The Red Brick accelerator helps start-ups build on their potential - Business Tampere Magazine
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    The Red Brick accelerator helps start-ups build on their potential

    red brick accelerator mirella mellonmaa 1
    Picture: Mirrella Mellonmaa

    Coming up with amazing business ideas is a popular pastime all over the world. In Finland one thousand great business ideas are thought of and presented at pubs and other watering holes every day. The reader of this article probably has five herself. Building a profitable business from ground up is another matter completely.

    Tampere is one of Finland’s busiest hot spots for start-up activity. The activity revolves around dynamic collaboration between universities, businesses, and the Business Tampere community. The Business Tampere start-up services offer concrete, and even emotional, support, networking opportunities and a world of knowledge and experience.

    It also offers the possibility to participate in a free early-stage start-up accelerator: The Red Brick.

    Helping start-ups define their purpose

    Some of the most important steps, after coming up with a business idea, is defining the idea, getting feedback from potential customers, and then making a realistic and concrete plan to build and run the business.  The most effective way to achieve this is participating in an accelerator.

    Today, Tampere is home to many. A few years back, there were none.

    ”In the summer of 2018 there were no active accelerators in Tampere. My background is with start-ups and I saw a great opportunity here and founded Red Brick. Through Red Brick I can help other people make their dreams come true.

    Most often the business ideas are of a kind that can change the world for the better. It is truly rewarding”, describes Mirza Sagdati, founder of Red Brick Accelerator.

    Red Brick serves early-stage start-ups. The accelerator is completely free for the participants and demands no equity of the business. There are two pre-accelerator and two main accelerator programmes each year. Business Tampere and University of Tampere are Red Brick’s main partners.

    Some people enter with their idea only, and some have developed their business a little further.

    Support, feedback, challenges and hours and hours of dedicated work

    Valtteri Korkiakoski, a medical student at the University of Tampere, entered the Red Brick application pitch with couple of friends, and an idea, in late 2018.

    ”We were about to enter an innovation contest with the modest idea of solving the global issue of medication optimization. We were enthusiastic about our idea and soon decided to ditch the innovation contest and try to develop the idea into a business instead. We pitched at Red Brick, got in, ”won” the batch and later continued on to Nordic Start Up school, another accelerator for more advanced start-ups.”

    The Red Brick accelerator helped Medified find a slightly more focused problem to solve and the company is now determined on supporting mental health treatments with data-driven software, with a side note of drug optimization.

    ”The accelerator helped us find the concrete possibilities of our idea and create an actual way forward. It taught us to be more systematic, define founder roles and responsibilities clearly and make concrete plans for next steps.

    Most importantly Red Brick guided us to think about building our business not only with our idea in mind, but a more holistic approach which includes human resources, MVP products (minimum viable product), technical decisions, legal and clinical issues,” explains Korkiakoski.

    Korkiakoski and his team of seven are now actively developing Medified into a sustainable business model.

    ”There are other applications out there that support mental health by giving tools for observing one’s mood and activities that support mental resilience. We are different: we link patients with medical professionals, rely on scientific facts and medical know-how in everything we do. Medified is our top priority. We have a roadmap set and are following it surprisingly well. Of course, the medical industry is not the fastest mover out there, but we do our best to make things happen.”

    Ability to accept feedback is crucial to building a business

    Selina Kustula works alongside founder Mirza Sagdati at Red Brick.

    The Red Brick coaches meet with the teams on a weekly basis. The teams follow a strict schedule completing set tasks. The Red Brick coaches know the start-up teams on a personal level and offer hands-on support whilst the 70 + industry experts, teamed up with the start-ups, focus on finding solutions to more specific industry problems.

    The programme is demanding, mentally and time-wise. All the teams that are accepted to the programme are motivated. What else does Red Brick look for?

    ”I can relate to what the teams are going through, having a start-up history myself. One of the most important things for a startup founder is being open for feedback.

    Often the teams come in with an idea and a plan, and end up leaving with a completely different plan. It is to be expected because it is such a big learning experience. Most teams realize during the accelerator program that they do not have all the information they thought they had,” Kustula describes.

    After the start-up has created clarity out of chaos, formed a pragmatic product out of their idea and made a bunch of data-based decisions, comes the real test.

    ”A super critical phase in the story of any company is the point where the ground work is done, and done well. However, the product is not selling as expected. People are getting a bit worried. This is the point where many give up. Learning, however happens, when people are proven to be wrong. The ones that do not give up, but are resilient enough to learn again, have the possibility to turn their idea into business,” says Mirza Sagdati.

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