Elias Aalto – TALKS WITH PETRI
Elias Aalto talks about the early days of Wolt, how to win an Apple Design Award and why startups are overhyped as a career path and what not to do when you have an audience of millions of people.
Elias Aalto is a co-founder and the original product lead of Wolt – one of the fastest growing food delivery companies in Europe. After its inception in 2014, Wolt has raised over 250M€ in funding and serves 22 countries and 80 cities around Europe and Asia. Elias is a generalist switching between coding, design and business. He started developing for iOS from the very launch of App Store becoming the first Apple Design Award winner in the Nordics for his game Wooden Labyrinth 3D. Simultaneously, Elias co-founded Qvik – a digital consultancy – that has organically grown to 10M€ revenue and today employs close to a hundred specialists in design, mobile, cloud and AI.
(NOTE: The text may contain errors, misconceptions and even comical unintended contexts. Please use it only as a reference to the actual audio conversation from where it has been transcribed.)
Petri: Hello, Elias. How are you doing? How is the metro in Espoo? That’s the new thing there.
Elias: Hey Petri, it’s a pleasure to be here. OMG, the subway, don’t ask me about that. I’m a notorious enemy of the Espoo subway, but it’s pretty good out here. The sun is shining, and it is actually turning out to be a summery day.
Petri: Some years back there was a person who asked you to have a cup of coffee and it kind of changed your life. Can you say, what was the sales pitch? What happened when Miki Kuusi offered you, I don’t know whether he paid for the cup of coffee…
Elias: He’s a stingy bastard. He probably didn’t. I think we paid our own. Miki who I had met in passing once and said hello, and he probably waved back and probably didn’t say a thing, called me up. And Miki was the CEO of Slush at that point. He called me up and said let’s have a cup of coffee.
And I was excited because I had my company dealing with software consultancy, but we were sort of detached from the whole startup scene. We were not, although we were entrepreneurs in the tech field, there was a great big divide between the startups who were seeking explosive growth and us boring companies.
It was very interesting to sit with Miki and have a chat. His pitch was, we sat down in the cafe and he’s like, Oh, look at that, look at the massive queue. And I’m like, there’s no massive queue. It’s the corona season. No, it actually wasn’t corona season back then and there was a queue.
And he was like, Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if we were sitting down here at the table and we could continue the discussion while making the order and just picking it up from the cashier’s desk when it’s ready and have all the payment. And I was like, yeah, that would be cool.
And I think it would be a good utility. I have been thinking of a similar thing and actually building a sort of a similar thing before. That’s how it started for me with the story of Wolt, which is nowadays mostly known for its delivery service of restaurant food.
The whole actual idea was that there is this time and space where you have to be in the same time and space as another person, which is, in this case, the cashier to place the order to communicate and to make the payments. So there were two of these steps that we could detach from the time-space continuum: the payment and the ordering process.
We then later detached the third part, which is consumption. You don’t even actually have to consume in the same space, which really exploded the business but at that point, it was just detaching those two.
Petri: And I’d read somewhere that you figured out rather early on that there’s actually no queues in cafes in Helsinki.
Elias: There are queues and in many places now, but the difficulty in this, because we were doing eating-in and take away, was that it can work and it still does. There’s not a trivial amount, small double digits, percentages of all the Wolt orders are actually take away orders and not delivery orders.
It works, but the problem is it doesn’t work the first time. Going up to the cashier and placing an order and paying for the order is actually better than downloading an application, registering the application, verifying your phone number, verifying your email address, entering a credit card, learning to use an application and placing the order.
The amount of steps that you have to do to place the first order is worse than the old way of doing it. Or in the case of takeaway orders, just calling the place. It’s a lot simpler to call and say give me that pizza. I’m going to come and pick it up and pay by credit card.
It’s a lot quicker. The issue with the concept initially was that the first time use case is actually worse than the status quo. And you only get the value from the second and third and fourth and fifth. And you catch up by like third order. But it just won’t grow fast enough.
And also, it doesn’t provide you with anything exclusive. And that was the real kicker because you could order from the till and just walk up to the person, queue if you must, that’s fine or you could call them. We didn’t provide a new service that didn’t exist. You could get the same service.
With delivery, we provide something that you couldn’t get before. It’s exclusive to our application. Of course, there are now other providers for that, but it’s compared to the status quo of that restaurant existing, you couldn’t get delivery from them. That’s exclusive. That’s why HBO has Game of Thrones. That’s the reason why you choose Game of Thrones, it is the exclusive stuff. Everybody has some of these catalogue stuff. But the exclusiveness off Wolt came from delivery compared to the usual restaurant use case.
Petri: Can you recall some moments where you were struggling to gain traction going?
Elias: There’s definitely that moment when we realised it’s working. And, it’s when everything breaks down and your company is about to be ripped in 10 pieces.
We started building the service in early 2014. We incorporated the company in late 2014 and then we launched the application in February 2015.
From that spring, throughout the summer, we’re seeing growth. It’s slow, but we’re seeing growth. At that point, we’re thinking what we should do to get the ball really rolling cause this is growing, but it’s not growing fast enough. And we’re thinking about different kinds of concepts.
Where does queuing really annoy you? For example, in nightclubs, it might annoy you. These days we don’t remember what nightclubs are, but they used to be places where you go and get drunk and you’re close to other people. They used to have a lot of queuing and you were like maybe it’s the alcohol because alcohol has a good margin, we can charge a good commission and you can skip the queue and get some exclusive perks if you use the application. We were exploring that. And the other case was, what about like sports arenas? Because like during the half-time break there’s a big queue in sports arenas to get the food and also the drinks.
We were contemplating that and we got some offers. Maybe we should really concentrate on sports arenas. But the problem is that even if you take all the sports arenas, even if we take all the nightclubs and bars, the volume just isn’t there. We really need to target food.
We actually tried the nightclubs a little bit and it gave a reasonable bump into sales. And we’re like, Hmm, that’s tempting to really go all in there, but it’s just not enough of a business case. And we, we shied away from that. Then Foodora came to Helsinki, which was our first city. They are offering delivery. Oh crap, now we gotta do delivery.
From the very beginning, we were planning on doing delivery. We just were hoping that someone else does the actual delivery part, the sort of messy logistics. Whereas we figured we are only a software company and we don’t have to deal with the sort of horrible thing where you now have thousands of people delivering your stuff.
And it’s very complicated. Humans, we nerds, we don’t like that. Then we realised that we have to start our own delivery service and in a couple of weeks we did. And when we did that was the moment when we realised, Holy shit, it’s working. So that autumn, we launched the delivery in August 2015.
Then September, October, November, we were growing 20-30% week-over-week for the whole autumn. When you’re doubling as a company every two and a half/three weeks, it’s difficult. You are just piling on new people, mostly of course to the logistics part, but also then you’re like our tech can’t handle this growth.
