Input for real life entrepreneurship, that is what I bring to class

Sharing experiences Faculty: Will Cardwell

Will Cardwell, 01.07.2014

Sharing experiences
Faculty: Will Cardwell

“Modern entrepreneurship is about discovering and developing customers. This process applied to both large companies and even the public sector, as well as startup companies.


In Finland, the leading companies tend to be business-to-business. However, they have to understand the end consumers of their products and services as well as the business buyers. My classes focus on this process. We seek to find innovative ways to learn more about customers and uncover new revenue streams. In particular, I really love to get startups and big companies in the same room and have them learn from each other, learn to speak the same language.

In Finland, entrepreneurship has undergone major changes over the past fifteen years. There is a chance now to enable entrepreneurial mindset not only for startups, but also as a way of accelerating the renewal of larger corporates and public sector organizations. In my opinion, the most interesting and high potential activity at the moment is to bring together big companies, startups and the public sector. In other words, building entrepreneurial skills across diverse organizations. In our Aalto MBA New Venture Formation course, we invite together the MBA students and the Aalto-based startups, and have them work together both during and outside of class.

I think this is a way to overcome misunderstandings the different type of companies may have about each other. Big companies often think: this is a small company so I will squeeze the price to the absolute minimum since they need us – and, also, because it is risky for us to buy from them.

Nokia was one of the worst offenders, but there were many others. Today, the approach should be more like co-creation. Value is created and destroyed so quickly, and the formula is so complex, it takes an ecosystem to survive and thrive.

I hope that at the end of my courses, the students look at how to create and maintain a business model in a brand new way. It is much less about fancy spreadsheets, and much more about bouncing ideas and concepts with customers and partners and searching for win-wins. I think that this is particularly crucial to business developers at large companies – they need to realize that startups can come from nowhere – like, for example, WhatsApp or Supercell – and be worth billions in few years, and totally turn an industry upside down. No company can afford to ignore this trend.

While teaching, I believe in bridging the young people with the executives, and also enabling cultural diversity and multidisciplinarity. I enjoy finding new ways to get teams to learn from each other, and I’d like to get as far away from traditional lecturing mode as possible.

I love leading class, and enjoy co-teaching with colleagues who have different experiences than me. I prefer facilitating knowledge and sharing experiences over the traditional methods. I am particularly excited about our new Lean Launch- Pad entrepreneurship teaching approach, based on approaches from Silicon Valley and other hubs of innovation.”

Will Cardwell is Senior Advisor and Visiting Professor, Entrepreneurship & Venturing, at the Aalto University Executive Education. Cardwell has spent 15 years in the Finnish high­tech environment, as
a CEO of a startup, venture capitalist, the CEO of Technopolis Ventures, investment banker, researcher and lecturer. He has been on the board of 15 Finnish companies. At the Aalto MBA he teaches courses like Venture Capital, and New Venture Formation.

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