Young companies often have potential for growth, but their own contact network is not always sufficient enough to take on larger markets. Boardio is a service that brings together companies and advisers. Business Tampere cooperation agreement allows Tampere-based companies to use the service free of charge. The basic idea of Boardio is rather simple according to the founder Tuomo Virkkunen. Companies can seek expertise that meets their needs, and experienced advisers offer their own expertise. There is a wide range of businesses involved, from start-ups to SMEs of all sizes. There are already two and a half thousand advisers available in different fields and markets, of which approximately 60% are from Finland.
“Often when start-ups go outside their own area, they will at some point come to the point that their own expertise is not enough”, Virkkunen describes. “At that point external expertise is needed. Start-ups can rarely afford to hire experts or consultants for their skills shortages. Our service will then provide an adviser or mentor, many of whom are also investors.” What unites the advisers is that they are experts who really want to share their expertise. At the same time, they also benefit by networking, getting to know new people and companies, and increasing their expertise in various fields.
In practice, the service works by providing a platform for client companies to discuss themselves. What they do, to what problem they are seeking help, and what kind of skills are needed. The information is open to all users of the service and interested parties can ask for more information.
“Whatever the final setting, it is always a matter between them”, Virkkunen says. “We are a bit like Tinder. We get companies and advisers to discuss and maybe on a date, but the rest is in their hands. Companies find help rather well, and usually get a handful of contacts. Some really interesting projects have got up to twenty, but the typical number is from three to five.”
According to Virkkunen, there are several instances in the history of Boardio where cooperation has been found to work, and the adviser eventually invested in the company and joined the board.
“It reflects the path through which we want to see this. An adviser is an informal and legally more lucrative option, compared to, for example, board membership, so the threshold to get involved is low for both the adviser and the company”, Virkkunen describes.
An adviser or mentor relationship is a good way to get to know one another before getting into closer cooperation. “If we continue with the Tinder analogy, you do not immediately get married with an interesting match. First you get to know each other and find out that interests meet. Once the adviser has been proven to be able to add value, board membership and ownership are naturally the next steps.”
Extensive international expertise for different needs
Boardio got started with a clear identification of need. The founders worked for Nokia and wanted to share their expertise with start-up companies alongside their own work. However, there was no suitable service available to reach companies and provide expertise.
“We were a little surprised that this type of service really did not exist. And in addition to us, it still does not, at least not in Finland”, Virkkunen says.
From the outset, many were willing to offer their help and expertise. However, it was surprising how cautious the companies were in asking for help. “It is still a mystery to us why this is how it is”, Virkkunen says.
“Maybe at start-ups, we may feel that we are not yet so advanced that we should open our activities outwards. In reality, however, it would be prudent in the early stages to involve outside expertise when implementing an idea. Many seek help only from their own networks, but when you go outside your area, these networks turn out to be relatively modest, for example, in terms of industry expertise.”
Boardio strives to find international expertise widely and for many needs. According to Virkkunen, doors have been opened for a company even down to the US retail market. The purpose of the existence of Boardio is precisely to facilitate the matching of the need for help and expertise.
“Today, probably everyone is in LinkedIn, but it is hard to tell who is really interested in sharing their expertise”, Virkkunen explains. “Each of our advisers has raised their hand as a sign of interest. In the past, Aalto University, for example, sought help from LinkedIn when seeking additional expertise for commercial spin-offs. They spent a tremendous amount of extra time asking people if they would be interested in joining. Now they can put a notice in our service telling them exactly what they need. This gives them access to genuinely interested experts.”
Users recommend Boardio to anyone who aspires to broader settings
One of Boardio’s satisfied users is Drum Networking, an international service that connects small consumer brands with global influencers, buyers, creatives and other potential partners. Founder Katja Hyytiäinen says that Boardio was advised by Business Tampere.
“I am participating in the Red Brick accelerator, and they recommended to try the service”, Hyytiäinen says.
“Creating a profile was easy and we got some offers that were good and suitably different. They concerned mentoring or various services. We are still in contact with a few, but the discussions with others were of high-quality as well and we can also contact them in the future.”
Hyytiäinen recommends the service to all start-ups who intend to aim for broader settings. The presence of international advisers and potential board members will help build the network.“There is little something for everyone, if only growth is of interest”, Hyytiäinen concludes. Sweetsbot, which provides up-to-date measurement of employee experience and well-being through a bot-based feedback method, has also received a lot of valuable help through Boardio.
“We started out by looking for individual expertise, but we got so many contacts that we decided to start an entire advisory board”, founder Turo Lähteenmäki says. “Currently, it has five members, four of which we met through Boardio.” Lähteenmäki also recommends Boardio to any start-up entrepreneur who wants to expand their expertise and networks.
“It costs nothing and there is nothing to lose. At least we have got a lot through it, so at least give it a try”, he concludes.
Business Tampere has signed a cooperation agreement with Boardio. The agreement will allow Tampere-based companies to use the service free of charge. If interested, please contact Sami Puttonen (find the information below).
Business Tampere aims to develop mentoring services and sparring among entrepreneurs.
Mentoring Canvas is a service developed jointly by Business Tampere, mentors, the public sector and start-ups to present what start-up mentoring is and how to get started. It helps companies outline their own needs and facilitates mentoring to help start-ups. You can also download your own “Gateway to Startup Mentoring” tool from here.
6Aika – Growth ecosystems: enabling business growth through six cities cooperation
The project supports growth-oriented companies to engage in appropriate research and development support networks and services. The project is implemented by the six largest cities in Finland: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu, as well as the Council of Tampere Region. The project is based on the idea of cities playing an active role in supporting business innovation and networks promoting them.