Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Projects I'm proud of: Boost Turku & Startup Journey

Blaugust is a month-long event that takes place in August each year that focused on blogging and other serialized content. The goal is to stoke the fires of creativity and allow bloggers and other content creators to mingle in a shared community while pushing each other to post more regularly.

This week's theme is Introduce yourself and I decided to do that through sharing a few projects that I've done since I think these stories will share quite a bit about who I am as a human being as well.

2013: A community hang-around

It all started in February of 2013. I was studyin computer science in university and one evening during our peer-mentoring session in the university basement, an engineering teacher I had never met before came to say hi and mentioned they were looking for students to apply to a Finnish-Chinese research project.

I didn't think much about it but after attending my friends' impro show in a local pub the same night, I decided to write an application anyway. Wasn't likely to get in but hey, you never know. Maybe I'd regret if I didn't. Oh boy how right I was.

I ended up getting into that project and one of the main side effects was that through it, I was introduced to Boost Turku, the local student startup community. 2013 I became a community member (or a "hang-around" as I'd call my role), attending events, learning a lot about business and tech and design and meeting a lot of great people.

I then spent 2014 in Silicon Valley working for a startup and after a bit when I came back home, in fall of 2015 I got a job at the community as a community manager. I spent two wonderful years in that role.

A room full of people sitting, listening to a man on a stage speaking.
A cyber security keynote event with Benjamin Särkkä (on stage) and Mikko Hyppönen

2015-2017: Community Manager

While working in Silicon Valley, I had gotten a lot of inspiration about that culture and wanted to bring what I had learned back to the community that had helped me get there in the first place.

Boost Turku is a non-profit organization funded by local city and universities. Throughout the years we organized all sorts of events to get students excited about enterpreneurship and collaborated with universities' business and tech studies to do guest lecturing and being in the jury of different hackathons and business idea courses.

A group of people sitting in a half circle on chairs while a workshop host is sitting on a floor in the middle with random sortment of items next to them
One of our workshops with Esteve

One of the cool programs we hosted was Dropout Academy which in its first year was a peer-to-peer workshop series aimed to teach practical skills that schools weren't teaching. We'd have various members of the community teach other people what they knew: how to build a website, how to negotiate during sales, how to run an agile team, how to do email and Facebook marketing, etc. During the second year, we pivoted a bit and brought our teachers from outside the community but otherwise kept the idea the same.

9 framed diplomas with Boost Dropout Academy logo
Boost Dropout Academy professor diplomas (graphic design is my passion)

I created diplomas for everyone who finished and we hosted a non-graduation party where we celebrated what we had learned from each other.

A group of people standing in a semicircle with two workshop hosts standing in the opening
Startup Journey workshop

Every summer, we organized an award-winning early stage startup accelerator program Startup Journey. During a 10-week program, a dozen or so teams with startup ideas got to work on their ideas with daily mentoring from the top experts in Finland on their own fields. We had coaches help the teams with team building, service and UX design, finances, funding, legal, product development, marketing, pitching and various other topics. Every Wednesday one team was responsible for hosting a community BBQ event where the entire community would come together to celebrate summer and meet each other.

I'm forever grateful to every coach who joined our accelerator to help the next generation of entrepreneurs.

A group photo of about 30 people on a stage
Startup Journey Demo Day 2017

At the end of the summer, we hosted Demo Days where the teams pitched their projects to a jury and then we all celebrated the work everyone had put in and the friends we made along the way.

On both summers, we also organized programming courses for non-technical students, helping people learn the basics of web development through workshops and mentoring.

This was my first job as a community manager and it ended up becoming the new career direction for me. Throughout these two years I realized I have good skills in community building and great interest to learn from others and to help others learn and find other people who share their passions.

Boost Turku is truly a community-driven community where people want to participate and help each other out. During my time there, we brough together so many students, experts, academics and entrepreneurs and helped many find something new and exciting to their lives.

I also got to meet a lot of people in the other student entrepreneurship societies in Finland, traveling far and wide across Finland to meet people, to learn their best practices and sharing ours and building a great interconnected national community. Also found my new best friend during those trips.


After my community manager job ended, I ended up staying in the community as a mentor, coach, speaker, workshop host and continued more closely with a few of the startups from the two programs. It's great to be part of such a community through which I've made so many great life-long friendships and have reached new heights in my professional life.

The entire journey I've gone through with Boost and its amazing community has shaped me into what I am and has had enormous effect on my life. The early inspiring and encouraging response I got when I joined led me to work in Silicon Valley, the community manager position rocketed me into a new career where I found my opportunity to prosper and the lovely people I met became very good friends for life.


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