What is the Magic Sauce of Finland??

On the 94th independence day of Finland, I came to look back at what has been the cause for Finland, a relatively small country population wise, to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world. I couldn’t really put my finger on specific factors that have enabled this but I think a lot of it is based on the “get things done” mentality we have had throughout the years.

Recently however, a large concern has been raised due to increased national economic pressure and a gloomy forecast for the European economy as a whole. Companies have been forced to lay off large amounts of employees, cut back on costs in all areas in an attempt to stream line entire businesses. Some companies have even have to reconsider their entire existence. However, as you may have read in some of my earlier posts, Finland (and especially the young entrepreneurs in Finland) have looked the situation in the eyes and accepted the challenge to create a new Finland (sorry the link is in Finnish).

The Helsinki Spring (as named by Steve Blank) is a great example of this. Students, entrepreneurs, financiers, politicians, and many other people and organizations have come together to create an ecosystem that is supportive for new startups. But what makes Finland such a good place for startups right now? For me right now it is the community of people and organizations that have come together to tackle the challenge together. Like in many previous difficult settings, Finnish people have a tendency to stick together and muscle through. We come up we new innovative ways to use the resources we have and as said “we make things happen”.

I happened to tune in on the Independence Day President’s reception tonight just as “The Mighty Eagle” of Rovio Entertainment, Peter Vesterbacka was entering the ball room and being greeted by the President. To those who don’t know, not that many people get invited to these kinds of events and further, not that many people get as much attention as he did at the party. Apart from the live interviews and comments, I’m sure that several high level chit-chats took place. And this is a man who only a few years back was not necessarily so well-known around the world. Now he is one of the driving forces of the new startup movement in Finland, openly backing up young entrepreneurs and opening doors to a bigger arena. This just goes to show that slowly, even at the highest national levels the message is getting through, Entrepreneurs and New Companies create growth and new jobs.

What is your special sauce??

If you are interested in what inspired me to talk about this on this great day, check out the videos here. This again is a great link for those Finnish speakers.

CSE Lab

CSE (Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship) is a organization at Copenhagen Business School that promotes entrepreneurship to students and researchers at different universities. What they offer is something similar to what student entrepreneurship societies in Finland are doing. Nice work altogether. I would however like to see more early stage activities, since the most I have seen so far has been targeted towards established student ventures.

I encourage everybody interested in startups and entrepreneurship in Copenhagen to take a look at their upcoming events and activities since this is a great way to get connected. Also check out the different startups that are currently located at the lab. Some interesting concepts and ideas.

Here is a short video that was created at the CSE Lab a couple of months ago, during one of their Friday Networking Bars. 

Even I got to take part in the video. Thanks for that guys.

Winners

Winners are like athletes…

Like a world-class athlete, winners set their goals and milestones high. Not so high that achieving them would be impossible, but high enough to motivate you on your way to the top. I don’t believe that Usain Bolt was attempting to be in the top 10 fastest people on earth. He was targeting to be the fastest!

Also like athletes, winners are confident. Winners believe that they are the best in what they do. They know that what ever hits them, they’ll find a way to overcome the obstacles. However, there is a fine line between confidence and cockynes. Being cocky, probably won’t take you far. Keep in mind that your competitors are confident too and you might get surprised if you lower your guard. So be alert.

And just like athletes, winners work hard to achieve their goals. Winners constantly seek for possibilities to improve their skills and partner up with people who might be able to help them on their way to the top. Improve your skills and be on top of your game. Being humble and open to new influences can take you to an entirely new level.

And for me, Entrepreneurs are winners. Entrepreneurs (you don’t necessarily need to be a company founder or owner to be an entrepreneur) are confident. Successful entrepreneurs are humble and open to influences. They set goals, work hard to achieve them and consult coaches on the way to success.

Men in Black Suits

Today I met a man in a black suit and quite frankly, tomorrow I won’t even remember talking to him.

Who is the man in a black suit? He might come from a prestigious college, he might have several degrees, he might have contacts to several different “important people”. To himself he is the most important and intelligent person around. At first he might seem like a person you would like to be in close contact with. He might even seem to be very valuable to you concerning your interests. However there is an other side to men in black suits…

A man in a black suit will go unrecognized at events. He won’t raise any opinions about himself or the work he does. When you talk to a man in a black suit, you actually realize that there is quite little he can help you with. He is overly conservative, as if he was protecting himself from the opinions of others. He attempts to please everybody around him, but by doing so he doesn’t do good to anyone around him. Sadly enough, if he went away, hardly anyone would realize his absence.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everybody who wears a black suit is a “man in a black suit” or that a person without a black suit wouldn’t be a “man in a black suit”. It goes a lot deeper.

