This week Summer of Startups were treated to a walk down the memory lane as we took a deep dive into the early-to-mid-00s Finnish startup scene. Wednesday’s visitors were Teemu Kurppa and Petteri Koponen from Jaiku, a forerunner microblog, later acquired by Google in 2007.
Teemu’s presentation was followed by a panel with Petteri and Teemu discussing various topics, among them the evolution of the Finnish startup scene throughout this decade.
Teemu goes thru the Jaiku developments reflecting on how and what affected the user statistics; Interestingly, for example, a New York Times feature did not lead to a spike in users; traditional media are not as effective a viral phenomena as early adopters. In contrast, as Internet personality Leo Laporte started hyping about Jaiku, that created huge amounts of traffic. (Every little counts.. Leo originally got hooked to Jaiku as its main competitor hit too close to home with his TWiT franchise)
Teemu stresses that it’s important to actively try out different things, as you never know what might work out. Media gimmicks, like the Eurovision coverage campaign, proved to be highly valuable as they served to build the community. While projects like that did not directly increase user stats, they created more connections between the nodes in the social graph. When you have more friends in any given service, it makes it difficult to leave that service.
Teemu also advices the SoS teams to be persistent, but patient; get used to everything taking 2-3 times longer than you expected it to. One of the biggest mistakes, Teemu considers, was not starting to build the the product rightaway, and emphasized the need to be open-minded about different things, put lots of new releases out, and eventually your project will start to grow and at some point, you might get lucky with it.
Team conflicts are also inevitable; For the founding team, Jaiku was at times very stressful, as they didn’t know each other that well. The passion for the product and the shared excitement united the team in the end. As Teemu describes, in big corporations, everything is about politics, you have to constantly do internal selling. “I find external selling more fulfilling” concludes Teemu on different work cultures.
The last topic Teemu touches upon is founder psychology and offers an advice: Work smart. A lot of the time, especially tech founders might be very smart, and work hard, but in the end, working smart is hard.
We thank both Teemu and Petteri for their open and honest remarks for the SoS audience as well as all the support they’ve graciously offered to the Aaltoes community over times.
Make sure to also check out Teemu’s excellent blog post on the topic.