While self-quarantining and working from home, I had an online interview with Janne Neuvonen, a serial entrepreneur who is one of Nordic Startup School mentors. Janne has almost 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship with two successful exits and founded another one, now he is the CEO of BCaster.
BCaster is an AI-powered media platform where the content creator can share, earn money, manage their content copyright and worldwide distribution. On the other hand, BCaster finds relevant user-generated content, allows businesses to get access and license the content directly from creators. Raising 1.2 million euro in 2017 and launching its US department, BCaster is looking to become one of the biggest Finnish startups ever.
1. What made you decide to become an entrepreneur in the first place?
It’s probably because I was born into an entrepreneurial family where everyone worked and do things with an entrepreneur attitude. At around 14–15 years old, I decided to become an entrepreneur someday. I had my first business when I was 22 so I think it’s been in my blood.
2. All of your startups are all different industries, what led you to create different startups like that?
For me, you have to enjoy what you are doing. Sometimes you have to do 6 or 7 days/week, 12 -14 hours/day so if you do not like it you would easily burn out.
The fact is your hobbies change throughout your life and that how my story goes.
My first company, we provided DJ services. When I was young, I enjoyed creating parties and seeing people living the moment. When my first daughter was born, I decided that I started to be too old for this, I had to do something else. At that time, my hobby was to build and experiment with telecommunication, electronic devices and I was quite good so it became my 2nd business. My both companies, from the beginning to end were both 7 years. It’s satisfying to look back and see that in 7 years I can build a company from scratch to succeed.
3. You mentioned in your Linkedin that your hobby is building sustainable energy solutions, will your next startup be something related?
Maybe (laughs). Actually, I’m building a wind generator for my home here in the eastern part of Finland, middle of nowhere. I want to make this house off-grid and I’m also calculating and building a solar panel. Let’s see if it’s possible here where half of the year is dark. If it is, I will be able to multiply the system in every home in the Nordic and in Europe.
As a CEO he doesn’t just stay behind the desk, Janne actually is in the front line of his own business and get the job done.
There is a world full of components and working things. If you just combine them differently, you can create something new.
So you’re going to build everything from scratch, not buying a system from somewhere else?
I had to buy the components but how I connect them together is my own design and my own work. I always want to find new ways to do ordinary things and I think that kind of attitude is what taking the world forward. There is a world full of components and working things. If you just combine them differently, you can create something new.
4. What has been your most satisfying moment while building your 3 companies?
The network effect has been one of the best things. Different people from different cultures, backgrounds put their thoughts and their works together, the outcomes are more significant than you can ever build on your own.
Another thing was when I was in this WWF project in which we installed cameras to Livestream these rare Saimaa ringed seals. It was wonderful seeing millions of people watching them live around the world. Making that kind of impact and changes, I think, are the best thing that happened in my entrepreneur journey.
5. According to your experience, what should Finnish companies prepare before making contact with US partners and consumers?
Finland is such a small nation that I think companies should build the whole organisation and working methods with a belief that someday they’ll be global, be in the US or anywhere in the world. If you start with that mindset, everything will be much easier later.
In the US market, the competition is very tough so you have to be unique and stand out from that big mass of startups that your clients and partners see every day. You decide how you can be different but it’s very important that you are, somehow, in a good way.
When you first brought BCaster to the US was there anything that difficult for you?
No actually. The USA has always been easy for me. I think it’s because I’m always who I am whether talking with friends, business meetings or in an interview like this, I’m happy and chatty. That is a really big thing in the United States. There, people see a lot of salesmen, people who try to be something that they aren’t. So when I stayed true to myself, everyone wanted to see me again and talked with me, sometimes not even business-related. They saw me as a nice guy, it’s good to talk with me and they trusted me.
So it’s probably networking skill is the thing that Finns should be prepared for right? As I’ve heard that American are very talkative.
Yes, they have small talks everywhere, in elevators, busses, stations, everywhere. You have to be open and open-minded and you have to learn how to network with people. It is very important because if you can’t do small talk and networking, you can’t make people see who you are.
6. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
I think the number one priority for me is execution. Of course, there is timing and other things but behind everything is execution. When you have an idea, the idea is 1% and 99% is hard work and pushing yourself to the limit. So you have to remember when starting your own business, it’s always about execution and how active you can be.
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