Don’t be a man in a black suit. Don’t try to please everybody around you. Just think about all “the men in black suits” that have gone unnoticed throughout the past. Have a stand and opinion about topics and issues. Be passionate. Disagree with people and challenge the views of others. Sometimes you will make a person around you disagree with you. Sometimes somebody will get angry. But similarly your views will definitely echo with others. People will remember you. People might even admire your courage. You will actually stand out of the crowd. Maybe it is because of something you said or did. Or maybe it is because you have a certain skill or ability.

 

Please FAIL today!!!

Ok, please write a note to your calendar for today. Please write; ” Today I failed!”

Don’t worry. Failing is good. Failing helps you learn from your mistakes. Failing will show what has to be improved. I encourage you to fail. Even better, I challenge you to fail. Finland challenges you to fail!

Today, 13th October 2011, marks the first nationwide “National Fail Day” in Finland. What is it all about? In short the Finnish society hasn’t been very encouraging in the unfortunate situation where a person – whether an entrepreneur, an athlete, me or you, anyone – has failed. Unlike in many other cultures failure in Finland is (soon “was”) personal. From children to adults, from students to professionals, from young to old – we fear failure so much that we don’t even try. We fear that other people will judge us based on our failures rather than our success.

However, today marks the time when Finland began to change its ways. Today, failure is celebrated. Share your failures with all the people you know and encourage them to do the same! Spread the word and visit the official website (sorry, only in Finnish) to see how some of the most prominent figures of Finnish society have failed. Learn from your failures and learn from the failures of others. Remember that when you have failed, you have the chance to learn how to be better the next time. Failure is an opportunity to succeed!

1955 – 2011

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do” – Steve Jobs

I would like to extend my condolence to the people who have been left without a husband, a father, a friend, a mentor, a colleague, an inspiration.

You left us a world that is more creative and fun.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” SJ 2005

Inspiration

A while has passed since my last post. Better be more active in the future. My post today is about my inspiration to entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs have different sources of inspiration. Just like any other people in the world, we are inspired by the achievements of others, by our heroes, by books, by videos, by quotes, by pictures, by events…… You can be inspired by pretty much anything.

For the past year, for me, there have been a couple of sources of inspiration. Firstly seeing my fellow student-entrepreneurs creating great ideas (like this one or this one), developing the ideas into novel and innovative business models and opportunities and later actually making their ideas turn into reality as products, services, apps etc. What inspires me most in these stories is not that they would be told by heroic people with super-human abilities and skills, but they are told by regular girls and regular guys. They only thing they had to posses was the self-confidence (don’t push it too far or you’ll turn out cocky) and belief in their visions. Obviously it takes hours of effort to understand your market, your customers and iterate your ideas, but still, the people who make it happen are not too different from you and me.

Being part of something that is possibly changing the course of a nation for the years to come is something that drives me to work with many of my ideas. As you may know, Finland is growing to become a start-up hub in the Scandinavian and Baltic region and maybe even in the whole of Europe. Steve Blank titled this “the Finnish Spring”. It has also been noted widely in media e.g. by Wired magazine and The Next Web. The possibility of looking back and saying I was part of that is something worth pursuing.

To end this post I want to give you all something that I find very inspirational. It is a simple video a friend of mine showed me on his laptop perhaps a year ago. Take a minute to watch it and perhaps you too will get inspired.

Fun, play and rockstars

Today I want to talk about something that caught my eye whilst browsing through the website of the largest newspaper in Finland.

First of all, I will say a few words as a reply to an article in Helsingin Sanomat. For those who don’t speak/read Finnish, the article talks about the current trend among young people in Finland to experiment with start-up companies. Across Finland students are coming together and spending their summers as the writer sais “sitting in meeting rooms and creating business plans rather than going to rock festivals and partying”. Instead of looking up to guitar smashing rock stars, young people in Finland have found new idols in the likes of Peter Vesterbacka and other entrepreneurs. Where is the fun and what has happened to our youth, asks the writer..

