How To Dare – The Ant Theory

One late night I was talking on the phone with my co-founder. I was worried and stressed. I was facing challenges in my life. He told me: “Don’t be stressed. This is just a small challenge in the larger scale of things.”

Déjà vu. The Ant Theory.

The Ant Theory was the only thing I heard in my mind on that moment. I hadn’t thought about The Ant Theory since I was a teenager.

Let’s get back to the year 2004 – the year when The Ant Theory was born.

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It was a late night on the round tower at Tanhuvaara’s sport center. Me and two friends of mine were giggling – obviously thinking about boys. My friend had a crush on one boy. Her problem was that she didn’t dare to talk to him. I said:

We are small like ants. In a larger scale, it doesnt matter what we do because we are so small.

With these words, it was easier to talk to boys. It was easier to dare. Daring is everything. If you don’t dare, you won’t get anything. Ever.

After remembering The Ant Theory my night changed for the better. I wasn’t worried any longer. I realized that The Ant Theory saved me once again. It gives me the courage to do whatever I need to do. It helps me to survive.

We all have moments when we are struggling with the feeling that we don’t dare. If you for example think about founding a startup, daring can be the biggest challenge you have. How to dare to jump on an idea not knowing where it is going to take you?

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It’s not a rational decision. It’s all about feelings. It’s all about daring. Next time when you are thinking whether to dare or not, ask yourself this:

How meaningful this decision will be when Im sitting on a rocking chair and looking back on my life?

How much will this matter in a scale of the world if I do this? How about on the scale of universe?

Will people care if I do this?

Most decisions we do are meaningful only on a short run. Almost everything we do are forgotten fast. This is not a reason to do wrong things but this is a reason to dare. If you fail, how many will remember it after a year or two? No one. Because every day we get a massive information flood. We have so much to process that old things are just forgotten.

Old things don’t matter even in our own life cycle. They matter at the moment they are realized but quickly lose their importance. What we think, when we think whether to dare or not, is how this can ruin things we have. What is the risk? How probable is the worst case? These questions can make us not to dare.

What if the worst case scenario comes true? In a big scale, it will not matter. The thing is that what ever you are planning to do, matters to you now. That’s all that matters. Do it. Do it now. If you fail, it won’t matter in the long run. It will probably make you stronger and better. What matters is what you dare to do now. If you don’t dare, it will not matter even now.

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It’s the speed, not the distance, that kills

Last Saturday I ran half marathon at Helsinki City Run. “How it felt?” is the most common question after the run. Well, it felt like a startup journey – in all its beauty and desperation.

The Beginning

Adrenaline in the blood. Eye of the Tiger playing. Everyone is excited. A real buzz can be felt everywhere. Competition against time is going to begin.

Starting shot rings out.

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First-timers scamper to run. They forget everything they have been told about how not to start too fast. Serial runners know based on their previous experience that it’s the speed, not the distance, that kills. Both groups are as excited and believe they have chosen the right tactic for the run.

Valley of Death

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After the starting hype comes the reality. These are the longest kilometers when the commitment and determination is tested.

In the human mass there is a lonely runner looking around and feeling that everyone else is doing better than he. Other runners run past. The lonely runner curses the whole run and asks himself: Why am I doing this? Why do I put myself in such a situation? He wants to throw off his shoes.

When wandering long enough time in the valley of death, he sees light at the end of a tunnel.

Funding

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Refreshment stations along the route feel like heaven. Before every refreshment station running resources have dwindled. On the current level they won’t last till the end. Refreshment stations have different kind of resources: water, sports drink and something to eat. All of them give different value. The runner can choose whether to take only one refreshment or collect a group of refreshments.

Increasing energy levels makes the runner feel like a new person. It’s a fresh start till the next refreshment station.

Break-Even

Light at the end of the tunnel is brighter than ever. There is still long distance to run but the worst is over. Runners who have gotten this far, knows that they will survive till the end whatever the end result is.

Exit

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One by one runners cross the finish line. Some of them stay on their feet, some of them fall on the ground. All of them have survived the journey. It will take time to recover but if they are serial runners, they will start to plan the next run. For the next run it doesnt matter whether this run was a success or a failure they have learned a lot.

