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The International Venture Academy (IVA) is a programme for innovative start-ups. The aim of the programme is to help participants improve their investment capacity. In Finland, IVA is organised for the fifth time this year in cooperation with Entrepreneur Avenue, City of Jyväskylä, The Startup Factory and the HHub Ecosystem that is run by the City’s Business Development Services. 

This year, the programme is specifically targeted at businesses in the fields of:

  • sustainability
  • utilising carbon-neutral materials and energy
  • cybersecurity enabled healthtech and well-being solutions
  • or sport technologies using artificial intelligence.

– Based on the feedback, the practical and intensive IVA Bootcamp will better equip companies for internationalisation and applying for funding, says Nina Rautiainen, Program Manager, noting that over the past two years the NPS score of the programmes has been 100.

For ONIT Sport, the programme was a launch pad for internationalisation

One of the companies participating in the IVA programme is ONIT Sport, which focuses on mental skills for children and young people. After the IVA programme, the company was awarded an opportunity to pitch its business idea at the Jyväskylä Business Rally Investor Day later in August. Now they are collaborating with LALIGA to support the mental well-being of young athletes both on and off the field.

Laura Andelin, CEO of ONIT Sport, is full of praise for the IVA instructors and other participants. According to Andelin, the IVA week has been an eye-opening experience to understand what your product looks through the eyes of international mentors.

– We Finns often have the mentality to proceed slowly and carefully. I have been hugely encouraged by the fact that we have the know-how and that we have a great product with which we can boldly go international. And now I have the courage to say it out loud, Andelin rejoices.
IVA2023_Jyvaskyla (26)-1-1ONIT Sport CEO Laura Andelin pitching at the IVA pitch finals last June

According to Andelin, it would be good if the start-ups applying for IVA had experience as well as a genuine desire to make an impact beyond Finland. During the IVA week, Andelin also gained valuable insight, which led to a revised go-to-market plan for ONIT.

– We revisited the plan, carefully considered its elements, internalised the details and then pitched through it. At the same time, our own thinking began to change. I realised that this is how it should be done, says Andelin, describing the process.

Read more about the collaboration between ONIT Sport and LALIGA

IVA alumni Neuwo were just branded as a secured AI company

Neuwo AI has recently been awarded the EuropIA label. The main objective of the EuropIA label is to bring relevance, security, transparency and trust to the digitalisation of AI in our society.

-We just took the initial steps for the EuropIA brand audit and reached the gold level, says Johannes Harju, CEO of Neuwo AI. 

- We can now call ourselves an ethical company. Through an extensive questionnaire, our AI was evaluated from many different directions and was interpreted as making ethical decisions from the data it was fed. It is very important for us to have such a validated confirmation because we deal with huge amounts of publicly released data on a daily basis, he continues.

Neuwo AI has created a contextual artificial intelligence engine for content classification and brand safety. Neuwo has already come a long way since starting at the Startup Factory incubator and participating in the IVA programme and Business Rally Investor Day event last year, both of which they also won.

Read more about Neuwo AI's journey here (in Finnish)
investor-day-2023-jyvaskyla-hires-srgb-6885-1At the 2023 IVA and Business Rally Investor Day, a panel of judges ranked Neuwo as the most investment-ready company.

Help before the seed funding phase

At the IVA Bootcamp, the expertise of Entrepreneur Avenue, consisting of experienced international business angels and their networks, will be made available to start-ups. The goal is to be able to communicate the “secret sauce” of your company to motivate the audience of investors to act.

Learn more about the IVA mentors here

– I am motivated by the opportunity to contribute to creating success for startups, says Jean-Louis Brelet from France, who is one of the programme's coaches.

– Of course, we are not experts in health technology, for example, but we understand how investment and international business operate, and we can share our knowledge and decades of experience to help start-ups.

In most cases, companies participate in the programme at the stage when they are seeking seed funding. The programme includes many ways to develop the necessary skills to access finance. Business ideas and plans are thoroughly reviewed, and pitches are carefully refined. Coaches challenge participants to develop their mindset and see things from new perspectives.

- What exactly is your innovation? Are you even in the right market? What is your go-to-market strategy? Are you easily able to quote your company's key figures? These are some of the things you will need to be completely clear about in order to convince investors says Brelet.

The aim is to promote the international success of start-ups

During the four-day bootcamp, coaches work closely with companies for up to ten hours a day.

– We will do everything we can to prepare and mentor participants so that they are able to convince both domestic and foreign investors, says Jean-Louis Brelet.

By the end of the week, entrepreneurs will have refined their market position, they will know how to communicate to sell their product or service, and they will be able to articulate their company story and business model in a convincing and inspiring way. The Bootcamp will culminate on the last day: what has been learned during the week will be tested in a pitching competition with investors from Finland at least.

One of the objectives of the programme is to shift the general mindset of the participants towards a more international outlook. 

– All companies should internationalise, but they must choose their battles. You do not have to go everywhere, but it is essential to identify the markets that suit you best. The most important thing is to understand that what works in Finland may not work elsewhere.

Application period for International Venture Academy is open until May 6th. Read more about IVA and apply now!


IVA programme is part of the ecosystem work on Sport, Health and Wellbeing, funded by the Regional Council of Central Finland (ERDF) and coordinated by the City of Jyväskylä's Business Development Services.

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