Well what has happened to our youth is actually a response to the current situation is Finnish society. Young people have realized the crumbling state of the Finnish economy and corporate ecosystem. Instead of taking to the streets, causing havoc and sitting on our butts, students have decided to respond by having fun, playing and experimenting with friends, ideas and new ventures. Sure, a lot of these experiments will never end up as new startups and a lot of the stuff will be forgotten in time, but for those few ideas that turn out to be successful and interesting, the people involved will look back at the early days and say “I was there, I was part of creating that and I’m proud of it!” In stead of complaining, we are actually creating something. Oh and, yes, it is pretty cool to hop on a plane and go pitch your ideas to people in Silicon Valley. Something, you will surely look back to after the years have passed.

And the fun fact of the day is that all this experimenting, fun and playing with ideas and startups doesn’t exclude any of the “more traditional” fun and play of forming rock bands, partying through the night and causing havoc in the eyes of others. We just came up with a way to have fun with friends all the time doing the exact stuff we like. I’m not so sure if this is worth the criticism. Another fun fact is that a lot of the startups that are being created are actually directly related to music, arts and pop culture.

Related to this I want to share a TED talk (click here) I found rather brilliant. Check it out and tell me what you think.

What is Failure?

Becoming a successful entrepreneur is easy, eh??

You just come up with an idea, team up with some of your mates, if it’s software you find a guy who writes some code, you talk to VC’s who fund you, you launch, you create a crowd around your vision, you maybe even change the world in the process, after a few years you either sell your company or you retire rich and famous, you will be remembered as a person who created something and above all you succeeded.

Well, I’ll be honest now. What I just wrote, is surely a description of how it is not going to be. And what it hasn’t been for successful entrepreneurs.

While starting up a company (or basically anything in life), you are bound to face obstacles. There will be a thousand good reasons to quit along the way, each far more tempting than the previous. The people telling you it can’t be done, will outnumber the people who believe in your  visions. You will probably even begin to doubt your visions. And this is only the first weeks of your new venture.

It’s all beginning to sound pretty daunting. What if you just give up. Instead you decide to go and work for [Enter company name here] or the boss you hated.  Would certainly be easier.

But here is the catch. People who give up, give in, take the easy road, blend into the crowd or abandon their dreams and visions are not entrepreneurs. They are not the people who create new realities or change the world. Visionaries, entrepreneurs and people who are truly successful FAIL, but they don’t give up.

Take a minute to think about the following quotes from Thomas Alva Edison

“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
“I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2000-step process.”
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

This is exactly the mindset entrepreneurs have. Failing early and failing often is a road to success. It is actually a possibility to learn what works and what doesn’t work. Failing is an opportunity to say “This didn’t work, let’s try the next thing.” And this is true to all aspects of a start-up. What I’m not saying is that you should bail out or jump ship. No. What you should do is take the resources you have and experiment with as many alternatives as possible. Don’t try to design a perfect company or product right away. Rely on trial and error. Recognize what works and what doesn’t work and here BE HONEST TO YOURSELF. It will save you time and money along the way. Have the guts to say to yourself that this isn’t working and do something about it as early as possible.

What ever you do, don’t give up. Don’t QUIT. You will never truly fail, if you keep trying. And before you know it, you actually might be on the road to success.

—-

If you agree with anything I wrote, Go and check out The National Failure Day on Facebook or their website. Spread the word, because to succeed, we all need to fail several times. Celebrate failure on October 13.

First post…

Okay, it is August 7 12:12 AM and I’m about to write my first post. Nothing fancy or insightful, but surely something in a long list of first’s that are about to come.

What I basically decided a couple of weeks back was that I’ll start blogging about my own start-up (first that I’m involved in) that is currently shaping up and also the start-up community and environment that I belong to at any given time. Currently I’m in Oulu, Finland, but in a week or so I’ll be heading to Copenhagen (first time there) for a semester of entrepreneurial studies at Copenhagen business school.

My plan is to write about several topics related to start-up’s and how I got involved in the first place. I’ll also offer some insight based on what I have learnt during the journey that I have taken with my fellow co-founders (a first for them too).

I’ll just end this post with something I read in the book “The unbearable lightness of being” by Milan Kundera; “What happened but once, might as well not have happened at all”

Following this, I’m sure all the first’s here and the first’s to come, will be followed by second’s and third’s and other’s. Some of them more successful  when others are bound to fail. However, this has been a beginning to something new and we just have to see where it ends up.