Kiuas Startups — Scaling Up While Studying
An interview with Ohto, CEO of WeHost and business student in Aalto University.
Currently our incubator program Kiuas has eight world-class teams. We provide our teams all the help and support that’s needed to grow from idea to first revenue. In other words, when the teams graduate from our program, they are ready to take the next big steps to scale up their company to exponential growth.
Since Kiuas is run by Aaltoes, a student-led entrepreneurship society, helping the most ambitious student entrepreneurs is in our special interest. We believe that the best thing you can do as a university student is to establish your own company: there’s no better way to steepen your learning curve in your field of expertise, learn new skills and get to know new people.
“Sure you learn a lot of hard skills, but personal growth is really what makes it all worth it.”
WeHost, one of our Kiuas incubator teams, is a great example of how to found a promising startup while studying. Founded last November, the company is already one of the biggest players in the Finnish short-term apartment rental market. In other words, WeHost runs the renting process of multiple apartments via various online platforms, such as Airbnb. The growth of the company has been rapid during the spring and has also sparked the interest of the Finnish media (check out e.g. this story from Kauppalehti).
Despite the growth of WeHost, Ohto Pentikäinen, CEO of the company, has been continuing his business studies in Aalto University. We asked him a few questions about WeHost, combining studies and entrepreneurship, as well as the Kiuas program and its benefits for his company.
Ohto, how did you get into this project that eventually ended up being a fast-growing company?
I got into the project when my desire for doing something bigger was met with the right people who could help me achieve this desire. We then began working together on an idea.
What have you got out of your journey with WeHost? Is it learnings, connections or perhaps totally something else?
Connections are important, but more important are the long-lasting relationships you build with people you trust and respect. I have been fortunate enough to get to know several amazing people like this. When it comes to learnings, the list is endless. Not many positions provide such a well-rounded view about the world and its workings. Sure you learn a lot of hard skills, but personal growth is really what makes it all worth it.
How is it like to be a young entrepreneur, still being in early phase of your studies?
There can be some prejudice against younger entrepreneurs, but it has not been visible in my case. I like to think that actions speak for themselves. If you can deliver, it should not matter what your background is.
How are you able to combine your studies with running WeHost?
My studies have had to give some space for the business. Since we founded WeHost, I’ve chosen to take classes that require no attendance and allow me to study off-hours. I have also relieved some of the pressure on grades, so that further decreases the stress load.
How have your studies helped you, or how would you plan your studies now that they would help you the best with WeHost?
My major in Aalto University School of Business (Information Service Management), along with my previous work experience, has provided me with enough knowledge about technology that I am able to handle all that by myself. In terms of my studies next year, I only have my bachelor’s thesis and minor to go. I aim to do my thesis about WeHost and my minor about something I find fun and exciting but that could also complement my current skillset at the same time.
What has Kiuas given to you? How has Kiuas helped you?
Kiuas has given me supportive infrastructure to grow the project. There are workspaces, coaching, workshops, meet-ups etc, but the most important factor for me has been the knowledge that I don’t need to be alone with a challenge I am facing or a problem I want to fix.
“My major in Aalto, along with my previous work experience, has provided me with enough knowledge about technology that I am able to handle all that by myself.”
As Ohto said, there’s no other way to gain such a steep personal learning curve than to be a startup entrepreneur. In Kiuas, we strive to provide the most ambitious young individuals with the tools and support to help them start their ventures and get a grip of that learning curve. The best day to start is today, and we are here to help you.