Yksi luku elämästä valmiina

Tasan seitsemän vuotta sitten heräsin Meilahden sairaalasta. Mulle oli tehty iso leikkaus, jossa multa poistettiin paksusuoli. Vaikka olin aivan sekaisin kaikista lääkkeistä, oli mulla kirkkaana mielessä kaksi asiaa: Onnistuiko leikkaus vai joudunko elämään loppu elämän avanteen kanssa? Tietäähän mun läheiset, että oon selvinnyt? Ennen kuin nukahdin uudestaan, ehdin haparoida kädellä vatsaa ja tilanteeseen nähden kohtuullisen tomerasti uhoilla hoitajalle, että hänen on pakko soittaa mun läheisille ja kertoa, että oon selvinnyt. Millään muulla ei ollut väliä.

Tänään on aika erilainen päivä. Sain kirjoittaa äidille tekstiviestin:”Tein vikan tentin! Valmistun virallisesti 13.6.2017!”

Äiti, tää valmistuminen on lahja multa sulle. Myönnän, että nautin tästä itsekin, mutta uskon, että arvostat tätä erilailla kun minä. Mä arvostan sitä, että oon vienyt loppuun sen minkä aloitin ja saanut työkaluja toteuttaa unelmiani. Arvostan myös sitä, että oon oppinut oppimaan, koska opiskelu ei tähän lopu. En todellakaan ole vielä valmis oppimisen suhteen. Jatkan innolla uuden oppimista joka päivä ja parannan työkaluja, joille sain hyvät perustukset yliopistosta.

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Tänään mun on vaikea olla hymyilemättä, kun katson ajassa taakse päin. Tunnen itseni todella onnekkaaksi, koska oon selvinnyt tähän päivään ja rakentanut itselleni elämän, jossa uskallan seikkailla, oppia, tehdä virheitä, kokea kolhuja ja tuntea suuria tunteita – tietäen, että selviydyn kaikesta. Jos palataan tähän hetkeen seitsemän vuotta sitten, niin en olisi uskonut tämmöisen päivän ikinä koittavan. Seitsemässä vuodessa olen kasannut itselleni DI-tutkinnon Aalto-Yliopistosta, aloittanut matkan tähän astisen elämäni kieputtavimmassa vuoristoradassa Lääkärihinnassa, saanut matkalle tueksi tärkeitä ihmisiä ja ennen kaikkea oppinut elämästä.

Olen todella kiitollinen, että oon saanut kokea kaiken mitä oon kokenut.

Ennen kaikkea olen oppinut selviytymään. Se on kelpo taito, koska myös startupit on selviytymistä. Vuoristorata saattaa välillä laskeutua todella kylmään ja aaltoiseen mereen, mutta sieltä pääsee aina takaisin kuivalle maalle, kun vaan jatkaa yrittämistä. Tässä kohtaa on hyvä muistaa, että kylmässä meressä räpiköinti voi olla myös erittäin virkistävää. Sieltä nousee aina jotain uutta oppineena!

Tähän päättyy yksi luku mun elämässä. Kiitos kaikille opiskeluajoissa mukana olleille ❤

4 Types of Startup People

What kind of people there are in the mysterious startup scene? The startup world can be roughly divided into three categories: Startups, investors and supporting operators like entrepreneurship societies (ES) and accelerators (which can also be close to investors). This all creates the so-called “Pöhinä” or buzz that almost everyone knows in startup world.

Is Pöhinä really a big part of startups?

Don’t get caught up in early success – you didn’t get off to a promising start by going to lots of networking events and speaking on lots of panels – Sam Altman, Y Combinator

Pöhinä is one thousandth of everything if you are seriously building a startup.

Type 1: Hard working company builder

Short description: The one who is working when everyone else are celebrating at the Slush after party.

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Long description: This true startup entrepreneur is the last guy turning lights off at the office every day. This lonely wolf has his fight against time and the odds. He spends more time by talking to customers and users than to people in startup scene. If he has already realized that building a successful company takes a much longer time than he thought, he also eats, sleeps, exercises and spends time with his loved ones. If you ask him every day what is the situation with the company, he always has something new to tell.

Where to find: Only from the biggest startup events like Slush, but it can be difficult because he has filled his timetable with meetings.