That was the moment where we realised that there’s actually something in this. This is probably the concept that we want to explore further.
Petri: At least one of the things you were doing was the design of the first mobile app. Can you describe how that happened and were there some interesting moments?
Elias: Out of the founders I was the product lead and also I developed the iOS application, which was our first consumer platform, and then the iOS application for the restaurants.
We really didn’t have any experience with the restaurant industry. One of us, I think Oskari, who is a backend engineer, had worked one summer at McDonald’s. So, we were practically professionals. But we knew how we wanted to order food.
This is the thing where some people have asked me to help design some concepts. I’m like, yeah, but that’s hard. That’s a hard concept because I’ve always done easy ones because it’s semi-trivial and I’m first to admit it. Making a food delivery application is quite an easy thing to design and build. It’s hard to do it of course well but the gist of it is you pick a restaurant, you pick the food, you pick where you want it and you pay for it, you somehow get notifications where what’s happening and then you get your food.
Because someone has been building like an app for solving marital issues and you’re like how do you even start? I have no idea how to solve my own marriage without an application. How do you fix it with an app? Or how do you fix depression with an app? I don’t know. I’m not sure if it’s possible, whereas it’s definitely possible and it’s quite easy to start designing an app for ordering food.
What we probably did a bit differently is that we are, or I’m personally obsessed with details and making the UIs just very fine-tuned and smooth and nicely animated and just not cutting corners in terms of the experience that the user gets.
The consumer application is easy because we were very much in the target market. They were existing products and you could benchmark those a little bit and then just make the next generation thing. We didn’t have the luxury that you would have now, where we’ve seen copies of basically direct copies of Wolt in some markets.
Now there’s Uber Eats and Foodora and Deliveroo and whatnot. Back then Uber Eats didn’t exist. Deliveroo did exist but we didn’t know they existed because they were just a local player in the UK at that point. Initially, we didn’t know that Foodora existed.
We thought we were up against basically Pizza online, which was back then very web-focused and the early two thousands kind of product. We thought we were basically alone in the market and nobody else had done a mobile-first company for ordering food. We were quite wrong with that assessment, but it worked out.
Also, I have to mention the restaurant application because we had never worked in a restaurant. So making an application for restaurants to manage the order flow. That was a bit interesting. I just basically drew a mock-up. You’d have the incoming orders there and the outgoing orders there and then our designer, co-founder Mika made the final graphics and then I developed it. Turns out the same app was essentially used up until this year. And now we replaced it finally with a new one, which still uses the same design and funnily enough that design is completely different from the competition. It’s very different.
You would think that there’s basically only one way to do that, but no, actually that part is quite unique to Wolt how the restaurants manage the orders. It seems to be that the restaurants like it. That’s good. Apparently, we’re just our own natural geniuses in designing restaurant software or, yeah, I think it’s good enough.
What we did there as well was that we approach that software basically as a consumer software. Usually, all the software that companies get looks disgusting and is horrible but it’s very powerful. You can do a lot of things, but it’s just a gazillion different buttons and you have to know the magic spells to use that.
We wanted to make it very intuitive and very consumer-like with the nice animations and smoothness, but still efficient. So you wouldn’t get annoyed by it being slow when you process your millionth order. We don’t want to get in the way of users using the application so it cannot be like overly visual and extra eye candy for the sake of eye candy. But it’s very nice. It was a very nice application from the very beginning, very up to a high standard of production value. And I think that made it stand out because a lot of people just throw in the crappiest web form to be used by the non-consumer. But we really put effort into that app as well.
Petri: What’s that a conscious choice by the founding team or was it your idea? How did that come about?
Elias: From our first meeting with Miki we’ve been very aligned on the vision of not cutting corners in terms of the user experience in any part of the service. So we are both very obsessed with rather doing a bit too well and risking using too much time and over-engineering the experience.
Miki had a brief stint at Supercell, which is also a company that really excels in making things, not just a great game mechanics or great monetisation, but also like very fine-tuned and beautiful apps throughout. We were very aligned on that.
Our backend engineers weren’t as interested in how it all looks. From the original founding team, we had two backend developers, Lauri and Oskari. Lauri has since built our Android application as well. That initial Android application was one of the coolest Android apps that I’ve used. It was five years ago. The standard was a bit different back then. It was a cool app. Apparently, we also had backend engineers who were building beautiful things. I would say it was a founding team-wide thing that we really wanted to push the level of user experience throughout.
Petri: Wolt is in traditional chicken-and-egg business in a sense that you need to get the restaurants in there and then you need to get the crowd and keep this in balance.
Elias: No, we are not in the chicken-and-egg. We have the third part, I don’t know what that is.
Elias: You need the roosters as well. It’s a three-sided marketplace. In a traditional marketplace, there’re two sides. It’s annoying enough to grow that.
But try scaling a a chair that has three legs and all of those three you need to grow at the same rate. And that’s the tricky part. You need to have the restaurant supply, the customer demand, but also the courier supply. If any of those is too low, the whole thing collapses.
So if there’s not enough demand then the restaurants are like we’re not getting enough orders. And the couriers are like we’re not getting enough gigs. We’re going to quit the platform because we can make a living. If there’s too much demand, well then the experience sucks because it takes two hours to get any food.
It’s a very fine balance and it’s crazy how fine that balance is. If you’re off by like 10% at some point, like couriers are down 10%. It’s horrible. All the kudos in the world to the operational teams on managing that balance so that we have the right amount. I think the easiest one is perhaps the restaurants. Because in some sense the restaurants don’t really care. Of course, they do care but if there’s an iPad in the corner and no orders come in, well then no orders come in but it’s not going to ruin their day because initially, at least, the majority of the business is still in their old business.
Whether it’s eating in or selling take-away from the counter, that’s their main business still. This is a supplement initially, so if the supplement doesn’t bring in tens of orders a day, who cares? It’s just an iPad sitting there and it’s quiet. I think that is the easiest part to flex.
But if there’s not enough demand for the couriers to be online, or there’s too much demand and not enough couriers online, those both really suck for the user or the courier. It’s a tricky issue growing that business for sure.
Petri: How did you manage that one? Did you have some artificial intelligence, machine learning or rule of thumbs? What was the trick? Because you were also growing rapidly. You can’t just learn what’s happening because there’s also this variable that is probably exponential.
Elias: I don’t think there’s an artificial intelligence that can hire you a thousand courier partners when need be. It’s funny now that you mention artificial intelligence because we basically use none of that for the first four years in the company. People were like, Oh, you’re probably doing your route optimization with artificial intelligence.
