When I start the business, we had just taken a mortgage, had a 2-year-old son, and a new baby on the way
I grew up in the countryside in the small but historical municipality of Köyliö in Satakunta. My father is a farmer and mother a clerk in a bank. Now thinking back, I did have a connection with entrepreneurship from my father (as farmers are considered entrepreneurs in Finland) and a strong influence on finance thanks to my mother. At the time, however, I was driven by the need to live in a large city and surrounded by technology. These eventually led me to study at Aalto University in Espoo. My major was Radio Frequency Science and Technology.
Around ten years ago, I was studying Business Management in India where the idea of entrepreneurship caught me. It also prepared me for establishing a company in all fields such as sales, marketing, finance, HR, etc. However, the main driver for me has always been the creation of something new, and once done, take a step back and watch it flourish.
When I mentioned this to my wife, she was totally supportive despite the huge risk I was taking. We had taken a mortgage only a few months earlier, had a less-than-2-year-old son, new baby on the way, and I was the only income source for our family.
Our hesitation with the company name costs us our first customer
I used to work as an antenna engineer in Nokia and later Microsoft before they started to reduce their R&D in Finland. At the time, I got the opportunity together with my colleague Janne Heiskanen to switch to entrepreneurship. For me, the decision was clear, and it didn’t take much persuasion to get Janne onboard in the end. Our goal was simple: We wanted to help companies make better wireless products with the know-how generated over the years at Nokia regarding antennas. What it means in practice is custom antenna solutions for hardware products or integration of off-the-shelf antennas.
When we left Microsoft in 2015, we got some months to figure everything out thanks to resignation packages. But due to taxation there was not much left, so we had to quickly get cash flow in. When starting, the single biggest obstacle for us was a bit surprising – the name for the company. I think it took weeks until we managed to find a good name which was Radientum (Janne didn’t want our antenna company’s name to have insects (“Ant”) in it. Only after finding the name we were able to set up the company officially. Our hesitation with the name probably cost us our first customer who couldn’t order from us without VAT number and went to get the service elsewhere.
Satisfy customers needs and over-deliver their expectations
We got our first two actual customers within a month thanks to personal connections. We bought our first simulation PC with our initial capital. The first Finnvera loan was used for working capital to rent a simulation license and buy measurement equipment. Our headcount grew after the first customers by selling shares to Innoraattori Oy and Masoumeh Hasani. We had already discussed the possibility of them joining from the very beginning, so when we secured customers, the timing felt right. With them, we were able to broaden our service offering to even more complex devices and Radio-frequency identification (RFID). We continued to grow solely by bringing in more partners until 2017 when we hired our first employee for marketing and new business development.
Even after the first 100 customers, the most satisfying moment is still when the customer is happy – how their product ended up and the success they have achieved. I remember vividly seeing our customers’ products being used by my friends and hearing how happy they are with their purchase. It cannot be achieved without genuinely listening to your customer, satisfying their needs, and over-delivering their expectations.
Have plans always ready to be changed and your cash flow monitored
Hardships I would split into two groups: business and personal situations. For the first group, an example was from the early years, when I was visiting an exhibition, we had an emergency board meeting over the phone. The salary payments for company owners had to be postponed simply because we need to have some cash left in the account until more money comes from customers.
But all in all, no matter how stressful and desperate the situation is, there is always a way out and possible solution to be discovered. The main point is to have plans always ready to be changed, and your cash flow needs to be monitored and kept under proper control.
On the other hand, personal hardships are the ones that cause me to lose my sleep. Whether it is something directed to yourself like when we decided I was not good enough to be the CEO or when we had to lay off our people. However, losing a partner is the worst thing I have had to face in my time as an entrepreneur. Over the years, we have been in that situation twice, but business continues despite how much I miss working with my former colleagues.
It’s at home on our coffee table where I pitched the business ideas to my wife
I don’t know if I was born an entrepreneur (can’t really remember), but while growing up I did start to think about business ideas. However, it stayed on a very casual level. I was throwing ideas around and some heated discussions with friends and family.
It was only after I had left the day job that my way of thinking became more mature. The ideas were no longer just-for-fun, but I went to do more severe analysis, for example digging, looking for competition, running some basic numbers on Excel, and put down a PowerPoint slide or two to summarize my thoughts. It was visible at home on the coffee table where I would pitch the ideas to my wife.
The easiest way to sell early is marketing to your existing connections. The more they understand what you offer, the more likely they would find opportunities to promote you. Old colleagues, friends from studies, hobbies, and childhood but also family members are cheap “marketing staffs” to utilise. An important note is, however, if you want that to work, you need to be open to genuinely promoting others as well.
Know what you don’t need to do right now and pass on tasks as much as possible
I am not good at organising how I spend my time. I mean that I tend to switch tasks to something that might not be a priority but feels like it. Planning your daily priority tasks (only 1-2 tasks, not more) every morning helps you to stay focused. The stuff that feels important can be done after those priority tasks have been done. This enables me to have a split between professional and personal life as by the time priority tasks are done.
Once I have spent eight hours or more on the most critical tasks, I can take a step away from work, knowing that every other (important) thing can wait for tomorrow. Before, I was spending 12-16 hours per day on work which was too big a burden for my family. As an entrepreneur, your work is never done; the key is to know what you don’t need to do right now and pass on tasks as much as possible.