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The second of three episodes recorded at Slush in Helsinki, that we produced in partnership with Remote, the global HR platform, where we recorded a series of interviews from Remote’s booth with a number of the speakers and attendees. Our guests for this episode were:
1/ Erika Ottela, COO & Founder, eBrands
2/ Marita Markkula, VP Marketing & Communications, ICEYE
3/ Yashar Moradbakhti, CEO, Lingio
4/ Dmitrijus Borisenka, Co-Founder, Coingate
5/ Tero Sarkkinen, CEO, Basemark
Erika Ottela, COO and Founder of eBrands
Erika Ottela, shared insights into the journey of building a Nordic brand house focused on consumer brands in sports, wellness, and beauty. Recognising the abundance of product innovators in the Nordics lacking resources to scale globally, eBrands emerged as an alternative, providing a platform for these brands to thrive.
Addressing challenges faced over the past three years, Erika emphasised the impact of crises on consumer brands, encompassing issues from fluctuating consumer demand to supply chain disruptions. A strategic focus on transparency in business operations and profit-driven decision-making positioned eBrands ahead of challenges, fostering resilience in the face of uncertainties.
Discussing talent acquisition, Erika highlighted the global nature of eBrands’ operations, with a diverse workforce of 65 individuals representing 19 nationalities across 13 countries. The company’s culture prioritises strong shared values, fostering a positive and collaborative remote work environment.
Erika delved into the significance of AI in online marketplaces, acknowledging its potential in creating visually appealing listings and images. However, she underscored the challenge of maintaining authenticity and brand identity amid the ease of automated processes. Erika emphasised the need for brands to excel in areas where AI falls short, such as defining brand identity, connecting with customers, and embodying authenticity.
The conversation concluded with Erika shedding light on eBrands’ approach to AI, emphasising a strategic blend of AI efficiency and human-driven brand development. The importance of maintaining the heart of the brand alongside AI utilisation emerged as a key theme in navigating the dynamic landscape of online consumer sales.
Erika Ottela’s insights provided a comprehensive overview of eBrands’ journey, resilience strategies, and the evolving role of AI in the consumer brand landscape.
Marita Markkula, VP of Marketing and Communications, ICEYE
Marita Markkula, VP of Marketing and Communications at ICEYE, provided insights into the journey of ICEYE, a Finnish new space company specialising in small commercial satellites. Founded in 2015 by Rafel Modrzewski and Pekka Laurila, initially focused on monitoring ice movement in the Arctic, ICEYE has rapidly evolved. Marita highlighted significant growth, with 30 satellites launched, over $300 million in capital raised, and a diverse team of 550+ employees from over 50 nationalities.
Discussing talent acquisition, Marita emphasised the importance of standing out and attracting individuals who share ICEYE’s values and ambition. With a global workforce, finding exceptional candidates with subject matter expertise and cultural alignment is crucial.
Marita delved into the company’s unique culture, driven by values like “making the impossible possible” and fostering teamwork. She emphasised the need for employees to actively live out these values, creating a culture that goes beyond mere statements on slides.
Navigating the challenges of team scalability, Marita highlighted the significance of effective communication, regular meetings, and social engagements to foster connection among dispersed teams.
Diversity is a core aspect of ICEYE’s culture, emphasising the need for conscious efforts to ensure diversity of thought. Marita stressed the importance of avoiding groupthink and being open to diverse perspectives, challenging the status quo.
Marita emphasised the necessity of living up to promises, be it in building a diverse workforce or embodying the company’s values. The conversation showcased ICEYE’s dynamic growth, commitment to diversity, and the essential role of culture in navigating the evolving space industry.
Yashar Moradbakhti, CEO of Lingio
Yashar Moradbakhti, shared insights into the company’s evolution and mission. Originating from a desire to assist immigrants in entering the job market, Lingio has transformed into a multifaceted learning platform, serving over 100 clients in Sweden. Over the past five years, the team has grown from three founders to a dynamic group of 40, engaging with municipalities and large corporations to facilitate enjoyable and effective learning experiences.