We’re like, uh, no. It’s a travelling salesman problem that is a dynamic version of it. It’s like a horrible NP-complete computer calculation intensive problem. And you want to combine that with another brute force computing power-intensive solution like AI. God help you with that.
Some of the ops people at the worst moments of growth, the best moments for the company, but worst moments for them, I think they just worked crazy hours and they pushed through it. It’s like when you’re growing at that point when we’re growing those 20-30% a week-over-week, and you just have to do a magic trick.
Month in, month out, every time, double the company and the operations and try to not only get the people in but then also rebuild the organizational structure all the time because you’re growing so fast. I don’t know if there’s an easy way through it. They just did it because it had to be done. It’s insane. The growth has been more relaxed in terms of the product side. We now have like 130-140 people working on the product but it’s been six years now, and we started with four.
It’s a big increase, but it doesn’t double every month. That’s been more relaxed, although even in that, of course, there has been a lot of growth pain and a lot of restructuring, many times learning a new model of working. But I don’t know if there’s any magic trick to it, how to grow. It’s always going to be different and tricky to get your company to grow like that.
Petri: How was the money side, getting funding in different environments? You were also coming from Finland and you needed quite a lot of capital as well. Was that easy with the support you were having and the connections and also with the Slush ecosystem? Can you elaborate a bit on what happened in that front?
Elias: That was probably the number one reason why things got a bit delayed in the beginning. We met with Miki for the coffee in February 2014 but the company was actually founded and incorporated in October 2014. There was over half a year between. I was actually starting to code the product before the company was founded.
That was mostly due to the funding. At that point, Miki was already very known in the industry and he was the CEO of Slush. You could say a celebrity in the startup scene. Does that help to get funding? Yes, it does. It opens a lot of doors.
Miki knew basically all the relevant key players in the industry because they all were part of the Slush ecosystem. We knew from the very beginning of that Miki was instrumental in getting the funding. I had a company before and I had a successful game on iOS before but still, I knew none of the people.
I was not in the startup scene at all. I didn’t know any of the VCs or angel investors. We probably could have raised with the rest of the team as well. But it was really hinged on Miki’s connections and star power to pull in the investment. But Miki was still the CEO of Slush.
And it’s very hard to give away that because it’s a very nice spot to be the CEO of Slush. It doesn’t pay you, but it is a powerful position. I think Miki was struggling a bit internally on whether to commit to found Wolt or sticking with Slush or finding a better concept to pursue.
It almost didn’t happen. We got the first demo of the application, the first proof of concept. We had the first cafe we used it in. And Miki was like, Oh, this is kind of cool, but I don’t know. I was like, Miki, come on. All of us have quit our jobs. I’ve quit my own company and because of that, I had to give away a large chunk of my ownership in that company.
I’m in this and you better fucking be in this as well. We finally pushed Miki to commit to it. After he decided that, okay, fine, let’s do it. Then I would say it was unfairly easy to get the funding. It still wasn’t a complete walk in the park because our concept, naming and everything, was a bit off at that point and no one really believed in the takeaway business or the eating-in business.
And rightfully so, because it turns out that doesn’t grow fast enough. It’s not a VC fundable thing. We got it, in the end, the first angel round, of 400 000, and later it turned out to be 450,000 euros. It was somewhat easy. Where Miki’s influence really came in was the quality of the investors.
We had Ilkka Paananen personally being involved then we had Risto Siilasmaa and Petteri Koponen was not that at that point really involved with, he’s currently the chairman of the board, but although Lifeline Ventures made the investment it was more through Ilkka Paananen and not so much by Petteri Koponen.
He turned us down initially and then Ilkka Paananen said I think we should invest in them. Then it happened through Lifeline, but Koponen was a bit hesitant initially to invest in our company. We got the Finnish billionaire mafia, as they call it, to invest.
That was the main influence of the first round from Miki’s star power. I think we probably could have gotten close to the same valuation and amount of money, but just from a different tier of investors, and of course, the lead investor being Inventure which is also a fine company. The later rounds…
We first got that round in and then the company didn’t really grow during the take takeaway era. And then we got the delivery part so we got a lot of explosive growth in the fall of 2015. The problem with the growth was the business didn’t work at all. It was so inefficient from the software and then the operations point of view that there was no business in the delivery at that point. We were losing a lot of money on the delivery, but it was growing a lot. At some point, it’s okay just to grow a lot. During the fall we were running out of money and we were basically running into a wall. We had like a month left of the runway.
But before that, we couldn’t raise because we didn’t have any numbers to back up and we didn’t even have any growth to back up our pitch to investors. So at least we got the growth. At that point, we raised a round from our existing investors, which is never a place you want to be in.
You want the competition to drive up the price. But we had to go back to our own investors and say we need a little bit more money. We raised 2 million from our existing investors. Then just a couple of months later the growth continues nicely and we come up with a way to see how the business could look like if all of these parameters would change such as our efficiency numbers and our cost per hire. We managed to pull off of an Excel that looked like a business. There could be a business and it’s currently growing like 20% a week. And so that starts to look a lot more enticing. And now that we had the money, and we had been in a situation where we need the money next week, or we’re going to go bust, now we could negotiate.
A couple of months later after the 2 million round, we actually started negotiating a 10 million round. That was a competed round. We had an acquisition offer and we had that investment and we played those against each other. And we ended up with the 10 million round led by EQT Ventures.
That is the best round we have ever raised in terms of where the company actually was and what price we got for it. The first round – I think these days a lot of the companies are raising these 2 million pre-money valuations. We had the CEO of Slush and we had six co-founders. And people think, well, six co-founders is a bit much.
Yeah, sure. It is a bit much. I think it’s not in any shape or form the optimal number, but from an investment point of view, you get six co-founders working for you basically like slave labour level salaries. Because the founder salaries are very meagre, you don’t want to burn the cash, but you’ve got six very committed people working for you for our low salary. That’s a great deal from an investment point of view. Our angel round wasn’t particularly great in terms of valuation. The 2 million round wasn’t great because we were backed into a corner. We just had to take money in no matter what the terms were.
And the terms were fine. Our investors didn’t really hose us. They could have hosed us way worse if they wanted to because we had to take the money. But in the 10m round, we were very successful selling the company, selling a vision, selling something we didn’t have at that moment.
That was great. What happens when you raise a good round though, is you get a nasty hangover because now you have to actually make those numbers work. And that’s a different thing. By the time you raise the next round, you need an upround. Nobody ever wants to raise a downround.
You need to actually make that growth and then you need to make some more growth to sell the higher valuation. That was when it got tricky, we were growing nicely, but to catch up to the hype that we were able to sell the previous time, the next round of funding was a lot more difficult.
