The art of the start: A survival guide for setting up a startup
Miika Perä has seen the first steps and battles of three different startups. For him entrepreneurship is a natural way of working with things he deems important.
The hardest part is to begin. And in a startup everything is about, well, starting.
“There’s always a jump to make, but once it’s down, entrepreneurship becomes a part of life. It is important to reach that point.”
Miika Perä speaks from experience. The drinkable supermeal company Ambronite took its first steps in Perä’s kitchen, and he is one of the founders of Jalo Helsinki, a company that produces designer smoke alarms. Now those companies are led by others, and Perä focuses his efforts on Cambrian Intelligence in London, UK.
Together with his co-founder Hamid Reza Zaheri, whom Perä met through an accelerator program, Perä aims at making Cambrian Intelligence one of the frontrunners of robotics. The main idea behind the company is to bring an almost science fiction sounding solution to decommission old nuclear reactors.
Simultaneously Perä and Zaheri are developing technology and solutions that can be taken advantage of outside of nuclear plants, including everyday life and things like remote work.
“At some point things will develop all the way to the level that was seen in the movie Avatar, but we are not there yet. Still, technology already enables transformational things.”
Two is a company…?
Perä’s background is in finance and bioinformation technology, both of which he holds a degree in. His first fellow entrepreneurs were found through studies. He deems two people an ideal team size for the founding period.
“Of course there are people who soldier on their own, and three is possible as well. The best thing would be to have both genders presented. The differences in the ways of thinking brutally increase the IQ of the team.”
Perä points out that getting into a company with a friend might, at worst, mean the end of friendship. Hence it is essential to agree on the vision in as much detail as possible.
“Obviously at first the friendship seems unbreakable, yet still drama is not uncommon in the world of entrepreneurship.”
Perä describes Jalo Helsinki as a good learning curve that prepared him for hardship, too. For example, he begun to understand that whilst the company is battling its way to the next goal, the world will change. That opens new opportunities that did not even exist earlier.
“Really small details can be in control of large things, both in the good and the bad. It is almost beautiful how the tiniest idea or a contact to someone can open a big door that changes everything.”
Never give up – unless you really have to
The ability to keep going when times are hard is fundamental for entrepreneurs. Perä has noticed that a lot of people give up too easily. It can also be dangerous to fall too much in love with one’s own ideas, as that compromises flexibility.
Knowing one’s own monsters is important, too. By monster, Perä means the bottleneck that needs to be cleared in order for things to go forward – say, convincing the conservative nuclear industry to give new technologies a go.
“My personal weakness is that suddenly I get another idea I start to ponder over. It is easy to do something completely irrelevant that feels like it is pushing things further, but in reality it is meaningless unless the monster is defeated. Investors will take notice if the road is not clear.”
It is beneficial for just about anyone to examine the limits of one’s own prejudices. Perä mentions that all things will, with time and effort, be easy – if only you give yourself a chance to learn them.
The current generation of entrepreneurs has grown up in a working life very different to that of their predecessors. Perä has noted that when before hitting foreign markets was deemed cumbersome, today’s startups tend to think globally by default.
Money is the first worry for many. Perä points out that it is possible to go pretty far just by making use of pre-existing resources. Of course soon there needs to be someone willing to pay for what the company is providing.
“If not, it turns into a project, a hobby.”
Miika encourages all budding entrepreneurs to ask themselves, whether or not the idea is something that would be motivating enough without pay. If the answer is yes, you know you are in the right direction.
Speaking of which – what would Perä do if money was no issue? Without a hint of hesitation he responds: “Exactly this. The work has a meaning, because it can be used for common good.”
“Giving someone that “wow!” experience – that feels incredible.”
Text: Anne Salomäki