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Bootstrapping from Finland: Vainu CEO Mikko Honkanen (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Jul 25th 2017

Sramana Mitra: I would like to zero in on exactly that. I’ll give you some context. My second company was a lead generation and web research company, exactly solving the same problem, except that it was very early and the web didn’t have anywhere near the level of data that it has today. I’m talking end of 1997 through 1999. The web was much shallower.

I know a lot about your space. There were other companies that tried to do that. InsideView was one of the significant ones. We had done artificial intelligence-driven architecture, but because of the lack of data, it didn’t quite have the level of capabilities. When you say you did one or two things that you did really well, what were those things that you zeroed in on that allowed you to get advance payment?

Mikko Honkanen: First of all, we focused on fairly small markets. In this case, Finland. Instead of trying to create a prospecting solution for the US market, we started with a very small country. Finland happens to be one of the leading countries in terms of open data.

The government has opened up a lot of the companies’ information. We had a really good set of data from day one. Then we enriched that with open data. There’s obviously tons of data out there on the Internet these days. The amount of data is growing very fast. All companies share insights. Number one, we focused on a very well-defined niche.

Sramana Mitra: Does that also mean that there was a language issue?

Mikko Honkanen: We were providing the service first in Finnish, because we also enriched the database with content from the web. In Finland, most of the content is in Finnish.

Sramana Mitra: That, in itself is a great barrier to entry.

Mikko Honkanen: Definitely. US providers back then didn’t see the Nordic market as a very attractive place to enter. If you think about the whole Nordic region, they’re pretty small countries with different languages. Most of the US companies go to the UK and Australia. They don’t really have an eye on the Nordics.

Sramana Mitra: Aside from the base database to work off and enriching that with publicly-available information, what were the heuristics? What could I search on?

Mikko Honkanen: In the early days, we had the basic filters that you would imagine to have in a prospecting solution. You were able to filter companies based on location, industry, and company size. The unique value add that we were able to provide was that we had lots of news articles and job openings about those companies.

Imagine that you’re selling translation services and a company is sending out a press release saying that they will open an office in a new country where they need to operate in a different language. That’s an ideal time for a translation agency to sell and market their services for that company.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping from Finland: Vainu CEO Mikko Honkanen
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