Windi Muziasari, Indonesia. Founder and CEO
Windi Muziasari’s first contact with Finland happened in South Korea. Windi, originally from Indonesia, was studying there at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology when she became friends with a Finn, William Nurmi. Their discussions about the good work-life balance in the Nordics got Windi intrigued. She started to research academic opportunities in Finland, found Marko Virta’s biotechnology laboratory at the University of Helsinki and contacted him about any open PhD positions. This was in 2009.
As luck would have it, Virta was looking for a research assistant starting the following year. They agreed the job would be Windi’s as long as she finished her master’s degree in time. There was no contract, just a few emails about the position. But, as promised, Windi got the job after graduating and arrived in Helsinki a few months later.
Fast forward 12 years, and Windi has made Finland her base. She has finished her PhD and founded, together with Nurmi, a biotechnology company that specialises in monitoring antibiotic resistance in the environment. The business is off to a good start, and in 2021 Windi was named Finland’s Young Research Entrepreneur of the Year.
Doing a postgraduate degree in Finland was… meaningful and one of the critical turning points in my life.
My postdoc was based on a project that I designed, and it was to be conducted in Indonesia – my home country. In addition, I had the freedom to handle everything in the project independently, including planning, performing, budgeting and reporting. This was very important for my personal growth.
The reason I wanted to switch from academia to entrepreneurship is… that I wanted to apply my expertise in a more practical way.
During my postdoc, I had to teach at the university, and there were only a few courses in English. One is “biotechnology: from innovation to commercialisation” in the master’s degree programme. I was trusted to coordinate the course, and through that work I was exposed to the world of entrepreneurship: terminology, activities and networks.
“Learn the dos and don'ts from more experienced entrepreneurs.”
I joined a student preparing a business model canvas based on my experiences and knowledge of the problems that must be solved in antibiotic resistance pollution. I learnt that antibiotic resistance pollution is much worse in low and middle-income countries due to the lack of sanitation. However, not many are aware of this problem because it’s not easy to study the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in an environment such as rivers, wastewater and soils.
I did my PhD and postdoc on the topic, and that is how the idea for my company was born. I want to help other researchers to study antibiotic resistance from environmental samples easier, cheaper and faster. In academia, the budget for research always depends on research funding, and I thought that process was too limited and slow. In business, we can speed up the process by having stakeholders join us. We can work together to monitor the levels of antibiotic resistance pollution, especially in a water environment.
In addition, working as an entrepreneur in Finland doesn’t necessarily require Finnish language skills, especially when your business targets international markets. So, it is easier for me to work as an entrepreneur since my Finnish skills are very basic.
What I enjoy most about being an entrepreneur is… directly helping people.
I always want our research or work to be applied by society, and the best way for me to fulfil that goal is by being an entrepreneur. So it is a very satisfying moment when we receive thank you notes from our clients, and it makes us feel our hard work is worth the effort.
The Finnish biotechnology industry is…pretty small compared to the global scale. However, we have a good support system from the Finnish Government to export our technology to international markets.
The organisations that have been helpful for my professional growth in Finland include… the University of Helsinki, where I spent almost a decade and learnt to be a confident researcher and an expert in my research area.
Business Finland has given our company both financial and in-kind support so that we have the resources to grow and develop the business further.
Finnpartnership is another organisation that has provided financial support for our work in Indonesia so that I can contribute back to my home country.
And also the City of Helsinki, the lively start-up networks in Finland and of course our company, where I can do what I love.
The advice I would give to anyone considering starting a company in Finland is… that firstly, as immigrants and non-EU passport holders, we should make sure we have sufficient funding to live in Finland before we embark on the entrepreneurship journey. This is so that we can keep our Finnish residence permits.
Secondly, expose yourself to the entrepreneur communities in your region and in Finland to build networks and learn the dos and don’ts from more experienced entrepreneurs. Thirdly, test your idea. For example, find co-founders who can support you in realising your idea and talk with potential customers so you can learn about the need for your idea in the market. Bonus: check the support provided by the Finnish Government to start the journey!
The main difference in working life in Finland compared to other countries where I have worked is…nature.
Even though I live in Helsinki, the capital city, I can access beautiful nature easily and at any time. This is important for relieving stress when you work as an entrepreneur. Also, the high level of trust in society and government makes things and life easier. Although it can be a bit cold and straightforward life…it is still peaceful and pleasant.
What I enjoy most about living in Helsinki is… I love this city so much. It is precisely the place where I want to live. The city is big enough to enjoy a vibrant, urban life. Still, it is also very green, so you can easily find nature and personal space too. The perfect place for an ambivert like me.
Not to mention the start-up communities are awesome!
The hobby that I have really enjoyed practising in Finland is… walking in nature, like forests.
Walking in the tropical jungle is not safe in Indonesia, and I don’t like insects. In Finland, forests are very safe and have fewer insects, so I can enjoy them even by myself.