arrgghh….blogging is tough. To get myself going again, here’s a post I promised long long time ago (darn, it’s almost a year now!) – my experience in Finland during our IBD project. And to make things even easier, I’m pasting what me and my teammates wrote on the Haas IBD blog. Haha!
Team Dragon Panda Reminisces (By Michelle)
After arriving back in the US, Team Dragon Panda was immediately swept back into the craziness of MBA life with summer internships, backyard barbeques, prep for recruiting, clubs and activities, and of course, school. But recently, Elad, Bernie, Emily and I all got together to think back to another time, an out-of-world (ok, out-of-North America) experience, when we were transported out of the craziness to focus wholly on a single project, in a country that we would learn to call home over three weeks. We decided it’d be best to take turns giving providing you with a glimpse back into our IBD trip.
Our Projects (by Elad)
Our team was assigned to a project funded by TEKES, the Finish Funding Agency for Technology an Innovation, a publicly funded expert organization with the goal of financing R&D activities and fostering innovation in Finland. Specifically, we were assigned to a program named TULI, which financially supports research projects throughout the Finnish academic sphere, aiming to build sustainable businesses based on this academic research. Our main goal was to analyze existing research projects within the TULI portfolio and build a concrete and actionable plan for commercializing the IP generated in these projects, based on extensive market research and insights gain from our proximity to the bay area network of innovation.
After several iterations we eventually focused on two such projects. The first was created by researchers from VTT, Finland’s largest research institute and was focused on Location Based Services (LBS). The second, developed by researches from TKK – Helsinki University of Technology, was focused on innovative ways for controlling devices with gestures. Naturally, we were very excited to work on such projects, both dealing with state of the art technologies which are also two of the hottest topics in the mobile devices world.
We started our part by extensively interviewing experts from the innovation ecosystem at the bay area – IP experts, Venture Capital firms, Startups and established companies – both about the specific technologies at hand and about the various pathways to successful commercialization. With the extensive information we’ve gathered in the US, we traveled to Finland, to meet the researchers and learn first-hand about the technologies involved. While at Finland, we also had the opportunity to get a deep exposure to the local innovation ecosystem and gain a first-hand understanding of the extensive intellectual power-house in the country. We eventually synthesized our learnings into two sets of recommendations presented to both the researches and the business managers escorting both projects.
Life in Helsinki (by Emily)
Helsinki is a great place to live in summer.
The girls lived in a small apartment in great style. Simple but neatly fitted living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. The boys shared a bigger apartment within 20 minutes walking distance from the girls’.
We lived very close to supermarkets, which had all sorts of things ranging from produce, meat, seafood, diary, to bakery. We almost walked to get fresh food and cook at home every day after work. It’s kind of weird and blessed to change from the American shopping habit – to shop a big chunk of food once a week – to shop freshly and daily at the neighborhood with just a small bag.
The public transportation is super convenient in Helsinki. Most people commute by it. We took the Tram (cable bus) from where we live to the central train station, and then transfer to take bus to our client’s campus in outer area. The bus pass works universally on every public vehicle, including ships to nearby islands. To get around is very easy.
Moreover, there is free Wi-Fi everywhere (except boy’s place) in Helsinki. Whenever needed, we literally sat down at a random spot and opened our computer to send an urgent email or make a skype call.
Besides the above modern facilities, Helsinki is a good place for nature and outdoor activities in summer. There are parks and big trees everywhere, some close to the water where people go sailing after work. Our apartments are close to the water and therefore we sometimes joined the jogging / cycling / dog running crew along the waterfront. Why not enjoy more sun when days are long?
Travel in Finland (by Bernie)
While the team was in Finland, it wasn’t all work and no play. I mean, how many people get a chance to go to Scandinavia, let alone live and work there for 3 weeks! The Dragon Pandas definitely took advantage of this opportunity and did some traveling during the weekends while we were there.
After the first week, we decided to go to the famous Helsinki Fortress Island “Suomenlinna” via a short boat ride from the Helsinki port. As you can see in our photos, we had a good time walking around the 2km long island, basking in the beautiful sun (there was a LOT of it!), breathtaking scenery, ancient ruins, and of course, sitting on the edge of the water, enjoying nature’s tranquility.
As a day trip, two of us went to Tallinn, Estonia to check out the old town. The first thing we did was to check out this church near the northern entrance. We cluelessly followed a bunch of tourists to see the top of the church tower, not knowing how many steps and how crazy narrow the stairwell was. After barely making it to the top, we were treated to some pretty spectacular views. The rest of the day was filled with music, good beer/food, and some crazy Viking hats.
In our 2nd weekend there, three of us took a weekend cruise to Stockholm. Let’s just say the ship’s reputation of being a “party boat” was well earned, haha. Stockholm was a beauty! The architecture, the people, and the festivals (we arrived on Swedish National Day) definitely made the trip a memorable experience. A couple of us even went to a smaller replica of the Absolut Ice Bar to enjoy some drinks from shotglasses made out of ice. How cool is that?!
All in all, working in Helsinki, Finland for IBD gave us a chance to not only do some real consulting work for a foreign company, it also afforded us the chance to enjoy the food, culture, and people of Scandinavia that most of us otherwise would never have experienced.