A quick start in Silicon Valley

Four companies from Tampere worked in Silicon Valley for a month.
A happy reunion a few weeks after the trip. Pictured here are Santeri Koivisto and Johanna Puustinen from 5 More Minutes, Jukka Hosio from Deltabit, Kristian Haapasalo and Anssi Uimonen from CloudBounce and Henri Liljeroos from Campwire.

“I’m glad we went, even though the schedule was tight,” says Henri Liljeroos, CEO of Campwire. A month in Silicon Valley gave the company the chance to see how things are done there and what the future looks like: what the rising trends in technology are, what interests investors and what an entrepreneur should currently be concentrating on. The importance of networks became evident – in Silicon Valley, everything works through them.

“Sharing your networks openly and introducing people to each other is something I’d also like to see more of here in Finland,” Liljeroos says.

Silicon Valley proved a good place to think big, since the funding of start-ups, for example, is multiple times what it is in Finland. The purchase power and volumes there provide companies with opportunities you might not even dream about here. Campwire is Finland’s leading online coaching platform for trainers, specialists and coaches. It is starting to reach the limits of domestic growth.

“In Finland, we must serve everyone from one-person firms to listed companies, across all fields. In the US market, we should select a more specific niche, but, on the other hand, even a small segment there is many times bigger than the whole of Finland… That is very enabling,” Liljeroos says.

“Inspiration, motivation and drive,” says Anssi Uimonen, CEO of CloudBounce, summing up the month in Silicon Valley. Enthusiasm is contagious in an environment where the results of hard work and success stories can be concretely seen on the streets. Everyone has a business idea to develop, and people are keen to talk about them.

Specialising in mastering music, CloudBounce has always regarded the United States as its key market area, so its main focus during the trip to Silicon Valley was on customers. Discussions with potential partners yielded new ideas for expanding the product, and progress was made with one of the company’s biggest customer prospects.

“We visited them, and this may result in a large customer deal. This is highly significant,” Uimonen says.

While the one-month period of work includes initial sparring and support for networking, Uimonen emphasises initiative, good preparation and 100% concentration on what you wish to achieve during your time in Silicon Valley.

“We were at the closing stage of a financing round at the same time, and this also required attention. But when you’re there, you have to keep busy – you must have a list of prospects scouted and contacted in advance, and then just arrange meetings every day with determination,” Uimonen says.


–> CloudBounce's Kristian Haapasalo's blog text CloudBounce - a Month in the Valley of Opportunities

Tomi Terentjeff from Mustakarhu
The idea for the work period came from Tomi Terentjeff’s personal experiences. He hopes that as many entrepreneurs as possible go to Silicon Valley and see what it is like to do business there, preferably at a sufficiently early stage. The intention is to organise four or five work periods in the course of the year.

“A good break from the normal operations in an inspiring environment and thought-stimulating company,”, says Jukka Hosio, Managing Director of Deltabit. He notes that the trip to Silicon Valley significantly increased the pace of the company and also strengthened its trust in the quality of expertise in Tampere.

“Of course, Silicon Valley has these few top names, but in comparison with the large bulk of start-ups there, the expertise in Tampere is top of the class, and we do know how to make products here,” Hosio says.

The US market is interesting for Deltabit, a company specialising in biometric identification systems and already exporting its products to more than 20 countries. The month in Silicon Valley gave the company the opportunity to gain insights into how American customers could be reached. The main thing is to make your company and product so interesting that the customers will contact you.

“Let’s think about patient identification in radiotherapy for cancer. There are 13 radiotherapy units in Finland, so we can easily go and meet every potential customer in the field. In the United States, there are 3,200 units, so this Finnish approach to sales would never work there,” Hosio notes.

Online marketing is one way of increasing customers’ interest and, according to Hosio, Silicon Valley was an excellent place for finding the tools for this, since the latest inventions in the field are developed and tested exactly there.

“A working retreat – get up early in the morning, open your laptop and work until the evening,” says Santeri Koivisto, CEO of 5 More Minutes, describing the company’s time in Silicon Valley. For a start-up in its early stages, it was particularly valuable to get to meet experienced people and receive their feedback on the business idea. The starting point for 5 More Minutes is the fact that games offer an enormous number of learning opportunities and the results of learning can be analysed.

“We now know that what we are doing is worth seeing all the way through, including on the Silicon Valley scale,” Koivisto says.

In addition, the trip resulted in a few funding and customer leads, co-operation plans with game developers and a stronger understanding of networking in the Silicon Valley way. When you e-mail someone who does not know you, you do not necessarily get a reply, but a shared acquaintance will change things.

“When someone introduced you, you were sure to get a reply, and you could make an appointment even on the same day or the following day. The growth of the networks was exponential,” Koivisto says.

On the other hand, Silicon Valley also taught the company that Tampere is not a bad place at all to be working and developing products.

“Of course, Silicon Valley is the mythical place with magical amounts of capital, expertise and experience. But when you want to build a team with reasonable costs, you’re better off doing it here at home,” Koivisto notes.

Tomi Terentjeff of Mustakarhu with Tredea’s Marketing and Communications Specialist Johanna Sahlgren and Senior Business Advisor Jouni Myllymäki
When the participants have good experiences, it is easy for the organisers to smile. Tredea and the Open Tampere programme selected the visitors to Silicon Valley from among 14 applicants. The companies were sponsored for a one-month period of work: accommodation, initial sparring and networking support from the Finnish community in Silicon Valley. The companies got to stay at Mustakarhu (Black Bear), which is a short-stay home for Finnish start-up entrepreneurs in the heart of Silicon Valley. Pictured in the middle is Tomi Terentjeff of Mustakarhu with Tredea’s Marketing and Communications Specialist Johanna Sahlgren and Senior Business Advisor Jouni Myllymäki.

 

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