AppCampus: born to drive European innovation and business opportunities

There’s no escaping the news of today about growing unemployment and economy turbulence, which means uncertainty for many – not the least to students and fresh graduates. But as the economy stagnates for now, innovation, entrepreneurship and enthusiasm are still holding a bright camp at – where else – than universities.

AppCampus– program, set up at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland, aims to be a sling-shot for the best mobile entrepreneurs in the world. The program started operations in May 2012 and it is funded by Microsoft and Nokia, who both committed to invest up to 9 million euros into the mobile app development program, which fosters the creation of mobile apps for the Windows Phone ecosystem and other Nokia platforms.

The program is lead and managed by Aalto University, who is also investing 3 million euros and making a significant contribution to the project by providing premises and coaching services. AppCampus is initially a 3-year-project, where start-ups can apply for an award for their mobile app idea. Aalto University has grown a reputation as a hotbed of new startups. “An essential part of Aalto University’s mission is to strengthen Finland’s competitiveness,” said Tuula Teeri, president of Aalto University. “We are pleased to host this initiative, which concretely boosts utilization of new knowledge and skills in creation of new entrepreneurial ventures.” 

AppCampus was born from an idea to drive innovation and business opportunities in Finland’s mobile ecosystem and beyond. The objective is to create a new generation of self-sustaining mobile start-ups, and eventually boost the economy. Looking at different funding options for start-ups, we are not looking at a typical funding institution here. Instead, we at AppCampus are extremely ambitious and scanning the big picture; we have an opportunity to create new jobs for hundreds of hungry start-ups and entrepreneurs by giving them a chance to develop their idea into a business model. The innovation is out there, it’s just a matter of finding it and giving it a solid nudge.

Apart from investing 20,000 – 70,000 euros per project, AppCampus also supports the admitted applicants with world-class training, coaching and marketing as well as marketplace qualification process. This way the mobile entrepreneurs can benefit from comprehensive support, training in mobile technology, design and usability, and funding to create innovative new mobile apps and services. Windows Phone Marketplace and Nokia Store offer local and global business opportunities to program participants via distribution to consumers around the world. While we sling-shot the start-ups to the market, we also want to give them the tools on how to continue after the app is done. 

“The idea is to give birth to a few new Rovios to the playfield”, says Pekka Sivonen, head of AppCampus. “One of the most valuable tools we offer is the academic and business network. We are planning to have an intense session for all of the accepted applicants, where we teach, engage and coach these teams for 4-6 weeks here at Aalto premises. Those who won’t be able to join us in Finland, will be able to follow the lectures and meetings through teleconference and video stream. AppCampers around the world can tune in!”

Although set in Finland, AppCampus is a global initiative continuously expanding geographically. We would like to see local AppCampus’ being set up all over the world in co-operation with local universities and mobile operators. By end of August 2012, we had received over 900 applications from 63 different countries already. Over the course of the next 3 years our mission continues, as we strive towards the most unique, innovative and high impact mobile apps and hope to create big opportunities for small start-ups.

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