Then we raised a 30 Then we raised a 30 million round and then a 100 or so million round, and now just recently another 100 million. It’s going nicely. Actually, between those 10 and 30 million rounds, we were struggling a little bit, but then we really got our stride in and learned how to scale the business.
It’s a controlled chaos explosion, but at least now it’s going in the direction that it’s a predictable direction really, and how it’s working.
Petri: Even though Wolt is an amazing success already by now. You did something before that, which is by downloads even more impressive. 10% of all the iPhones in the market globally, they were using something you did.
Elias: Obviously, we only measure things by downloads. That’s the real metric. I wish it were so. In the very early days of App store, I happened to get on board developing for iPhone OS as it was called back then. It wasn’t even iOS. I started developing for iOS in 2008.
The app store had launched that summer, and then I started developing in the fall, launched my first game.
Petri: Why did you start?
Elias: We had been a weirdo family for a long time. Everybody had a PC, an IBM. First a DOS and then a Windows PC.
Sure there were some Commodores and some Amigas previously but the mid-nineties and later, at least in my social sphere, was dominated by Windows PCs. But we had a Mac. So my mom had bought a Mac, I think at ’95 a Performa 6300 and it was horrible in terms of gaming. It didn’t have any of the games that everybody else was playing.
We always had Macs. For better or worse we had Macs. I’m still a Mac user. I think it’s good. It wasn’t good growing up because everybody had all the cool games and you didn’t have those. It’s so socially tricky to have a Mac growing up.
We were a Mac family from the mid-nineties. I was working as a Flash developer for Digia, making UI prototypes with Flash. And I was never really a real programmer. My programming background started at university. I did two courses of programming, the basics of Java and the basics of C++. That’s my academic background into programming.
I started programming for Flash and then the iPhone came out. One of my brothers was like, Oh, you know, the iPhone form factor is very close to a Payazzo machine. If you were listening from a country, not Finland, you’re like, what the hell is a Payazzo machine?
Well, it’s this weird coin game that is basically exclusive to Finland. But every Finnish person knows what it is. Because of the accelerometer on the iPhone, he figured that you could smack the phone and get the same effect as playing a Payazzo. I was like, well might as well see if I can do it.
I just picked up the developer kit, Xcode, and I started trying. I looked at some tutorials that Apple provided and then just went on from there. I learned the platform on my own. Actually, the games I built were mostly done with OpenGL. I had done a little bit of OpenGL for my C++ course, so I wasn’t completely new to it, but basically super new.
Because I did it all wrong. Nowadays, looking back it was technically super wrong how I used to OpenGL, but it’s fine. It worked and, and the users didn’t know. I built a Payazzo thing, and it was a great success in Finland because nobody outside of Finland knows what a Payazzo is.
But in Finland, everybody knows what it is. It was the number one game in the Finnish App Store for 12 weeks or so continuously. I think it’s still like the longest-running top one app that was continuously on the number one position.
Because the iPhone was very small in Finland back then I think it sold at most 60 to 70 copies a day, and it was at that point priced at one or $2. I made like 70 euro in a single day. And I was like, Oh, this is awesome. This is great. At that point, I figured, well, you probably should make a game that people know what it is and, or can get the understanding.
I started toying an idea of making this stereoscopic game where you tilt the phone the scene within the phone changes. So it looks like you’re looking into a 3D-object. I had seen that done with the Nintendo Wii at that point, something called head tracking. I built a demo out of this idea and the demo just happened to be this labyrinth game because there was a labyrinth game that was very well known on the iOS App Store at that point.
And I just made the demo with that and I was like, well, this is actually pretty good and I should probably make the whole game up just with this. And I was like, well, it’s kind of wrong because there already is this game. It is basically just the copy with the 3D element to it. I was like, well, this is so close to it.
So I just spent another month making it into an international game and then was launching and I was like, Hmm, should I make this free? It’s a copy of an existing game, a flat-out plagiarised copy. I didn’t copy actual assets, but it’s just the same game essentially. But I was like maybe I should still ask a little bit of money for it, just to be sure.
In the end, it generated around half a million euros of revenue through sales of the game and some ads and some awards. It won a hundred thousand dollars from Nokia, which is crazy. I made a free version later, a light version.
That ended up shipping 13 million copies, which is still more, as you mentioned, than Wolt has ever shipped. So it’s obviously a more successful application than Wolt is. That’s a fact. At At some point, it was on around 10% of all the iPhones in the world. It’s insane how many hours of time has been wasted on that game.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have some analytics during the heyday but later when I added analytics to it and based on the download counts later, it’s thousands of years. Over a thousand years of working hours have been spent on it. It’s insane.
I’m sorry global economy. I robbed people from doing actual stuff, but it was also one of the key drivers in founding Wolt. When you make your own product, there’s quite nothing like the high you get from the user feedback and having a lot of people use your baby, your thing that you built with passion.
It’s funny, even a small game like that I would get like tens of emails where people were like, Oh, I love playing this game with my boy doing weekends in our bed and we just play this together and it’s awesome. You’re like, wow. And 13 million is such a massive, crazy, strange number.
And that’s the power of the app store really. Because I didn’t ever do any marketing because I couldn’t afford any meaningful marketing. The only marketing was that the app was good and it was approachable and it’s just worked on its own. But you can reach such a crazy amount of people.
Nowadays it’s a lot harder because the competition on the app store is crazy. Back then it was a lot easier to have your one-man-show kind of product actually work out. Nowadays it’s mostly driven through performance marketing. The success stories on the app store are algorithmic. Of course, you need a good product, but then you need a lot of expertise in turning that into a successful business by pumping hundreds of millions in marketing it and making sure that the game is actually monetising well enough to support that. It’s a strange business model. Of course, there are still these viral hits, but there is less and less that and more it’s this business around it. Back then, there really wasn’t any business. It was more like small companies and individuals building something and then just they happened to work. That was a more innocent time back then until in-app purchases ruined everything, in-app purchases are disgusting.
Petri: And then there was a moment when you were waking up one morning and reading the news and you were supposed to be somewhere far away in California and you were just stuck in Espoo.
Elias: Yeah, that was annoying. I think that was 2010, Wooden Labyrinth 3D which was the labyrinth game. Back then you still had to nominate apps and games for Apple Design Awards. Apple Design Awards are the yearly awards given by Apple for the best apps in different categories.
I had nominated but I hadn’t thought anything about it because obviously there were still, even at that point, thousands and thousands of apps. And then the WWDC, the Worldwide Developer Conference happened where the awards are given, and then I’m reading in Gadget or something, and there are the winners.
And my game is there. I’m like, what the hell? Yeah, so the award ceremony had happened. There was actually a video, I don’t know if it still exists in YouTube, a video of the award ceremony of that year, and all the other winners are present in the gala. And they go on stage and have their little moment.
