Pre-founder Project Spring 2017 – it was a blast and we ended up investing in 2 startups!

The idea was rather simple: we put 50 bright and diverse pre-founders together for a 10-week period and expected that great things would come out of it. And so it did 👊

As we told in February this year in Icebreaker’s first blog post ever, one of our main goals is to help talented individuals build new deep tech startups from scratch.

We had noticed that there were a lot of people with great ideas and good skills. They wanted to create their own thing or join a very early team. We wanted to help these people to get it done and to increase their chances of succeeding.

That’s why we built a community of current and potential future founders. We call these potential future founders “pre-founders”. The pre-founders in our community are a diverse group of people who are great at what they do and have 5+ years of work experience in their domain. 

This spring we organised our very first Pre-Founder Project or PFP. The idea was rather simple: we put 50 bright and diverse pre-founders together for a 10-week period and expected that great things would come out of it. And so it did 👊

This blog post will walk you through what went down during PFP Spring 2017 and what to expect to happen in PFP Fall 2017.

Who were the participants?

For us it didn’t matter if an applicant had a team or a startup idea. The goal was to help them get there during the project. We received a staggering 197 applications from which we selected 50 participants who fit our pre-founder criteria:

✔️  They were still working at a day-job or had just left

✔️  They had been working for 5+ years

✔️  They were able to show that they are great at what they do

✔️  They were interested in starting or joining an early-stage company

Diversity played an important role in our selection process

The participants had different skills and industry backgrounds – some from software development or tech research whereas others were great in business development, marketing, design and other disciplines.

Backgrounds of the participants

What did we do together?

During the 10-week period the participants met at afterwork sessions to learn and work together on new startups. The sessions had different themes from defining your personal edge to team building, and we had experienced founders sharing their experiences and advice. Big thanks to Nora Rosendahl (YOU APP), Kristo Ovaska (Smartly.io), Mikael Roos (Selma Finance), Pyry Åvist (HoxHunt) and Miki Kuusi (Wolt) for your help! 🙏

By far the best part of the project was to see and hear how the participants helped and supported each other 👍 👍 👍


Results

We had a lot of fun while getting to know interesting people and got to see new teams and ideas born. For most, it was a kickoff to their entrepreneurial journey which they will pursue with a chunk of new buddies, best practices and lessons learned richer. On top of that, we ended up investing in two great teams we got to know at PFP.

We also received some very nice feedback – humble thank you for that 🙏

How likely would you recommend the Icebreaker Pre-founder Project to your friend? 




Investments

Juha Nuutinen & Sellforte Solutions

Juha had worked several years at Boston Consulting Group where he focused on helping large domestic and international retailers in campaign & promotion optimization. During the PFP he presented his idea and vision to us and other participants – an AI/ML-powered analytics software for retailers that would make a big impact on their profitability and bottom line. Due to his background he really knew his market inside out and it didn’t take long time from us to make the investment decision. Read more about Juha and his story here.

Arne Schlenzka & Osgenic

Arne is a resident surgeon who had identified a big pain in his job: surgeons lack sufficient and cost effective simulators to train their surgical skills for the upcoming operations. In other words, it would be more than nice if surgeons could simulate and practice the operations in a safe environment without putting patient safety at risk. Needles to say, we got very excited and invested in Arne’s startup that has now started to develop unique technology for VR . Read more about Arne’s story here

What’s next? 

👉 Apply now for the Icebreaker Pre-founder Project, fall 2017 (Oct 13 – Dec 14)

Yes, the rumours are true – we're definitely organising PFP again this fall! You find more info about the project and application here. Please note that the deadline for the applications is Sep 30, 2017.