We caught up with Cogniance founder Juha Christensen ahead of Slush. The company combines branding, user experience and engineering to help innovators bring products to market. Voted one of the 25 Most Influential Europeans in Technology by Time Magazine, he has dedicated his career to building digital eco systems.

In May 2008 Christensen, a venture capitalist and a serial entrepreneur, launched Cogniance with a focus on venture-backed startups and corporate innovation labs. Christensen previously held top corporate executive positions in Microsoft and Macromedia. He co-founded CloudMade, Sonopia Corp. and Symbian.

Today, Silicon Valley-headquartered Cogniance employs more than 500 staff at its studios around the world. Also Christensen himself likes to spend his working days on the road.

Where is your office?

Two years ago I decided to give up having a desk. I like to work from co-working spaces, coffee shops, Airbnbs, train stations and the large co-working space Cogniance has in Silicon Valley. It is so nice to do the work from wherever you are. This is the new way of working. The company is truly virtual.

We were looking for a new office the other day and I saw cubicles…. We did not go there.

Who are your clients?

We build products for entrepreneurs, all the way from the ones sitting in a garage to the ones running a division. About one-third are bigger companies, and two-thirds are startups. The way they think is becoming more and more similar – that was not the case five years ago. Many people in big companies say innovation is crucial, even large European companies really want disruption.

What do you offer then?

When Cogniance comes into play, we are cutting the time to market, and we reduce the risk of failure.

In the end, the idea is important, but the execution is more important. No chain is stronger than its weakest link. The same goes for products.

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What are the next sectors you see this disruption going to?

Retail is being dramatically disrupted. How brands find their customers is changing – digital is the first channel through which you are going to connect with your customer.

Automotive is going to be dramatically reconfigured. Your car is not nearly as smart as your smartwatch. The car is not a smart device. It has no idea where you drive to even though it has always driven the same route.

You step into it like it’s the first time every day even though you have been going to the same places all the time, but the car has no idea.

With companies outsourcing more and more – how does the future look for Cogniance?

We are going to see more and more virtualization. Most people buy legal services, ad agencies, auditing, but they still think they have to build their own products.

The scale we can take with this is quite huge. We grow 30 to 35% each year, getting more breadth and strength.

Like Noah’s Ark had two of each species, we have team members who have pretty much every type of branding, design and engineering skill needed when designing and building successful products. Most times when we do something, this has never been built before, which is super exciting for our team members.

I feel slightly puzzled calling from Helsinki to Juha – where does your name come from?

I am half Finnish. I think Finns are born with an entrepreneurship gene: I just love the Finnish concept of sisu. A successful entrepreneur has to have sisu, whatever nation you are from.

Editor’s note: This is a sponsored post for Cogniance.

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