Hannu has done three companies, including the one that he is doing now – Verto Analytics. We love stories of successful entrepreneurs from different parts of the world, and this one, from Finland is a wonderful one!
Sramana Mitra: Tell me where you come from, where you were born, raised, and in what kind of background.
Hannu Verkasalo: I’m originally from Finland. I was born in the northern parts of Finland, which is famous for Nokia. I moved to Helsinki to do my university studies. I did quite a bit of different studies in business and technology in Helsinki. About 15 years ago, I started my first company. It was all about mobile apps, which was an industry driven by Nokia at that time.
In Helsinki, I built my way of thinking about building businesses. I would say that there were three waves of companies I have built over the last 15 years. I have never worked for anybody else but myself.
Sramana Mitra: A serial entrepreneur from the beginning.
Hannu Verkasalo: There’ve been a few failures, but there were successes as well.
Sramana Mitra: Every serial entrepreneur has a bunch of failures because probability-wise, it’s not possible to strike every time.
Hannu Verkasalo: Indeed. I did my Ph.D. around market research. I took one of the companies I built to the US seven years ago.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s do this in steps. When did you finish your Ph.D.?
Hannu Verkasalo: 2008.
Sramana Mitra: While you were doing our Ph.D., were you doing a company as well?
Hannu Verkasalo: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s talk about the first company you did alongside your studies. What was it? What did the company do and how did you build it?
Hannu Verkasalo: The name of the company was VCS. It was very much my own business, but it was consulting. The biggest client was Nokia who needed to understand better how people behave on mobile devices. This was back in the day when iPhone wasn’t in the market and Google didn’t own Android.
Sramana Mitra: Nokia was a giant at that time.
Hannu Verkasalo: Yes. It was spending a lot of money on market research in the world. They needed outside help to figure out how to better use Nokia internal data to understand what people are doing on Nokia devices.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you do that?
Hannu Verkasalo: It lasted for about five to six years.
Sramana Mitra: In that time, you were studying also?
Hannu Verkasalo: I was. I completed my studies and did my Ph.D. on the topic related to my work with Nokia. Nokia was able to help me with the Ph.D.
Sramana Mitra: All along your Ph.D., you were doing this consulting firm. In 2008 when you finished your Ph.D., did you shut down the firm? What did you do after that?
Hannu Verkasalo: That was a major transformation occurring in mobile in 2008 and that was smartphones. I practically quit the consulting work. I felt that what I was doing for Nokia was relevant for many other companies including Apple and Samsung. I asked Nokia if they’re with me doing the same for other companies. They were against that. I decided to quit my consulting work. I built a new company which focused on this emerging space. That was a transformational moment in the sense that I changed my business from consulting to more of a product company.