Fulltime HEL: Episode 21 - The Shift
Hear that? That’s what I arrived to in Turku. That’s the sound of Finnish summer. Which was a welcome relief since last year summer was on a Tuesday.
This year Finland’s getting an enviable amount of summer. Though it did snow in June in Lapland. But the two days I spent in Turku at Turku Castlecouldn’t have been nicer, especially since they included some barbecue.
But that wasn’t why I was there. I was attending the newest event in Finland’s startup ecosystem. The Shift. And it marked a difference from the other events here and not just because it’s outside of Helsinki. It’s a change and a welcome one. You could almost call it a… you get the point. I could make some really bad jokes about the name and maybe I still will. But before that…
Welcome to episode 21 of Fulltime HEL, the podcast about startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers and co-working spaces in Helsinki, Finland. I’m your host Gregory Pellechi.
On this episode, The Shift, Turku’s business festival. Or more accurately, four startups and speaker and how things are going to change.
Nowhere is the change more apparent than in the technology we have available today. Whether it’s networked computers or smart phones, our day to day interactions with technology are changing. And with it comes a change in how we interface with that technology and The Shift and the team behind it are well aware of that.
Google Glass may be shelved for now, but the possibilities presented by such technology are not forgotten. The Myo armband and Thalmic Labs’ work is an excellent example of that and one I wish I had the opportunity to play with given the possibilities.
The most immediate idea people inevitably have regarding the Myo and one others are already prototyping is something Stephen mentioned already — use in virtual reality and gaming. And as big as the trend may be now for virtual reality gaming there are going to be limits to, namely human endurance.
The Gorilla Arm, as Stephen calls it, stems from the issue humans have with keeping their arms held out in front or to the side of them. It’s frankly tiring. It’s why we switch to driving with a single arm, it’s why control schemes such as the Nintendo Wii-motes or the Microsoft Xbox Kinect are cumbersome. The amount of energy we have to put in compared to our output isn’t viable for long sessions. Should something like the Myo be adapted for use in virtual reality e-sports, don’t expect the players to be standing like they’re in a shooting position. Rather their going to be sitting back in a chair twitching various muscles looking like they’re having a spasm.
Stephen’s and the team at Thalmic Labs’ work isn’t about enabling gaming, that’s just a possible tangent for use. What they’re attempting to do is change how we operate with technology by integrating it into a more natural flow rather than having form dictate function. Building on that flow, and how we use it in our daily grind, was another startup at The Shift.
Gamifying mindfulness, productivity or even exercise are nothing new. Apple and Google’s App stores are rife with productivity-enhancing apps that send you reminders, block out distractions, organizing your day or working with others. But few if any seek to integrate exercise into your already busy day.
In effect the demands of a company, a workplace, have called for this app because research is showing the harmful effects of sitting all day. And companies are aware of that. They’re also aware that happier, healthier employees are more productive.
The world would certainly benefit from a better work-life balance. But right now there are too many people or companies with an entrenched mindset that eight-plus hours of work a day is the only way to be productive. It’s not and while some are coming around to this idea not everyone is or can, which is why those who have to keep to their desks may very well need the break and refresh opportunity that an app like YogaMe provides.
Opportunities aren’t only provided by events like The Shift. The attending startups offer them as well.
Not every company can afford an R&D lab. Not every professor or researcher has the contacts to collect the data they need. And not every student knows where to start. Me2We appears to be those opportunities in a single location. Ideas, resources or people — all commodities that someone somewhere is in need of.
Possibilities abound and more often than not it’s about being in the right place at the right time. Or having some curate the opportunities for you. In essence that’s what The Shift or any startup event, accelerator or incubator does for investors and startups. Some like Slush are massive events with numbers in mind. Others like Shift are smaller and aim to be more focused. Then there are those which focus on a field and are select in the startups that attend, and Impactor is once such.
Social Enterprises aim for change while also seeking a profit. The two not being mutually exclusive. And I’ve already interviewed a couple, check out the episodes on Entocube or Froodly, which are great examples. And just as people can seek to create a business that betters the world, so too can they seek to invest in such, which is where Impactor comes in.
Scaling impact is never easy. For all the best-practices and lessons learned in fields such as humanitarian aid and development or environmental protection, transitioning from pilot projects to simply being the standard is hard. Part of it might be the inflexibility of the organizations behind the projects, part of it might be the funding mechanisms, or part of it might be the issues being addressed. Whatever the cause for those difficulties, it’s good to see that people aren’t giving up on these issues but are continuing to seek new ways to address them. And startups like Impactor are enabling them to do so.
The Shift is over, for this year, and with it the opportunities it provided for those in attendance. But they’ve already promised to come back bigger and better next year and with a more international selection of startups, businesses and speakers. It’s very presence in Turku differentiates The Shift from everything else going on in Finland, but it’ll be interesting to see how they continue that trend in the following years when there’s so much desire in Finland for change whether it’s in politics , personal or business.
On the next episode of Fulltime HEL, ViLiKe, motor-skills monitoring in children.
Fulltime HEL was produced by me, Gregory Pellechi. Music for the show is courtesy of Chris Zabriskie.