A few months ago, I wrote that I’d be heading to Finland with my start-up, Mendzapp. At that point I wasn’t actually sure when we’d be heading out for a month’s training in Finland with AppCampus but just over a 2 weeks ago we got an exciting email inviting us out here at just under a week’s notice. Thankfully due to currently being on a year in industry at Mendzapp, George and I were able to pack everything up and head out to Finland, it was a bit of a mad rush and the first week was pretty busy so I’m only just getting to sit down with time to write a blog post at the beginning of the second…
Last week we were given the opportunity to meet with some really useful people to know at Microsoft and Nokia (who are only just down the road), work on the branding of our applications and services, further develop our ideas and do one hell of a lot of pitching. Coming from a largely technical background I haven’t had a great experience with pitching (quite significantly different from public speaking I’d done) and what sounded like a daunting prospect to start off with has proved to be invaluable so far. It has enabled George and I to constantly refine how you pitch and describe Foundbite (the app we are developing while we are out here) to potential contacts/investors or just people we meet out and about. We also took part in some cross-pitching where other teams took it in turns to pitch each other’s apps, giving you a real understanding of just how your idea comes across and just how well(or not) you pitched it.
I think one of the best things about being the program has to be meeting all the other developers that are out here with us from all over the world including some from as far afield as Mexico and China . There are students (us), developers who’ve worked for large corporations all their lives, and even people who have left their job to work on their idea full-time. All of them with such varied app ideas and goals.
After a tiring full-week the fun wasn’t over though as all the AppCademy/AppCampus teams took part in the 24 hour Worldwide Windows Hackathon (WOWZAPP) which was run in over 10 cities simultaneously all over the world. The Helsinki event featured over 500 programmers and designers packed into a big hall to code a Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 app in 24 hours. Fuelled by free food, energy drinks (appropriately named Energy Drink) and thumping drum and bass music it was an energetic atmosphere. Although we couldn’t win anything we got a lot done on Foundbite, except the time I spent deleting code when I fell asleep on the keyboard.
Despite the busy schedule we’ve had some time to get out and explore Helsinki, visit karaoke bars (a big thing here where I sang ‘Park Life’ in my best London accent) and drink a few beers at 6.50 Euros for half a litre (yikes – give me bar one anyday!!!). Finland, if you don’t already know, is the home of Angry Birds and they are literally everywhere – from Angry Birds ‘Early Bird’ coffee to Angry Birds shower gel. If being surrounded by one of, if not the, most successful app(s) ever made isn’t enough to make you think about the huge market available, I’m not sure what is.
As I mentioned in the title Mendzapp has officially been around for one year now, a fact that dawned on me during possibly the most surreal experience of my life. Yesterday evening we were treated to a trip to the Nokia HQ for drinks, dinner and sauna in the Executive Suite on the top floor (essentially a board room with two saunas, bathrooms, kitchen and balcony over-looking Helsinki) and also got to meet the man behind the Nokia 3310 (“the brick” – my first phone ever). Standing out looking over Helsinki from the 8th floor at Nokia wearing only a dressing gown (the finns sauna naked – it wasn’t alcohol induced) thinking about where I was last year was quite the strangest experience. Who knows where George and I will be with Mendzapp next year but it’s looking really quite promising..