Silicon Valley Journey – Experience of Finnish IT Startups from Dot-Com to 2010 is a new book published just recently that delves into the secrets of Silicon Valley from the Finnish perspective. It’s written by Raija Rapo and Marita Seulamo-Vargas, two Finnish business journalist residing in the Silicon Valley. Pekka Pärnänen of Finnode had also his fingers in the pie in making the book happen. The book is at the same time a guide to how to go about entering the Valley with your startup and a window into the history of Finnish technology entrepreneurship. At least into the history of those who were ambitious enough to try to enter the infamous Bay Area.
When I got the draft copy of the book I thought I would find it boring as I already know most of this stuff. How wrong was I. Come page 20 or so and I had lost track on time and didn’t even notice how the war stories and historical accounts had sucked me in. Although admittedly you need to be into technology entrepreneurship to find the book interesting, but given where you’re reading this article I think you are just the right type.
The book can be read as a How-To guide on Silicon Valley, but also as a very interesting historical account on many Finnish firms. It becomes that much more interesting if you already know bit about the tech companies that the authors have chosen to showcase and interview. Most of our readers see familiar names to them including MySQL, Stonesoft, SoneraZed, Data Fellows (currently F-Secure), SSH, Solid, Hybrid Graphics, Animoi, Jaiku, Futuremark, Sumea, and many others. Actually, all the others.
The book is most useful for business-to-business startups and does not provide as much value for those aiming to hit big on consumer web, but there’s a good reason for this. 99.9% of the successful ICT/Internet firms coming out of Finland has had a business-to-business focus and will have going forward. This is either unfortunate or fortunate depending on where you look at it, but its a fact that the European ecosystem does not have the DNA to produce big consumer web companies like the US does. Having said that, in the not so distant future many of the successful bigger consumer web companies might have European founders, be it Finnish, Swedish or otherwise – Entrepreneurs who live and build their companies wherever their customers are.
The book has much useful advice you wouldn’t ever consider if someone would not tell you to specifically pay attention to it. For example a very very useful advice related to the location that goes many times without too little notice is the fact that whereas the time difference between FInland and the US East Coast is seven hours, whereas its ten between Finland the West Coast. The three hours can be life changing. It’s just so much easier to communicate with a team when one does not have to stretch the normal day rhythm.
I can touch only the top of the iceberg here on the amout of advice the book gives. There’s a ton of other useful information on issues like the very different role that the Lawyer plays for a startup in the Valley, the use of provisional patents, examples of average base salaries for ICT professional (Software Engineering Manager for $123,400-$160,000, anyone?), the role that good manners play (yes, manners!), insight on how sales work in the US vs. Europe, who to hire and much more.
If the advice is good, the war stories are even better and the real beef for me. They really do suck you in and keep you there. But there’s nothing I could tell you in one blog post that would do justice to those stories, so you just need to read it yourself. You can download the PDF here. Go!