over two decades of experience working for multinational companies. Two weeks after starting his MBA journey, he received a life-changing phone-call.

“I was presented a great technological idea and asked to cofound a startup. I realized that developing a startup hand-in-hand with MBA studies was an incredible opportunity, allowing me to directly implement everything I learn,” Wilenius reminisces.

His company, Caidio, is a born global technology startup that develops AI-based software and IoT sensors for the global concrete construction market. The company s solutions enable detecting inferior quality concrete at the earliest possible stage of the value chain, which translates into considerable savings for construction companies.

Developing a startup hand-in-hand with MBA studies was an incredible opportunity."

Caidio is in the early startup stage, presently moving into pilots in Finland and China. Wilenius asserts that he has been putting insights from the MBA to good use from day one.

“Modules dealing with finance and entrepreneurship in particular proved invaluable – and the personal development process helped me grow as a professional and overcome obstacles,” Wilenius underlines.

Winning pitches in the Business Project

Wilenius, Kilinc and Savola all emphasize that the Aalto MBA paved their way to entrepreneurship. They mention the Business Project – BP – as a particularly important milestone.

In the BP, MBA participants pitch ideas dealing with business strategy. Typically, 6-10 winners are cherry picked from dozens of ideas. The winners are assigned a group of MBA students to work with the project extensively, guided by Aalto University tutors. Often projects from large, established companies win, but appealing startup ideas can also claim a place in the sun.

Savola, Kilinc and Wilenius graduated from consecutive MBA classes – 2016, 2017, and 2018 – and all had winning BP pitches with their respective startups.

“Every MBA module pushed my company further, but the BP was the turning point. I had been struggling to find additional dimensions of value that the service provides. With my incredible team, it all came together during the BP, gearing Deal Room’s entire strategy,” Kilinc explains.

Every MBA module pushed my company further, but the Business Project was the turning point."

Savola points out that Aalto EE’s reputation helped open many doors during the BP.

“My team conducted highly beneficial market research for Talbit during the BP. Contacting companies as Aalto MBA students enabled us to gain insight on a level that would be very hard to achieve otherwise,” Savola mentions.

“The Aalto MBA gives your startup extra credibility,” Kilinc concurs. “And if your company wins a place in the BP, you’ll also get a thoroughly researched business idea, and a business model validated by Aalto EE’s experts. This is quite beneficial when you meet with investors.”

“One of the biggest challenges the CEO of a startup faces is raising funding for the company. The Aalto MBA can give you a leg up in this as well,” Wilenius agrees.  

Aalto MBA is a life-changing general management program for talented people who want to broaden their career prospects and challenge themselves in an innovative way. The flexible, part-time program structure allows participants to work full-time along with their studies. Read more about the program.

Currently reading: Aalto Leaders' Insight: Startups Stemming from the Aalto MBA

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