Lingio’s approach involves gamifying learning, emphasising that when learning is enjoyable, knowledge retention improves. Yashar highlighted the company’s commitment to being a social impact company, helping individuals integrate into the labor market and positively impacting lives across Sweden.
Addressing challenges, Yashar emphasised the learning curve in transitioning from tech founders to building a diverse team encompassing sales and marketing. The shift required humility and openness to learning new disciplines, contributing to Lingio’s growth.
Looking ahead, Yashar expressed excitement about Lingio’s AI-driven advancements, particularly an AI course writer that generates content within minutes, democratising the creation of quality learning materials. Lingio aims to spread knowledge globally, leveraging AI for positive impact.
Discussing AI’s role in the workplace, Yashar highlighted its potential to enhance efficiency by automating mundane tasks, allowing individuals to focus on more meaningful work. Lingio’s AI initiatives align with a positive perspective on leveraging technology for societal betterment.
In conclusion, Yashar Moradbakhti underscored the importance of maintaining a positive outlook and focusing on using technology for good. The interview showcased Lingio’s growth, commitment to social impact, and innovative strides in AI-driven learning solutions.
Dmitrijus Borisenka, Co-Founder of CoinGate,
Dmitrijus Borisenka, the co-founder of CoinGate, discussed the journey of the crypto payment processor, which is nearing its tenth anniversary. CoinGate facilitates payments in 70 different cryptocurrencies, converting them into fiat currencies for seamless e-commerce transactions.
Reflecting on the past decade, Dmitrijus emphasised the challenges of building a complex business, underscoring the importance of seeking external help, mentorship, and funding. He shared valuable insights into the necessity of adapting organisational structures as a company evolves, transitioning from a family-like dynamic to a more complex, tribe-oriented approach.
Acknowledging the importance of open communication about mistakes within the company culture, Dmitrijus stressed the significance of learning from failures and successes alike. The conversation delved into CoinGate’s attempt at global expansion, particularly in the competitive and regulatory environment of the United States, where they encountered challenges leading to a strategic pause in operations.
Discussing talent acquisition, Dmitrijus highlighted the competition for fintech specialists in Lithuania, necessitating a search for talent abroad. Despite the challenges, he expressed pride in Lithuania’s emergence as a hub for IT businesses.
Looking ahead, Dmitrijus outlined the company’s priorities, anticipating the impact of upcoming regulations, such as MiCA (Money in Crypto-Assets) in 2025. While recognising the challenges, he sees the increased regulation as an opportunity to ensure the safety and integrity of the cryptocurrency industry.
As CoinGate approaches its tenth year, Dmitrijus Borisenka remains optimistic about navigating the evolving landscape of cryptocurrency and regulatory frameworks, emphasising the importance of adapting and learning from both successes and failures.
Tero Sarkkinen, CEO, Basemark
Tero Sarkkinen, the CEO of Basemark, shared insights into the unique international trajectory of his companies, with none of them having customers in Finland, attributing this to the nature of the industries they operate in.
Focusing on the automotive sector for the past 15 years, Basemark collaborates with renowned brands like BMW and Lamborghini, providing user interface software and leading augmented reality solutions for cars.
Discussing the future of automotive technology, Tero highlighted the potential for windshields to function as transparent displays, blending augmented reality seamlessly into the driving experience. While this technology is currently in labs and early pilots, Tero estimates it could reach mass markets in 5 to 10 years.
Addressing challenges in business growth, Tero noted the shifting landscape, from difficulties in talent acquisition a couple of years ago to the current challenge of securing funding. He emphasised the global approach to recruitment due to the scarcity of talent in Finland and outlined a thorough interview process, including cultural fit assessment.
Drawing from his Silicon Valley experience, Tero emphasised the importance of thinking big and the need for speed in the business world. With a determined vision for Basemark, Tero aims to build it into the largest software company to emerge from Finland.
Reflecting on personal lessons, Tero highlighted the resilience instilled during challenging times, such as arriving in Silicon Valley during the Dotcom bust. Despite adversity, Tero’s determination and refusal to give up have driven the success of his ventures.
Looking ahead, Tero envisions Basemark expanding its impact beyond the automotive industry, exploring applications in remote medical care, field worker automation, and other fields.
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