An experienced “godfather” for a prospective founder? Founders of recent Finnish startup successes want to help newcomers past early-stage pitfalls

Recently successful Finnish startup entrepreneurs have founded an investment and consulting company in order to help fresh, potential founders direct their efforts more productively and avoid easy mistakes. Start Here Ventures offers starting teams support, hints, valuable contacts, as well as a financial investment – preferably already before the registration of the company.

By Tuure Parkkinen

Each qualified team gets an experienced founder as a “godparent” whom they may contact regarding any arising issue. The founders of Start Here Ventures include founders of Zadaa, Ambronite, and ResQ Club.

“Just imagine, if we had known that 2 years ago! We could have avoided months of wasted work.”

“If just someone had hinted about this possibility – or warned about that pitfall.”

Founder friends noticed soon that their joint sparring lunches and beers circulated around similar themes.

Startup entrepreneurship is a constant learning and research process. Experiments might change the course of the company multiple times.

Even though the founders worked in very different industries with their own unique challenges, it became apparent that many of the most valuable lessons were related. Matters involving: ownership structure, shareholder agreements, core team recruits, finding the right investors, identifying the relevant metrics early on, preparing for due diligence processes, finding effective sales and marketing strategies etc.

This realisation turned into an irresistible desire to help fresh, prospective founders past these hurdles, allowing them to focus on what really matters – to offer a fast lane to growth.

It is common for a startup company to take onboard so-called angel investors for their first investment rounds. These are often experienced professionals who have themselves been entrepreneurs and exited (i.e. sold) their own companies years ago. Many angels also syndicate their investments, meaning that they invest together with other angels. How is Start Here Ventures different?

Firstly, most of the founders are fairly recent entrepreneurs themselves, and almost all of them still work in the management of their own companies. The lessons from the founding phase are hence still fresh in their memory and they have up-to-date insights of the Finnish startup ecosystem, support network, and finance market. Start Here Ventures will provide teams with an experienced founder as a “godfather” whom they may call with any challenging question that might arise.

Secondly, Start Here Ventures focuses on helping teams at a really early stage. We might call this pre-pre-seed finance or flower stage finance. The company might not even need to have a ready proof of concept of its product or service. A motivated team with complementary skills and a scalable idea suffice. Of course, the team’s commitment and ability to work together are necessary hygiene factors for having a chance at success, and the team is more credible on this front if it has already achieved something and learned their first lessons through experimentation.

At this phase, it is practically impossible for most teams to find interested investors, unless they have extensive prior entrepreneurship experience and a strong personal investor network.

“We look for teams in whose eyes we see the same passion we had 2 to 3 years ago when founding our companies,” says Iiro Kormi who has built Zadaa, an app which allows users to sell their used clothes easily to their “size twins”. “During our first-year as founders, we often felt we were banging our heads against the completely wrong walls. Small hints or introductions could have made a big difference. Similarly, just a couple of grand in finance would have been very valuable for a team of cash-constrained students.”

“Being able to hack together and launch a minimum viable product fast distinguishes a world-class success from a bellyflop,” recounts Simo T. Suoheimo, whose team develops and markets the Ambronite drinkable supermeal, manufactured out of all-natural ingredients. A couple of years ago, Ambronite made the world record in crowdfunding for a food product on the Indiegogo platform. “I can’t wait to get to help young talents build their own success stories on top of the models we have verified. If we can help even one fresh team for example find a more fitting financing strategy or conduct a successful international product launch, that can have a huge impact.”

“In addition to the fact that entrepreneurship is extremely exciting, it is also one of the most effective ways to learn about  business as well as about oneself. The biggest limiting factor is the fact that a founder has to fully focus on his own venture. This can lead to a harmful kind of tunnel vision. On the other hand, even though every startup founder is looking for a scalable business model, he himself doesn’t scale much. For us, Start Here Ventures is a way to maintain a broad, fresh perspective which helps us see our own businesses from outside the box. It also allows us to share the knowledge we have attained over the years and give back to the community that has given us so much, “ adds Tuure Parkkinen, the CEO of Start Here Ventures and the co-founder of the ResQ Club food-rescuing service.

The mission of Start Here Ventures is to make Finland a better place for startup founders. The mission is furthered in close collaboration with other players of the fast-evolving startup ecosystem. The risk capital market in Finland is notably underdeveloped considering the number of startups founded and the available talent in Finland. The team behind Start Here Ventures wants to enhance the negotiation position of new entrepreneurs and further an open culture, where knowledge and learnings are shared.

A new founder can contact the Start Here Ventures team via their website. The daily operations are run by Peik Hämekoski and Tuure Parkkinen who actively follow the local startup scene and participate in ecosystem events in search for interesting teams.

The founder partners of Start Here Ventures:

– Tuure Parkkinen, ResQ Club, Founder

– Peik Hämekoski, Fiksari, Founder (also Operational Manager at Rising North Fund)

– Iiro Kormi, Zadaa (Digital Fabric Oy), Founder and CEO

– Jari Keskinen, Keskisen Kello Oy, Entrepreneur

– Olli-Kristian Tukonen, Experq, Founder and CEO

– Umesh Gowda, Angel Investor, specialized in Machine Learning and GPUs

– Henri Talvitie, Aerion, Founder and Head of Sales

– Simo T. Suoheimo, Ambronite, Founder and Super Hero

– Anssi Markkula, CountOn Corporate Finance, Analyst

– Alexander Bützow, Lawyer (LL.M), with an emphasis on IP, technology

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