“Use mentors and people who have done it already”

Innovestor PALO is a 12-week fast-track to pre-seed funding, finding product-market fit and customers. A key part of the program is the “been there, done that” advisors, all committed to developing the participants’ business ideas by bringing in their vast experience from growing and developing sustainable businesses. Here we’d like to introduce you to three of them, Ilkka Kaikuvuo, Aki Soudunsaari, and Piia Maaranen.

Ilkka, Aki, and Piia were all advisors during the first round of PALO in 2022 so they already know the program in and out. Both Ilkka and Aki are returning as advisors this year, as well as Piia who is now also part of the Innovestor team. We are excited to welcome them back along with our other amazing advisors, and we wanted to hear their thoughts about the program and why they think it’s special.

Your background briefly – key three things you are bringing to PALO?

Ilkka (Co-Founder of Framery, CEO, Partner at Varaani Works, Board Professional, Startup enthusiast):

“A mix of a growth enthusiast, R&D person, researcher, and emphatic entrepreneur/mentor. Background from co-founding companies and helping them grow from zero to success.

I have a broad experience in different types of business from SaaS to Medtech and beyond, and bring my set of mistakes to the table so others could make new ones and not repeat the old ones.

Hands-on experience in getting business from outside Finland with different business models.

Good market insight from various industries”

Aki (Co-Founder of Naava, Startup Scientist, Serial Founder, Board professional):

“The art of the start; experience from ten different 0 to 1 cases and bits and pieces of startup science. I add value by sharing experiences about the startup architecture – the team, funding, business model, and strategic steps as well as company narrative in different development phases of the company”

Piia (Partner, Innovestor Corporate Venturing, ex-CEO at Plantui, ex-CEO at Avanto Ventures, ex-COO at Yogaia, Board Professional)

“Internationalisation: Global growth and go-2-market strategy. Born global is a nice buzzword, but behind every market entry, there is a tremendous amount of research, planning, and execution.

People skills: How to lead in turbulent times.

Funding: how to plan your growth roadmap and choose the right partners to grow”

What are the top three takeaways from PALO that you wish you had gotten early on in your journey?


“Use mentors and people who have done it already. Listen to their advice, but make your own decisions in the end. The market might be there, but not at the moment. YET you still have to make it till the market accepts your product – take care of the funding & yourself! Ask your potential customers and also listen. Adapt accordingly but don’t do everything everyone wants.”


“The interaction with the first ten customers and developing the early solutions based on their needs, not purely on our visions. Learning from each other, the founders and startups. Being an entrepreneur or a team of entrepreneurs is always lonely, so systematic peer support helps in many ways.”


“Network, network, network: all business is people business, and connecting with the right people can save a lot of time and money.”

What mistakes or problems along your (entrepreneur) journey could you have avoided if you had attended PALO?


“Perhaps we could’ve avoided a few iterations of app development if we had understood the meaning of customer validation and focused more (as we try to emphasize in the PALO program). Insight is insight and the customer doesn’t always know what they want or need, but the market is always right – in the end.”


“Palo is a systematic way to develop the company. Not just the solutions or the story, but how you see it as an organization and what development steps are needed in different stages of growth.”


“Hard to say, but I like the PALO approach of “dating” corporate clients before committing to bigger partnerships.”

Why are you devoting a considerable chunk of time to PALO – why is it important to you?


“PALO approaches the startups and their challenges systematically – emphatic but also goal-oriented. Excellent startups with interesting cases combined with insight from bigger companies.”


“My personal mission is to improve people’s health, happiness, and performance in a planet-positive way. I’m determined to be on the right side of history, and PALO is an excellent, systematic way to execute my mission while helping great companies do good.”

What sets PALO apart from other accelerator programs you have experienced?


“Way and diligence of working with the startups, a unique combination of (friendly) funding and colliding startups with their potential customers/future acquirers.”


“Combination of capital, expert advisors, corporation customers and VC-tailored program for the startups; and a peer-group of carefully vetted similarly minded startups who believe what you believe.”


“Fund-driven model and quality corporate partners.”

The PALO application deadline is fast approaching in two weeks. If you would like to work with the likes of Aki, Ilkka, and Piia to launch your business into full speed, submit your application via the PALO website by the 4th of June 2023.