Type 2: Investor

Short description: A man/woman in a suit asking “How does this scale?”

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Long description: Contrary to lonely hard working company builders, investors can be gregarious animals. If other investors are interested in some company, others might follow. That’s why it’s important for startups to get the attention of a lead investor. Investor’s motive on lengthen startup’s runway with investing is economic and personally. Inside the stylish look and poker face there is a will to help the world by helping both personally and financially people who have skills to develop something new. Investors love questions: How does this scale? What’s your competitive advantage? How big is the market opportunity? The list never ends.

Where to find: If seeking funding, it’s best to contact them personally or, if possible, through an introduction from your network.

Hard working company builders and investors can collaborate with supporting operators. Supporting operators help startups on the first hand but they also connect startups and investors.

Type 3: Supporting ES-guy

Short description: The one taking very early stage founder by hand and asking “How can I help you?”

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Long description: These guys and gals are great event organizers. They are also approachable and social. Networking is a big part of their job. To help startups they need to know as many people as possible. You will recognize this person at last when he/she asks you to join some of their event. If you look at his/her laptop, it is crammed full of stickers.

Where to find: They are everywhere. Search from any startup event.

Let’s get then to so-called Pöhinä.

Type 4: Pöhisijä

Short description: The last one drinking beer at startup events.

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Long description: Usually you can’t be sure what the position of these people in startup world is. Maybe they just enjoy the atmosphere and try to figure out what they want to do in the future. They love beer and long lasting parties. They know each other very well and they “pöhisevät” together. If you talk to them, they have funny stories to tell you.

Where to find: Find them at any startup event or on the social media.

What is common between all these types?

Everyone in the startup scene is usually a bit crazy in their own good way ❤

About Personal Why and Death as a Tool

It’s been a while since I wrote last time. I hate excuses but here is one: I have focused on living in the moment and giving more of me to people close to me. We all have only a limited amount of resources. I didn’t have a lot of resources left at the end of last year. So I used them only on most important things and people around me.

During this blog silence I started to consider things in the big picture. Why am I living my life as I live it now? What has led me to live my life this way? Who do I want to become?

Big questions and not short answers. Maybe not answers at all.

Simon Sinek says:

Start with why.

Feel inspired and inspire others.

Do you know your Why? The purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do?

Last autumn me and rest of the Lääkärihinta team were in Silicon Valley. We met a couple of startups there. One of them told us that investors there are looking for founder’s stories behind the startups. They want to invest in stories. That’s the message Simon Sinek is spreading as well. He strongly believes that people who have Why in what they are doing are more probable to succeed than people who are not reflecting their Why in what they are doing.

My life changed when I was 18 years old. I got seriously ill and had to give up competitive sports on which my personality was built. I lost myself. Next time my life changed at the age of 20. I was in a big surgery and my large intestine was removed. After that my body hasn’t been normal. And it will never again be a normal body. Neither will my mind ever be the same again.

Steve Jobs says on Stanford Commencement address 2005:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

I remember the New Year before my surgery. I was sick and sitting inside a cottage looking through the window how my of the time boyfriend’s family was shooting fireworks. They seemed happy. I was sad and thought: ”This might be my last new year.”

I’m lucky. I’m still here.

As Steve Jobs says, remembering that we’ll be dead soon is a powerful tool in life choices. It also puts a person in a survival mode. Every startup is also in a survival mode. “Grow or die”, said one Finnish healthtech business angel. I feel that keeping myself in a survival mode makes me live life in all its spheres. That’s how I get the most out of this short life.

The other thing is doing only things that matters.

Let’s get back to Why. My Why was born when I was ill. I can’t put it in words when the idea of Lääkärihinta was born but somehow I just knew that I needed to make the idea come true. Lääkärihinta is my channel to help people. I want to help everyone who is in the same situation as me when I was ill.

My disease required special treatment and therefore a general practitioner couldn’t help me. I lived two years thinking about questions: Can I travel abroad because I don’t know if there is a suitable doctor for me? Can I spend a weekend at a cottage because it’s far away from university hospitals, which are only places I know I can get care if needed? No one should be forced to live like that.

First time after my surgery I feel that I’m doing something meaningful. Something that gives me a reason to push things through thick and thin. If I can help others, I feel that my disease was worth experiencing. It gave me a Why.