And then the video doesn’t have my game because I didn’t know I was going to win, so I wasn’t at the WWDC. They just skip my award completely. I guess they knew I wasn’t there or they just called, Elias come on the stage, and it was awkward because no one showed up.
One of the perks of winning it would have been that if you were there, they would have refunded your travel and your conference ticket. Damn. But it’s fine. It’s the coolest trophy still. It’s this anodized aluminium cube. If you touch it the Apple logo illuminates on the top so it’s very special.
It would have been even more special to actually be there in person to pick it up. I don’t know if back then Steve was still around. I don’t know if he actually attended that part of the conference. Probably not, but at least all the iOS heavyweights are there.
So maybe I could have been shaking some hands. Later I got an email from Apple that congratulations for your win here. Here’s how to claim your prize which in and of itself was tricky because they tried to ship me a laptop with an American keyboard when I wanted a Finnish one.
And they said we don’t have any Finnish keyboards. And I was like, well, do you have any Swedish keyboards? Hint, they are the same. And they were like, Oh, we have Swedish keyboard, yeah, just ship one of those. I got my laptop and display, and I did get a free ticket for next year’s WWDC.
And that was the only time I’ve ever gone there. I rank that way higher than the Nokia prize that gave you a lot of money, but like, who cares about a Nokia prize when you can win the Apple Design Award?
Petri: How did you get a Nokia prize if you were having an iPhone app?
Elias: We ported it. Nokia contacted us and said that’s an awesome game we wanted on Nokia. And I was like, okay. They paid 30 000 or something to have it ported. And then we did a port at Qvik, our mobile consulting company. One of our developers, Pertti, just picked it up and we’re like, okay, you do it!
He has the nightmares and a post-traumatic stress order from that project. And it was horrible. So he ported it to Symbian three and we shipped it. And it’s actually kind of funny. So the first they paid for us to port it and we ship it, and then they wanted to have it as a pre-installed game on a Nokia C7 Astound, but it was in the US they were going to launch the Nokia Astound, and they were thinking that it’s gonna sell like a million units, the phone.
They wanted it pre-installed on that phone. And, and we worked hard on getting it for that, and by my understanding, it was pre-installed. I never knew that it wasn’t, but it was supposed to be pre-installed on that phone. They ended up selling basically nothing of that phone.
And then they update the OS of that phone and the game doesn’t work anymore. And it’s basically irreparable because they killed the whole framework the game was built on. The game that was pre-installed basically in a couple of months after the launch stopped working. I think it’s sold like a thousand copies on the Nokia Ovi-store.
It wasn’t a great success on that platform, but then they had these Calling All Innovators competitions where they actually gave out 20 million in prizes. And they had a lot of categories. Wooden Labyrinth 3D ended up winning the best puzzle game category. It was that specific. And by being the best in the best puzzle game category, you still won a hundred thousand dollars.
So that happened and in the end, Nokia paid like 130 000 for a game that had a thousand downloads on their app store.
Petri: Sounded like a sweet deal for some people!
Elias: Yeah. It was a good 130 bucks for every download. Those people who got the games should be feeling pretty lucky that Nokia was willing to foot the bill. That’s not the reason why Nokia was struggling but it was indicative of when you just have a lot of money, but you can’t get it right. It’s hard. Sometimes you just can’t buy your way out of situations.
Petri: Have you checked from eBay whether these are collector’s items? Maybe you need to pay more than 130 bucks to get one nowadays pre-installed on your phone.
Elias: Oh, that would be terrific. Yeah. I don’t know. I’ve never gotten a phone. It was very unstable and it was just a God awful project. But what’s done is done and at least we got it working enough to get it on the store and to win the prize.
Pertti, I’m so sorry for you. We put you through hell.
Petri: You had your own moments of terror and nightmare as well. You did some updates and it didn’t go exactly how it was intended.
Elias: I just watched a video yesterday from Tom Scott, who makes YouTube videos about stuff. A lot of tech-related things where he went through a case where he made a typo and destroyed like 5 000 documents from a website and I was like that’s not really a bad thing. You lost some days of work, but who cares?
I’ve done a couple of updates that were comparatively scarier. This happens when you move fast. In Wooden Labyrinth 3D I once made an update that if you launch the game after the update and you had it installed before you, if you update it into this new update, it would crash.
If you would open it again, it was crashing. You couldn’t get it running. Now usually what we would do is in this situation, you removed the app and you downloaded it again, but even after that it would crash and you’re like, how does that even happen? Well, because I stored data into a place that doesn’t get wiped when you remove the app called the Keychain.
The bad data was in a position that you couldn’t get rid of. The only way you really could get the app running again was to wipe your whole phone instead of factory reset and then you get to get it running. And that update was downloaded over a million times. Back then the automatic updates didn’t exist.
One million people who chose to update their app, I don’t know how many launched it. I’m guessing a fair few. It’s not good. Obviously, I could make an update that fixed all of this, but they have to update again, and then a week later that worked out. But you had that moment of realisation where like, Oh shit.
Somewhat worse perhaps was that case that I had with… but do you learn from these. After that, I’ve always tested all the updates, at least against the previous versions. I’ve always tested some update cycles where you first get the old version from the app store, specifically from the app store, not some of your development versions.
Nobody cares about those. You get the version from the app store and then you get it running and then you install over it and see that it works. You just make sure that happens. But with Gamebook, which is a golf application that I was developing at one point. If you’re playing golf and after every hole or after every other hole, it would show you an ad.
The application was trying to sell you some golf equipment or golf holidays and whatnot. We had this special event that we were hosting for, I don’t know if it’s the editor, but he was a big chief in a Finnish tabloid newspaper. He was turning 50, and he was hosting up a golf event for his business friends and connections. And they wanted to have photos from his childhood all the way to his adulthood, sort of sprinkled in as those ads. So we made a custom version of the application where we would have that ad package pre-bundled into the application where it would instead of the actual ads it just show these photos of him growing up.
The first one always was the baby picture. And in Finland, I don’t know about other countries. We take a lot of baby pictures where babies are naked. So there he was full frontal. Nice. And, and it’s cute and everything. And of course, if you’re friends with the guy and you know him, it’s not a big deal.
At least in Finland, it’s not a big deal. It’s not like some CP bullshit. It was an innocent baby photo, but still, it’s someone’s baby photo. And then the next update on the app store happens. And then we started getting contacts and it was first like people who had actually been at the event or some of them were like, okay, I can still see these ads on my phone. And I was like, okay, they were at the event. And so it just hasn’t updated and it’s fine, but then we start getting these questions from other people that are like, what the hell are these ads? Yeah. And then you get that, Oh crap feeling. And, it turns out I had accidentally bundled that set of ads into every copy of the app. And we had a few hundred thousand updates go through with this gentleman’s baby photos showing up. I can’t imagine the confusion of someone just randomly downloading the app, starting to play golf and you enter your result on the first hole. And the screen turns and there’s a naked baby and you’re like, what the fuck did I just see and why? Um, yeah, so that happened. It wasn’t like everybody got it because usually it would get replaced by the active advertisement set. So download a set of new advertisements and replace that.
