Can you give us some background as to how you arrived to where you are now within the startup and online business world? I understand you went from consultant at the global IT giant CGI to implementing a new startup business.
Well, I concentrated on marketing and sales process of IT-services at CGI. At the same time ite wiki's co-founder Eeva Melama worked as consultant in IT-acquisition and -project management at different IT buyer companies. Together we started to innovate how we could help both IT buyers and IT service providers with an open marketplace that collects all the IT-market information as one service.
What drew you from your position at CGI towards startups and creating an own web service?
I have always been seeking for new ideas and also testing them out straightforward. This was one of those ideas that just had to be done. And the project has been amazingly interesting. We have got to develop a new kind of wiki software and a network with all the IT-gurus and stakeholders at the digital business in Finland. Also building your own business model and writing your own story is really rewarding.Ite wiki collects Finnish digital businesses in a web based marketplace and also has meetups at the company’s terrace at the Helsinki city center
Can you tell us a little bit more about Ite wiki, how did you come up with the idea & what's the problem it aims to solve.
The IT buyers didn't have a clear information source to list the potential partners when needing a digital service. Mapping the possible partners is very time consuming process and we realized the need for this market information. The b2b IT companies are also struggling with the usage of the social media channels like facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. The content created for instance about ERPs or accounting softwares is quite hard to spread and deliver for buying customers through these channels. This type of content needed an own media to reach the right audience and to bring value for marketing efforts of the IT companies.
The most difficult part in any of these things is going from the initial idea and taking the leap of faith which turns the idea into an actual product. What challenges did you face from going from idea to product?
The defining process was the most time consuming part of it. The amount of information about IT companies is huge and the service needs to be easy to use. So we needed to define only the most relevant information for the buyer and deliver it via usable and visually attractive GUI. Maybe the most difficult part of it in the end is the marketing strategy and collecting all the companies behind the service as one network. Key in this is the open model of the service and the capability to create networks, often at the personal level.
What advice can you give to other startups in the digital business?
First of all, don’t just put something cool to the web and wait for the miracle. Design your sales process well. For second, test your ideas with as many gurus as possible, they are always interested in participating the innovating process. And for third, learn from the advice, but stick to your own plan. After all these so called “gurus” don’t know how you will succeed, only you do.
At what point did you decide that this is what you wanted to do, that you wanted to create your own path and control your own destiny?
From day one. This was one of those plans that just had to be executed to be able to show that it really works.
What advice would you give to people who are at a fork in the road, where one path leads to life on the 9-5 treadmill and the other is a path untrodden and full of uncertainty but aims towards the goal of self-employment?
I think typically in startups everyone is enthusiastic at the beginning, but the reality hits you when you realize the amount of work that the development requires. So first of all, the 9-5 treadmill suits better for most of the people and that’s just fine. But usually the ones who decide to write their own story are enthusiastic in what they do. So self-employment usually requires ability to bear risk and will to work hard, but it also means that you get to do what you love.Ite wiki’s co-founders Johannes Puro and Eeva Melama are specialized in IT marketing and -acquisition
What will your approach be to driving sales with Itewiki? Face to face? Social media?
It’s actually the combo of these two. We often meet the customers face to face and also create value for them in social channels and our own platform. Personal contact and efforts to benefit the companies create a great setting for success in sales.
With this combination we have gained hundreds of it-companies as users and over thousand publications to our platform in just six months.
You have a lot on your plate, how did you stay on top of productivity?
Hahaa, that’s a good one! First of all we don’t spend any time in vain for instance on a road. We live and have everything we need at the Helsinki city center. We are also really fast in absorbing new models if something seems to work.
I think the key in productivity is minimal bureaucracy and maximal enthusiasm in what you do.
How do you think Finland is positioned within the startup world? What are some unique defining characteristics that make Finland a great place to run an internet business?
Finland still is an amazing welfare state. For instance our son is at a daycare that is run by truly amazing professionals with relatively cheap cost for us. Also in a case of health issues our medical system works really well. You never know what happens in life and living in Finland is a great insurance. We also have an active startup and digital SME-company scene that helps and supports each other.
Do you have any key influencers or stories that you can relate to and or find inspirational from?
I actually find a lot of inspiration from my Football and futsal career. I have had a chance to play in great teams and with great players. I think it works the same in football and business: You need to surround yourself with the right players who are engaged. You also need to have an understanding of your capabilities and the right strategy to operate. With the right team and strategy doing can be really fun and you can overthrow teams with much bigger budgets.
What’s in store for Ite wiki this year and do you plan on expanding outside of Finland?
We are expanding on content streams of it-companies, delivering public IT tenders and we are also starting to write a more Wikipedia type of information source for IT buyers in co-operation with the Finnish it-companies. We are also involved in many different networking processes at the digital business in Finland.
In addition we are designing two consulting packages that help in understanding the possibilities of it services: We start to facilitate meetings between it-service providers and buyers and we are also developing a workshop that helps to model the field of digital services for our customers.
It would be interesting to expand outside Finland and also to help Finnish it-companies in going international. We have plans in this field but nothing concrete yet!
Anything else you would like to add?
I just want to say that if you have a vision, go for it! Doing your own thing can be really rewarding and you learn always the best by testing out your ideas.
Thanks for your time Johannes!