Y Combinator interview in Silicon Valley

Three weeks ago I was in a full packed hall of people at Kasvu Open final when my co-founder got an email from top US accelerator Y Combinator. They wanted to interview us next week in Silicon Valley. We looked each other, ran out of the hall and screamed! Only top teams are accepted to the Y Combinator interview. For example, AirBnB and Dropbox has passed through Y Combinator.

After that moment everything we did was targeted to the interview. We read everything we found about the interview and Y Combinator. We wrote answers for 70 potential interview questions and asked them to each others. We explored the US health care market and sent meeting requests to US health care and Y Combinator startups in order to get a closer touch with the market. We even switched our language to english.

We read horror stories about the interview. It lasts only 10 minutes and that’s the time we have to convince them. During the interview they try to get as much information as possible. They give only 15 seconds time to answer and then they interrupt and ask the next question. There are 4-5 interviewers. Some of them are psychologists and their only job is to observe the team and try to find out how well the founders work as persons and together. The interviewers grill the founders to find out how well they cope with the situation.

To be honest, we were surprised because we didn’t felt grilled in our interview. Maybe we didn’t got the most grilling interviewer but the situation felt like too easy compared of what we heard. They gave us enough time to answer to questions and didn’t asked the most grilling questions. We were disappointed because we think that we can actually best show our team’s potential in a very grilling situation.

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After the interview we killed time in Silicon Valley. In the end of the day, Y Combinator calls to teams accepted and sends email to teams rejected. We of course couldn’t move our eyes from the phone. Day turned to night and we hadn’t get a call. The hope decreased. Finally, at the late night we got an email. We were rejected because they didn’t saw our market potential or we communicated it poorly. We told them that at first we will take over Nordics and after that European. I was sad because building a startup in Silicon Valley had become my dream.

In the next days we explored the Silicon Valley and San Francisco. We talked a lot about our startup. That was the most valuable part of the trip. We realized many things that we hadn’t realized in Finland. When we came back to Finland our daily work routines totally changed. We brightened our focus. We also realized that we need to be proud of what we have already built. It is easy to forget to be proud of what you have when you are always looking to the future.

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We rented THE car from Silicon Valley tv-series. To be honest, that was the best part of the journey 😉

How to become a unicorn with a disruptive platform?

Ask any startup what they are doing. You will get an answer:” We are building a platform for…” When the story continues you will probably hear how innovative their platform is and what kind of ecosystem they are setting up around it. And of course, it will disrupt all the platforms built before theirs.

Every startup is building a platform. If you are not building a platform, you are maybe not even a startup.

Btw, do you know what is a platform?

It’s this.

platform

Yes.

It’s that.

I’m not kidding.

Look at the picture. Imagine yourself at the platform. It will be really difficult to get out without someone picking you up.

You – as a user – are locked to live with the platform. If you try to escape, sharks will eat you.

Platforms are brilliant to lock users.

And ecosystems.

An ecosystem will remove the user’s fear of sharks because instead of sharks there is an ecosystem outside the platform.

The ecosystems are like the masters of the troposphere.

But don’t get discouraged if you don’t manage to build an ecosystem. Not ALL the startups are building them around their platforms. If you get at least the platform done, you still have a chance to become successful.

VCs and angel investors haven’t yet decided that you need to have an ecosystem around your platform. You can still get funded without having an ecosystem around it.

But remember scalability. What the VCs and angel investors decided is that your platform must be scalable. In order to scale up your platform with limited time and funds you must take risks. There might be a leak somewhere and your platform might catch fire. Obviously, no one is going to fund a burning platform.

And last but not least.

Disruption.

If you don’t disrupt earlier platforms, you are nothing. You are just a shark trying to eat users that have left someone else’s platform. You shouldn’t eat them. They could be your users.

What you should do is to harass someone else’s platform. After that you should rescue people from the platform to yours. Drill oil and keep your platform warm so that they don’t leave.

To sum up.

Build a platform. Harass other existing platforms. To conquer the whole world and block the competition, build an ecosystem around your platform.

You will be a unicorn.

(Oh, for all of you who are serious-minded, this post is full of sarcasm 😉 )