It would be the default one in case there was no active one. But if you had a slow internet connection or it failed in Finland, a bunch of people still saw it. And we basically had no other markets at that point that had an active set. So everyone in the US or the UK and like our big markets outside of Finland where we hadn’t sold advertisements at that point.
Every user saw it. I don’t know who the guy was, I could probably find out, but I’m very sorry to have published your photos. Obviously, that was a grave mistake. And after that, what I learned is that there’s a distribution configuration that goes to the app store that you’d never touch.
And all of these hacks are in a different configuration that you never use for distributing through the app store. Your configuration management needs to be bulletproof in terms of you don’t put test shit on the app store. Since then I’ve learned that and that particular one that hasn’t happened again. There’s definitely no nude babies on Wolt.
Petri: Do you have any advice for young people who are now listening to this podcast and they want to be the next Elias. I want to do a Wolt. I want to do crazy things. How should I get started?
Elias: My personal advice has always been that do not aim to be a billionaire. Although I’m a startup entrepreneur, I don’t really like startups per se as a career path because I think it’s a very over-hyped, oversold proposal. It’s very survivorship biased.
It’s a sort of a pyramid scheme where you don’t see the 95% of the failures. We just don’t talk about them. We only see those couple of few lucky breaks that happen to make it. For example Wolt, there’re so many places where it could have all gone wrong. It could have not existed in the first place.
And then we were close to folding the company many times before we’re in the current situation. And even then, like in the current situation, like coronavirus just happened to be a natural disaster kind of thing that wasn’t terminal to Wolt, but it easily could have been. There’s a lot of startup cases that completely get destroyed by these happenstance events that are outside of your control.
I would never bet the farm on any single company. Because you always hear these stories where a guy triple mortgaged their house and then made it. But you never hear the stories that are much more common where they triple mortgage their house and fail and then they live their lives in misery because of that.
I’ve always lived my life through affordable loss risk-taking. I’ve never risked more in any game or any company that I can afford to lose. When we founded Qvik, which is my first company. The only thing we risked was our time. It was a consultancy company. We started selling our time and resources.
We had our laptops. That was the only set of upfront costs. Then we just started developing and designing for our customers. So we’d risked nothing. We never had a loan that we would be on the hook to pay ourselves. The only time I think where we could have gotten into problems was when we rented the office later. We had to agree to a three-year lease and potentially if we that day ran out of business, we would have to pay like a couple of hundred thousand.
Obviously, that wouldn’t have happened. We would have been covered by bankruptcy protection. We never risked anything except our time and effort towards that company. And then only after Qvik’s success, after I had made my games, again to those games I never invested any money.
The only thing I invested was the hundred dollars for getting a developer license. My mom was actually happy when Payazzo sold for over a hundred dollars. My mom was like, Oh, now you paid back your license. And I’m like, Oh, mom, I love you. Five years into Qvik, and it had grown into a 3 million revenue business my mom was like, well, you should probably still go back to college and have your degree done. I’m like, mom, I’m going to be fine. Finally, after Wolt’s sort of success, my mom is like, yeah, probably you don’t need the degree, because I never finished university. I’m a horrible dropout.
First of all, don’t bet the farm. Because a lot of it is actually out of your control, no matter how good you are, how brilliant you are. I’m sure you have to be somewhat delusionally sure of your own skills to be successful. So that’s good.
You should have a little bit of that crazy self-confidence because otherwise, you’re not going to be amounting to much. You have to be delusional to be successful, but don’t get overly cocky because, in the end, it’s a crapshoot. And some people just like myself included, have just gotten a bit too lucky. You can be good, but it’s not the end. It’s still not certain. So don’t bet the house. I would start with a lower risk company first and then gamble with someone else’s money. I think the VC model is good, where you don’t fund it yourself completely.
Your upside is going to be capped because you’re going to dilute the company. You own less and less of it. It’s not about becoming a billionaire. Some people are obsessed with… I quit Wolt at a time where I was pretty sure it was going to go quite well forward, but I was like, still, who am I kidding?
This is enough. People will say this weird thing where you shoot for the moon and then, you know, even if you miss you land on the stars, no. It is not the case. Every company has like a 95% chance of failure, so might as well try a more valuable concept or hotter one.
Everyone who’s ever built a billion-dollar business has gotten an acquisition offer along the way. That’s what happens. Wolt has gotten many acquisition offers. At every stage of the growth, we’ve turned down acquisition offers. We could have sold the company, but we choose not to because we choose to explore further. At every point, you also take a new risk. You also bet it all again. And you say, no, I wanna see the next card. I wanna see the next card. I want to see where this can go. And you know, at some point, inevitably all companies come to an end.
Don’t get obsessed with going too big. I’ve seen also cases where these weworks and whatnot, of course, that’s a highly publicised case where it’s like, yeah, this is worth 30 billion and the next week it’s worth five. Because you just stretch it a bit too far.
The VC business model is that they can invest in tens of companies and they only have to see one or two successful ones. And the VC business model is successful, but as an individual, when you’re putting time and effort into a company, you can maybe found three or four companies in your lifetime.
You can’t play as risky as the VCs can because you cannot diversify your portfolio as effectively as they do. So if you only have three shots at success, if you play these like 10% or less than 10% chance of success cases, well the chances are you’re not going to be successful with any of them during your lifetime.
But if you want to actually give yourself the opportunity to be successful, play it a bit more safe and don’t trust the hype of going crazy all-in.
Petri: How do you define success?
Elias: Yeah, that’s the thing as well. Like does it really matter the monetary side, does it actually make you happy? I was wagered to say very much no after a certain degree. When you’re sort of safe in your life extra money doesn’t make you happy. So is money a successful meter of success?
Yes, it is to people, but it’s a tricky one. My background is that because I was a nerdy boy who went to school a year early. So I was obviously bullied. Then what you want to do is to show to people that you are successful because you’re yearning for that social acceptance.
So is that a meter success? Yeah, sure. In the end, I think it’s whatever you define yourself. And then is it happiness? Happiness is fleeting, and long-term happiness is more defined by how you’re built. And I feel you have very little control over it.
Some people will just be happy with whatever, and some people are miserable no matter what happens. These bumps of success where you’re like, Oh, I made an exit, or we got that funding round, or I got that award. They only last a week or half a year, or at most a year. And then you’re like, well, this is my new baseline now.
