November 21, 2019

Finland's Aalto University creates free online startup course to teach basic skills

“Less inspiration, more concrete tools needed for entrepreneurs,” said Petri Suomala, Aalto University’s vice president for education.

Maija Palmer

2 min read

Finland’s Aalto University has created a free online course to teach would-be entrepreneurs some of the basic skills of setting up a company. The course will cover everything from basic terminology to validating a business idea and creating a go-to-market strategy. 

"There is enough inspiration...we want to offer concrete tools,” said Petri Suomala, Aalto University’s vice president for education.

Suomala said he has seen a steady increase in the percentage of students at Aalto who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs, but many of them struggle to find information about what this would involve. A recent UK study showed the same trend: more than half of Generation Z (loosely defined as young people born after 1996) want to be entrepreneurs. 


Schools and colleges are, however, struggling to catch up. 

"A lot of the basic information on modern entrepreneurship is difficult to find: scattered online or shared within startup and tech circles. By creating this course we want to make sure that no great idea goes unpursued due to lack of access to basic knowledge,” he said. 

Suomala added that the course could lower some of the barriers to entry for starting companies, giving a wider cross-section of people access to entrepreneurship.

“In the 2020s, launching a startup successfully should not be dependent on who you know,” Suomala said. 

Might the course push people who are unsuited to entrepreneurship into starting companies, however? Suomala said the course is not trying to market the idea of entrepreneurship.

“We’re not trying to create a falsely positive idea of entrepreneurship,” he said. “We want to show the reality: that it is not easy to succeed. The idea is that people who want to do pursue this path would do so prepared for the reality.” 

There are a number of free entrepreneurship courses from providers such as Udemy and Coursera (here is a selection) but Suomala is hoping Aalto’s offering will add to the mix some learnings from the Nordic region, where collaboration and sustainability are prominent themes. The course material includes insights from Nordic tech leaders like the chief executive of Finnish games company Supercell, the chairman of Nokia and the cofounder of delivery company Wolt.

Many founders would argue that entrepreneurship is not something that can be taught — it is a case of having to learn from experience. But there are a number of new approaches being tried to teach some of the skills needed in the new tech economy. Founders Academy in London, for example, launched an “alternative MBA” programme earlier this year, which trains managers to run fast-growing scaleups. 

The course material has been put together by Kiuas, the student-led startup accelerator and Aalto University’s entrepreneurship education programme, the early-stage investor and Reaktor, the online learning company. 

You can access the course, Starting Up, here