Grow to USA program: 9 Finnish growth companies spent a week in NYC

In mid-September nine promising Finnish companies arrived to New York. Grow to USA week organized by Kasvun Roihu was about to begin. Grow to USA is a growth program for Finnish companies who are willing to grow internationally. It has been organized two times earlier and the aim is to keep organizing it twice a year. Kasvun Roihu with their co-organizers selected the companies with most growth potential from the applicants. The selected companies were Graphic Concrete, Congrid, PehuTec, Trussmatic, Wunderdog, Adesante, Nordic Fit Mama, Mapita and Yepzon. The companies had workshops already in Finland but the whole program culminated to the week in New York. Each day had a different theme and different specialists coaching the companies.

Monday was the first day with the topic: “What works in the USA”. We spent the day at Marsh Office and we were hosted by Tuomo Kemppainen, the CEO at Marsh Finland. The companies gave their first pitches of the week and afterwards they got valuable coaching from US Business Advisors. Thank you Andrew Hulsh, Len Lavadera, Anne Wolfson, Val Kratzman, Alex Romanovich and Michael Goodman! An advice that stood out was that in the US market story telling is the key. In order to find investors and partners the company needs to be able to market a story. After the coaching sessions the companies got a chance to visit NASDAQ and see the Closing Bell Ceremony. The first day of the week came to a fine end over a dinner party at the residence of the Consul General of Finland, Manu Virtamo. During the dinner, main participants of the week (companies, coaches, organizers etc) got to network casually with each other.

Tuesday was all about how to make it in the USA and how to avoid pitfalls. The venue of the day was the new office premises of the Finnish consulate. The structure of the day was similar as on Monday: companies got to pitch again in front of the coaches of the day after which they got feedback from the coaches. From the organizers point of view, it was amazing to see how the companies had improved their pitching tactics and performance already after one day! Tuesday’s coaches were from Finnish companies who have succeeded well in the US market. We had Jan Sorensen from Nosto, Erno Tauriainen from Spent, Lotta Lautsuo from Conmio, Jussi Salonen from Goodio, Jukka Lyly-Yrjänäinen from Avant Tecno and Mikko Luhtava from Vainu. The coaches gave very valuable advices from their own, real experiences: what to do and what to avoid in order to be successful in the US. They also shared the experiences on practical things such as how does recruitment in here differ from the recruitment in Finland. In Tuesday evening, the companies faced a Shark Tank! They had to give only one minute pitches to our three sharks: John Ason, Lora Gaston and Dani Grant! Companies managed well the short pitches and gave good responses to the tricky questions of the sharks. Luckily for the companies, our sharks weren’t as brutal as the sharks in the TV show…

Wednesday was dedicated to sales. Companies had their own meetings with customers in the morning and in the afternoon we were discussing about sales with the specialists from Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA). Managing Partner of ERA, Murat Aktihanoglu and his collegues gave good insights over the theme: why your solutions is the best one and how to sell it.

On Thursday we had the main organizing responsibility. We spent the day at our office and the discussion was on marketing, branding and communications. Again we had great coaches: David Nemiah who actually had coached the companies already earlier in Finland, Mari Meriluoto, Susan Lindner, Nicole Fallon, Bob Trinque and Bob Spoerl. As in the previous days, also on Thursday we had pitches and workshops. On Thursday evening we had a highlight of the week: pitching competition hosted by us and Nordic Innovation House. The range of guests was wide and everyone was excited to hear more about the companies and their products and services. With convincing and interesting pitches, the competition got a thrilling end since it was a tie between Yepzon and Graphic Concrete! Congratulations for both! As a prize, both of the companies got a desk in Nordic Innovation House for two months! 

Friday was the last day of the week. The topic of the day was Legal and IPR issues. We got to spend the day at Polsinelli office with specialists on different topics: trademarks, visas, patents etc. In the evening we had closing dinner with the companies and organizers. We got the impression that companies had enjoyed the week and found it useful when thinking their growth to the US market, which is of course the key element behind the whole program.

Huge thank you for all the participants of the week: the main organizer Kasvun Roihu, companies, guests and all the co-organizers! It was very exciting to see the amazing progress of the companies: their knowledge, attitude and pitches improved plenty. Until next time!