One thing I learned from Wooden Labyrinth 3D is that I now understand why there is such a phenomenon as one-hit wonders. And, it has very little to do with the fact that they couldn’t do another hit thing. Usually, you have these musical acts that are one-hit wonders.
The problem really lies in the fact that when you have a successful thing, it’s very daunting to even try it again. Because the likelihood of you reaching the same success is low. And if you don’t, it’s the same thing as having a downround investment. If you have a downround in your life, it’s difficult for your psyche, because we want to perceive our career going upwards and upwards and upwards.
But if you have a spike going upwards and then you have that crash down. You want to protect yourself mentally from it so you don’t even try because you’re afraid of, what if I try and it’s less successful than the previous one? Then you’re going to be devastated because the realisation of that previous one was luck and then you’re not all that good.
After Wooden Labyrinth 3D I really struggled to try again, to have the courage to go and have another go at the rodeo. I had some game concepts and it would have been a very fertile ground to launch another game. Why didn’t I do that? I attribute that to the panic and terror of being successful.
That can be very detrimental to your chances of going at it again, being successful. It’s very scary to try after that.
Petri: What is your favourite word?
Elias: I love the word epiphany. Um, both were how it feels and for what it means.
Petri: What is your least favourite word?
Elias: Competence. You could pick any of the buzz-words from tech. Maybe even worse is agile.
Petri: How about lean?
Elias: Lean, yeah. I’m not a big believer in the modern ways of building software.
It’s a gross injustice that in this world we have brilliant software engineers, for example, in our teams. And, and then nowadays because that’s the mantra they need to be able to make decisions that I think they should be shielded from.
If you’re a brilliant software engineer, I think that’s enough. And I think it’s completely unfair and ethical to demand that you know basically anything about business or anything about design. I mean it’s nice if you do, it’s awesome. It’s more power to you. But the expectancy that we say the teams should decide themselves on what to build or how to build it. I think that puts undue load on people who say, this is my thing, I build software. You tell me what to build and how to build it. I will fucking deliver it. And I think that’s enough, son. That’s good.
And that’s valuable. And then we put people in these situations nowadays where we’re like, no, actually, you need to decide what is important from the point of view of the business. And it turns into a situation where then people assume that they should. And this is something that I struggled with Wolt at some points where I thought we should build something as a product lead.
And then some team member would be like, no, I think we should do this. And I’m like, well, yeah. But you don’t know. And then you have to sell it again. I believe in a model where there’s a benevolent dictator who chooses for us, and then we can specialise in our own craft of building to our heart’s content.
If there’re trivial cases to make it better, that’s fine, but we shouldn’t democratise and make all the decision-making across the board. Because I think that loses a lot of the brilliancy and the pureness of it. It becomes a compromised mess if everybody gets to decide.
So, yeah. I have problems with that.
Petri: That reminds me of the case where you were having a bit of fun with Wolt and did a marketing game, which became properly successful but also expensive.
Elias: As a co-founder, you get somewhat levels of freedom in the company. No one questions what you do to a degree that an employee would. So I built up an Easter egg game into Wolt, which is found through the order tracking of the application.
So while you’re waiting for your food, if you tap the time estimate screen it exposes this game where you tap the screen as many times as you can during five seconds. Then it gives you a record time. If you record the number of taps and if you beat that number, you get one free delivery.
You get it once per account, but you get a free delivery from playing a game that’s hidden inside the application. I thought it was cool. The idea is that, first of all, you find this hidden gem inside the app, and that’s like, Oh my God, there’s a game here. And so you’ll play it, and that’s kind of cool.
And then it says, try to beat this record. And you’re like, well, that’s funny. And then you beat the record and then you’re like. You get a free delivery. So we build-up to this grand finale where you actually get monetary value from beating a game, and then it offers you to share that on your social media platforms.
There’re thousands of shares. That’s the marketing aspect of it. First of all, you have to buy something to even play the game. So it’s not, you can just get free stuff. No, you have to buy something. You get a free delivery for the next time. So actually you have to make a second purchase.
So it makes some business sense the way it’s built out. Two-tiered, Oh my God, there’s a game in here. Oh my God, it gave me a free delivery. It jumps the threshold of this is cool. It’s not just happy fun times, but it’s like there’s a peak which should trigger you to share it. I launched that into the app and I checked it some years later and it turns out we had given out tens of thousands of these free deliveries, and I think nowadays we probably are around half a million euros. For the free delivery is given through this game. I made the game in like a week, but now, it has cost us half a million euros.
So is that good or bad? You decide. It’s very hard to gauge the effectiveness of that marketing.
Petri: But you cannot put a price on the waiting time, which you make so delightful.
Elias: Yeah. In Wooden Labyrinth 3D all the reviews and comments on the app store always mentioned that the coolest thing was that the menus were built into the game in a way that it was happening on the same game board.
So when you were tilting out around your phone, that was the ball rolling and you could bump into these buttons that were like wooden pegs in the board. And we’re like, Oh my God, this is so cool that you can like play the game during the menus. Well, it adds zero value to you. Like why would you want to roll the ball around during the menus?
But that was the thing that was a mentally super important thing to the people cause it was so delightful, and going overboard with delights.
Petri: Was there a reason to do that?
Elias: No, I made it because I thought it was cool myself. It’s actually cool that it’s sort of self-enclosed into this. It was a fair bit of work to make it that way.
I could have made a flat 2D menu system and then go 3D after the start of the game. It was hard to do that way, but I think it was cool. I always wanted to have these in terms of when you make…btw delightful was the word I was looking for. One of my favourite words these days. I just had an epiphany that’s actually the word I wanna use.
When designing your solution, I think it’s important that you have these grand moments of delight. You need to break the something being just good or just brilliant.
You don’t want to have something being a 9/10 all the time. You’d rather be 8.5, and then a couple of 10 in there. It’s important that you hit those tens, that you hit those triggers at some points where it’s like, Oh my God, this is awesome. Because that’s the way you get virality.
Even if your menu system sucks, but your face app turns you beautiful. Some of these gimmicky effects that we’ve always had in apps that have gone viral. Most of the apps suck that have those, but they have that one magic little thing that drives you to it. Always go for magic.
But you don’t have to be exceptional everywhere. I’m not saying you should make anything crap, but be solid good throughout, and then be magical in places. I think that’s the key. Then those less important places, for example in Wolt the info screen of a restaurant.
Well, who goes to an info screen of a restaurant or nobody cares, but it has to be there so you can see the location and phone number when things go wrong. But that screen, for example, in the first version of Wolt was the Photoshop file. I took a screenshot out of it without the text boxes and I pasted it into the app and I just put text boxes on the screenshot.
