Persistence, hustling, constant hunger for making the world a better place – is that what defines a true entrepreneur? We have spoken to many investors in the Nordics about what kind of entrepreneurs do they choose to work with, and most of them stated something along these lines: those with ambition, determination, and passion.
But to detect ambition, determine the level of dedication and to test for passion – one needs to have been there and done it themselves. Not all investors have had the chance to run a business, but the best ones are certainly comfortable going to places and situations in which they have never been before. That hands-on experience helps measure up the entrepreneurs and their level of commitment in a big way.
Tero Mennander, Ventech VC
Our today’s guest has never had an issue with stepping into the unknown. Over 10 years in venture capital, 5 years at Nokia heading business development and incubation department, sheer experience as a serial entrepreneur, – Tero Mennander has “tasted” business from various angles. “I am an old guy,” he smiles, “Yet unstoppable.”
Passion For The Unknown
We go back to 1993, to business development department of Boeing Corporation, where Mennander marks the start of his professional journey. 4 years representing American aerospace giant in Finland set the start for a new adventure – Sitra, a public innovation fund which provides venture capital investments in Finnish companies and startups.
The first experience as an investor opened doors to a private venture fund, Nordic Venture Partners, where Mennander lead numerous early stage Nordic investments. Previous experience in Sitra played a pivotal role and lead to a number of successful ventures – u-Nav Microelectronics, later acquired by Atheros), CRF Health, acquired by Vitruvian Partners, Continuent acquired by WMware, just to mention a few. He has also held several Investment Committee and Advisory Board positions in European and US VC funds.
After 5 years Nordic Venture Partners Mennander turned his path towards Nokia’s corporate world, where he held leadership positions in Corporate Development, Venturing and M&A. By 2012 Mennander “tried” doing business in all possible ways – via funding and mentorship, growth and development, mergers and acquisitions, but the one very crucial part of the equation was missing – how do you actually get your business up and running? What does it mean to be a captain of your own ship and make decisions over its course? How does it feel being on the other side, in the shoes of an entrepreneur?
That part was the unknown, so when the opportunity appeared, Mennander took it and jumped in, feet first, into the turbulent world of entrepreneurship – without hesitation.
Teaming up with a few colleagues from Nokia, Mannander founded a company called PulseOn, which developed connected wearable devices – OHR trackers designed for a wide range of use cases, from sleep quality and recovery, to heart rate and stress monitoring. The business idea came from product innovation – FitBit hit the market, and suddenly everybody started to talk about activity tracking and the quantified self. At one meeting, a colleague from Nokia shared that optical sensor development has progressed over years and that it might be possible to measure heart rate using a wristband instead of a chest belt. It was 2009. The team started to work on product development. The idea spun off from Nokia and grew into a stand-alone business. The business caught the good wind, and for Mennander, it was time to set sail into open waters. He left the company in 2012 in favor of yet a new venture.
The Holy Grail Of Funding Co-Operation: Trust
Among the three roles – investor, corporate and entrepreneur, which one did you enjoy the most, I ask.
“An entrepreneur,” replies Mennander, “That’s when you live to the fullest.”
He quickly adds, “Certainly there are pros and cons to all three, and there was always a lot of good learning in each area. However, having first-hand experience of entrepreneurial hustle and bustle will definitely a great asset for any investor there is. It helps to understand each other on so many levels, from finding the right partners to guiding towards dreams and goals.”
Mennander believes that trusted balanced relationships between founders and investors are the key to successful cooperation between both parties.