Lifeline Ventures' Timo Ahopelto recently published a book in Finnish, titled Sand Hill Road, which captures the journey of an international entrepreneur. We got in touch with him with a few questions.
AS: What's the elevator pitch… or uhh back cover synopsis?
Ahopelto: The story is 70% true. In 2000, straight out of school, I founded CRF Health with two of my friends. It was quite a story: three guys want to become the best in the world in electronic data capture in clinical trials, willing to risk and sacrifice everything for that goal. It is an action story with great depth in how we all should understand that no-one -- even the strongest entrepreneur -- cannot survive without other people's love, caring and help. It tells company's story from founding to Silicon Valley. Today, CRF Health is doing great: it is #1 in its industry, making some €60 million in revenues, and very healthy 15% profits on that revenue, with 20-30% annual growth.
AS: What compelled you to write this book?
Before Sand Hill Road, there are no books that realistically tell what it is like to be an international growth entrepreneur. I wanted to write the first book that realistically tells what happens behind the curtains: it is hard work with no glamour that typically is attached to startup entrepreneurship.
The general audience typically sees entrepreneurs in two situations: first, when they found their companies, and then later when they exit. Everyone thinks that "the guys just had a great idea, worked for few years, got lucky and now they are wealthy". No-one really understands the emotional commitment, sacrifice, joy and desperation connected to growing any company to become #1 in the world.
For me, the best thing now when the book has been out for couple of weeks is the reader feedback. The entrepreneurs say it is highly realistic and they get dejavu-feelings in almost every page. The non-entrepreneurs say that they should have read this book earlier as now they understand what it is all about. I feel that a kind of reached my goal: tell - without any self-appraisal and window dressing - how thing in these young companies go.
On our FB page there are some great reviews by entrepreneurs, and I encourage everyone who reads the book to write there. For example as follows, and sorry for my translations :) -
Ilkka from Supercell: "First you get the idea and the team together. Then the execution starts, not visible for the general public. Timo's book is a really addictive story that opens the true meaning of startups to every reader."
Anssi Vanjoki: "It was great reading: a breathtaking story about ambition and crazy drive to succeed at any cost. This book is a lively and realistic description of entrepreneurs' actions and emotions going up and down."
More so, my goal was to open growth entrepreneurship to the general public. I thought that it is best done via a book that uses the effective novel techniques to be interesting to everyone. It has been great that also "the literature circles" say that it is well-written and has all the elements to become a legend. :)
AS: As an entrepreneur and (first time?) writer, how did you find the publishing process?
Ahopelto: It is a big chunk of work. I wrote this for 14 months and iterated the text from start to end approximately twenty times.
I had a great editor from my publisher. Olli Mäkelä, my editor, helped to develop depth into characters, to construct a strong drama to carry from the frist page until the end, and to polish some of the language. Could not have done this only myself.
Probably I am going to write a second book as well, out in 2015, to tell another angle to the startup entrepreneurship.
AS: Where can people pick up the book?
Ahopelto: It is in almost all major and most minor book shops in Finland, for example Akateeminen Kirjakauppa and Suomalainen Kirjakauppa. Electronic versions are available at Elisa Kirja and soon likely in iTunes as we get the US tax number when the US government offices are now re-opened again.
Speaking of startup books, do you have any suggestions for the rest of the ArcticStartup community? Hop on over to this post and let us know.