I am a technologist, an entrepreneur and most recently an angel investor. As I have announced my investments in promising young companies over the last couple years, many people have asked me why. Isn’t the stock market easier (well…), isn’t that risky (yep), what does that mean for your role at ARM (business as usual), how do you chose a company etc.? Maybe a little background first.
For me, being an entrepreneur was a natural choice, something picked up from my father and a drive to succeed at building new things. I spent the first decade of my career creating new technologies for the Internet of Things, and like most technologists, became frustrated when big companies in the mid-2000s did nothing with the technology. My solution was to go and deploy the technology myself, and my first technology startup Sensinode was born in 2005. We had a big vision – bring Internet and Web technology to embedded devices, and really create a scalable platform of innovation instead of the silos of lock-in we had in automation systems at the time.
What I didn’t realise at that time, was that the resistance we were experiencing to the adoption of IoT was a disruption point. Startups are a great way to change an industry, and in the best cases change the world, through the application of new technologies or business models that the status-quo isn’t ready for (crossing the disruption point). We succeeded with Sensinode, by being an early innovator, not growing too fast, and having plenty of luck. In 2013 we had a successful exit to ARM. For me, the most exciting and fulfilling thing was being able to help realize a vision and then find a home where it can scale. In our case it was helping to realize the Internet of Things, for which ARM mbed is an awesome home.
It took a little inspiration before I built up the courage to become an angel investor – Could I really help other startups? Was the time and risk manageable? Why? That all changed for me in December 2014, at the Nokia Foundation awards, when I heard Jorma Ollila (former CEO of Nokia) tell why he personally donated millions of Euros to provide grants for technology graduate students. His logic was simple and inspiring, as a university student a similar grant allowed him to do graduate studies in the UK which he felt helped in the success of his career. He was feeding a positive circle, kiitos Jorma. I realised that the angel investors in my company, in particular Vesa Raudaskoski (Nokia, Elektrobit, Eden Rock), played a key part in helping us succeed (and keeping our sanity).
For me investing in startups is about playing my part in the positive startup cycle of the technology industry (and it keeps life exciting!). If I can help startups succeed through encouragement, my experience and early funding, then I’m helping what makes Silicon Valley such a powerful centre for innovation. My startups have their roots in Finland with international plans, as I find Finland to be one of the best startup scenes on the planet. Great technical resources, reliable people, a positive attitude to startups, reasonable cost, and right-sized VC. And hey, we’re the home of Slush, the biggest startup event in the world 🙂
My first investment was in a company bringing natural gesture recognition to Augmented Reality (AR) industrial applications called Augumenta. Where VR can be compared to the PC, AR is the mobile in a new age of computing. More recently, I invested in CubiCasa, who created a technology platform for indoor floor plans and have already achieved a scalable business. Content that will some day be used in navigation, AR and VR. Just last week I closed on an investment in a fast growing company helping to save energy for entire industries (stealth for now).
For my next project I plan on realising something a little bigger and more personal. As a kid I had an opportunity to play with a lot of technology, building solid state electronics and sensors in the garage, running a BBS and coding my much beloved C64. I would like to bring that same opportunity to every child in Finland. Something fellow technologist and CTO of Espotel, Jaakko Ala-Paavola and I are actively working on. Stay tuned!