Posted on Wednesday, Apr 6th 2022
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European companies often follow a methodical, deliberate approach to business building as opposed to mindlessly chasing venture capital. FA Solutions Managing Director Juha Lehtonen has used the principles of bootstrapping using services to build his venture from Finland.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised and in what kind of background? Juha Lehtonen: I’m from Finland. I was born and raised in the countryside about 100 kilometers north from Helsinki. I was born in a family where my father was an entrepreneur. He had set up a construction business with his brother. All my childhood, I saw my father working as an entrepreneur from 7AM to 10PM. As a child, I wasn’t really very handy. I’m not the one who was to follow my father. I was fairly good at school. I was into computers. That’s how I grew up. Sramana Mitra: Did you study computer science in college? Juha Lehtonen: I ended up not doing so even though I had a very strong interest in computers. I ended up in business school. I didn’t take an engineering route. I studied economics and finance and only the mandatory courses in computer science. Everything I know from computer science is self-taught. Sramana Mitra: What year did you come out of college? Juha Lehtonen: I graduated in 1995 from the Helsinki School of Economics with a Master’s degree. After that, I went to work as a dealer in a bank. Then fairly soon after that, I ended up becoming an analyst. It was during that time that my interest in computers reemerged. The chief analyst that I was working with was into computers. We started doing a little bit of programming for the purpose of doing our job. That’s how I got the interest back. Sramana Mitra: When does the story of FA Solutions start? Juha Lehtonen: FA Solutions was founded in 1999. It was four years after I graduated. The first two years after I graduated, I worked as an analyst. Fairly soon, I realized that programming was something I wanted to do for a living. I quit my job and went to a small software company to become a programmer. I was fluent enough to get a job as a programmer.
For the next two years, I was a programmer in a software company. I went into project management as well. Then I had the opportunity to combine the two things – business and programming. That was in 1999. That was the time in Finland when venture money was available. I was lucky enough to know the right people and had an opportunity to start a company on my own.
The business idea back then wasn’t very solid. The idea was to develop tools for private investors to be able to analyze the risks involved in their investments. At that time, the stock market was booming. Everybody was into investing. I was thinking of developing something that the professionals were using as well to help out with risk management.
Sramana Mitra: That’s what you told the VC what you were going to do. Juha Lehtonen: Exactly. The idea was to build a software platform for online brokers or anyone offering services on the internet to private investors. It was not just the buy button but also some tools for analyzing your investments as well. We got the seed financing. Sramana Mitra: How much was that? Juha Lehtonen: $250,000. That was the initial financing. That is what got us started. It was a one-man company in the beginning. I was the only employee. I hired a few more. Maybe we were around four or five during the first year. Within the first year, we had a very low burn rate. We were able to develop a value-at-risk-based analysis tool. We onboarded that into three online investment platforms. One of them was an online broker. Two of them were online sites.
Our conversation continues
here. This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to an Exit . Why is Bootstrapping Important? . How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently? . Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings . Excess is NOT Required for Success . Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later . Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies . The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit . Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping . Bootstrapping to Unicorns More »» . Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million . Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue . Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million . Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy . How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million . Bootstrapping with a Paycheck . How Algo.ai CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan . Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses . How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million . Bootstrapping with Services . 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