So if there was a restaurant name that was too long to fit on a single row, sucks to be you. It was just cut. Everything was just literally built on top of an image of the view. I was like, who gives a shit? If you looked at it on different phone sizes, you could see that it was getting pixelated because it was stretching it.
Whereas the other views, which were built with actual like list components and whatnot, it takes a little bit more time, not that much. But at that point, we just wanted to ship the app and nobody cares about an info page, so you can just fake it. So fake it when it’s not important, just completely fake that thing. Put your effort into those magic moments.
Petri: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Elias: I’m really not a spiritual person. I’m just creatively…and that’s the problem with getting big in a company, by the way. My answer to this is that you’ll lose the manic parts where you build a whole service in a week. That really is massive mental cocaine to me.
It is that rush off of working through the night and the day and that crunch in the beginning when you are creating something out of nothing and you have so much freedom because you have so little baggage from history. Everything is moving fast and you just make magic happen.
It’s funny, I watched the video I recorded of Wolt. That was two months after I had written the first line of code and two months after Mika had drawn the first UI, and I was like, wow, that’s so close to the current product. Sure, we have so many new features, but it was like, Oh, the menu basically works the same way.
Oh, we have these options here. And like, Oh, I can choose the restaurant. And that was two months. And then. With one developer, one designer, compared to now we have 130 combined and six years. The beginning is where the interest is to me.
Petri: What turns you off?
Elias: The opposite of that.
Petri: What is your favourite curse word?
Elias: I would have to say it’s perkele. It’s in Finnish.
Petri: We have some Swedish ones as well.
Elias: I don’t use it that often, but it gives you the good stuff. It helps.
Petri: What sound or noise do you love?
Elias: I’m going to cheap out on this one. It’s gotta be the baby laughter. I have two baby girls. Well, not babies anymore. One is Alexa, two and a half years old and Eden is one and a half. They kind of have the most horrible sounds that they produce, but they also have the sweetest and the cutest and the loveliest. One funny aspect of not going to work daily is that I basically every day drop them off at the kindergarten and pick them up. And the way they run to you and call you. If that’s not the sweetest sound, I don’t know what it is.
Petri: What sound or noise do you hate?
Elias: These are indeed tricky questions. I have to say at this time of the year, there’s nothing quite aggravating as birds chirping next to a window at 4:00 AM and you’re trying to sleep. And they’re like, I’m sorry you’re not going to sleep because I’m horny. Come here, bird. Come here bird. We’re still currently living in a house where we did install some cooling upstairs, but we’re sleeping downstairs here and it’s hot.
And then you have to have the window open. And then there’s like a small patch of forest here and man birds are noisy.
Petri: What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt?
Elias: I would be interested in two very separate and different professions. The other one is being a lawyer. We figured out with my wife that I love being right, fundamentally right more than subjectively right. I think that’s a common thing with software engineers. Engineering mindset is that because there is of course that pure truth to a lot of things, which is different from the humane truth and what is right to a person and what is right from a physics standpoint. One of the only professions outside of development where you can revel in your being right is being a lawyer.
I just read up on a case that happened last year in the US that really brought me joy in a sadistic, cathartic way. Of course, I think it’s completely horrible, but I saw a video of it and I’ll be like, yeah, I know where this is going. And I think it’s unfortunately correct. There’s a case where in the US the police completely a destroyed person’s house because some armed robber went in there and bunkered down in his house and the police came in and tore it to fucking pieces and exploded to a point where they had to demolish the house.
And the police said we’re not going to pay anything for you. And then it went to a very high court, not in the supreme court. I think it was the court of appeals. The argument against was that did the government take away the house? And I was like, no, they did not take it away.
It’s still there. It’s just completely fucking wrecked. They ruled because if they did take it away, they would have to pay for it. But since they didn’t take it away. The police don’t have to pay for anything in the US. While solving crime, they can completely destroy whatever they want.
They don’t even have to limit their use of force because who cares. He didn’t have any hostages. He was just inside. They can still completely demolish your house and say, shitty luck. Try again next time. Hope you’re insured. Yeah, a lawyer.
And the other one I would be interested in is perhaps a watchmaker. But I don’t know if I would have the patience for that, but I find mechanical watches to be very beautiful. That’s a very detail-oriented thing and I love details and software. Building watches would be from the physical realm, something that would be very interesting.
Petri: What profession would you not like to do?
Elias: Although I love my children…so now there’s this corona season, and we’ve been home a lot and the kids haven’t been at the kindergarten. And before that, I was at home with my youngest for half a year. What I’ve realised during that time is that I would be a horrible kindergarten teacher.
I’ve actually been interested in being a teacher. Having children is, I realised what it is. You’ve seen this movie that it’s a great movie and you want to show it to your friend. Here’s the movie, look at it.
Kids are like that. But it’s the whole life. It’s not just the movie. The whole point is you have these tiny little people that haven’t experienced life and you get to show them everything. Everything is cool about it. Of course, they will learn everything bad about it as well, but you try not to show it to them.
But the problem is the same as with the friend who watches the movie, or your wife, which is that they probably fall asleep during it and you’re like, don’t you appreciate me? Showing you this movie? This is a fucking diamond. And that’s what happened with kids. I wish they were a little bit quicker in learning.
They grow up super fast, but still, I just don’t have the patience for it that the 150th time when they stick everything from the yard into the mouth. It has really grown my patience. I’ve never been a patient man, with my work or with people at work so I’m probably going to come out of it as a better person. But I couldn’t handle just doing it as a job. Especially other people’s kids, especially more than two. Yeah. That probably would be too much for me.
Petri: If you could be a co-founder of any startup in any era, which one would you choose?
Elias: Logically, I think it would have to be Supercell. In terms of it actually being successful because that’s nice. And especially from the point of view that you build something that someone’s using. The real prize is getting your work out there and having people enjoy it.
Because if you pour your heart and soul into something and nobody uses it, it’s kind of wasted. The products themselves are really in tune with my physics building philosophy. The only thing I have a problem with Supercell is the free-to-play model of monetisation.
That is against my core beliefs. That’s the problematic aspect of it. Of course, when Supercell was founded, that even wasn’t a thing. Maybe I could learn to live with that. I’m not sure though. It’s tricky for me personally. It kind of ruined gaming for a lot of people, including myself.
So, yeah. But it’s not their fault. It just works too well, and it’s impossible not to use it. Can you blame people for using it if that’s the only way to succeed? It’s tricky. That is interesting. You could say, well, a lot of the big American companies, but you don’t really know how it was in the beginning and how would it be so I think Supercell is. It’s an interesting company, very beautiful products.
Petri: Thank you, Elias. This has been an amazing journey through a lot of different topics revolving around Wolt.
Elias: Thanks a lot, Petri. It was a pleasure to chat.