Overcoming challenges, connecting, and exploring Porto

| Insights, Student experience

Once again, HUBS has proudly selected some of our most inquisitive and driven students to attend the European Innovation Academy. Immerse yourself in Anastasia’s journey as she shares her enriching experiences and pivotal insights gained during her unforgettable three weeks in the beautiful city of Porto.

This story was written by Anastasia Maydanova, a second-year student of the Sustainable Digital Life Master’s programme, Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences (ITC).

What is the best way to support your personal growth? For me, it’s definitely stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things I was afraid of. That’s why when I saw a notice in my newsletter about a unique entrepreneurial programme, I applied for the European Innovation Academy 2023.

However, I was doubtful. Every time I read the description of the EIA, I thought ‘Will I fit in? What if I’m not skilled enough to do it?’

People from EIA taking a group selfie and smiling.

A week later, I saw an email with the following statement:

You are among the lucky ones we have chosen to participate in the European Innovation Academy boot camp in Porto, July-August 2023!

With these words, my journey to the EIA has started.

What is European Innovation Academy about?

A woman standing in front of a text "INNOVATION STARTS HERE".

The European Innovation Academy (EIA) is considered to be one of the largest startup camps for entrepreneurs. During the programme, we had to propose a feasible and promising startup idea and pitch it to real investors only in three weeks, so the amount of work was quite intense.

During the pre-week, we got the chance to meet other participants and prepare ourselves for the trip by reading supporting literature and exploring the useful tools that we might need. Also, it was a perfect chance to showcase your idea and receive feedback. It was my second step into the unknown: I had a concept of what I would want to work on but I was uncertain whether it’s worth it.

So believe me when I say: don’t be afraid to present your idea! Otherwise, you’ll regret not doing it and think ‘What would have happened if…?’

Finding your dream team

One of the most important days was Day 0. It was designed for team formation and familiarisation with the EIA’s programme. We had to go to the venue (University of Porto) to meet our mentors and propose our startup ideas in front of other participants. The main idea was to form a team of 5 people from different countries and universities who could fit into 5 roles:

So, everyone has a specific field of responsibility!

I’m really proud of the team I was working with: we all had different backgrounds but we were united by the same values and interests. That’s why I want to move to another idea I realised during the EIA.

Anastasia's EIA team of 6 people. Everyone looking and smiling at the camera.
Anastasia’s EIA team

Challenges unite people

For me, winning wasn’t the goal. I came to this programme to meet new people and learn things that were completely new to me. It’s not like you’re working on a startup every day, right? So it’s inevitable that you’ll feel confused and make mistakes. But the way you overcome challenges and work with your team members, seek help from mentors and other participants will define your journey process and the experience you gain.

The atmosphere of unity surprised me a lot: everyone was there to assist you at some point, and it was so nice to randomly discuss whatever you find relevant with people you never met before! I believe that all of the people from the EIA felt the same connection with each other, so another tip for you if you wish to apply: Approach people and make new acquaintances! Being a part of the EIA community opens up the door to new possibilities.

Pitching, pitching, pitching

Apart from everyday lectures and group work, we had mentoring sessions, workshops and clinics that supported our startup ideas. Each day was dedicated to a different goal, e.g. defining the market or deciding on the revenue model. But the main fun was on Day 10 and Day 15.

On Day 10, the first pitch session was organised. Each of the teams tried to be as creative as possible: some people made branded merchandise, and some people installed beautifully designed stands for their products. The EIA invited investors and professors from different countries, so it was imperative to impress as many people as possible.

A woman holding thumbs up.

Day 15 took place in Palácio da Bolsa where all of the selected teams got the chance to present their startups to investors. The process was the following: everyone had a specific time slot when it must go to the investors in a separate room and show the results of three weeks of work. Only 3 minutes were given to each team, then investors can ask supporting questions for up to 6 minutes. My team was one of the first which has to go to the meeting room. Was it stressful? Indeed. However, our team had a positive mindset: we didn’t go there to win but to learn, and this was the most crucial aspect for us.

After all of the presentations, we had lunch before TOP-10 teams were announced. We got the chance to hear about prospective startups that were selected by investors, and the best of them received rewards that could help teams to work on their ideas in future.

Work-life balance is the key

What is also crucial is to find a balance between work and having fun. Of course, when you arrive at a new place, you don’t want to do anything except see new sights and try local food. And I completely understand it.

That’s why you and your team should discuss beforehand the schedule of your work time so that by the end of the week you won’t burn out and lose motivation to continue. For example, you and your team members can go and have dinner at a nice place (to eat Francesinha) and enjoy the sunset. Or maybe you can go together to the Douro Valley to bond even more!

Don’t make your whole experience about work, but plan your day reasonably.

Scenic view of Porto with a sun setting at the horizon.

Experience you will never forget

To sum up, I believe that this programme was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity, and I feel more confident about my skills now than I felt before. The support from HUBS and Tampere University helped me to dive deeper into the startup world and learn more not only about the important steps of a startup setting but about myself and my skills as well.

As I look forward to the next phase of my entrepreneurial journey, I am grateful for the foundation this programme has provided. The lessons I’ve learned, the friendships I’ve forged, and the entrepreneurial spirit I’ve developed in Porto will be invaluable.

FIve people sitting on top of big letters that type out Porto.

Thank you Anastasia for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!

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