Ville Tolvanen – TALKS WITH PETRI
Ville Tolvanen talks about finding your audience, how to deal with trolls and why virtual activists are the future leaders.
Ville Tolvanen is a digitalist era active avant-garde, a forerunner that has made a significant difference in how the Finnish leaders, brands and experts grasp the opportunities of digitalisation.
He is recognized as the co-founder of Q.P.R. Software, Intervisio, Cor Group, Rome Advisors and Digitalist Group.
He has been voted as Top Three Global Social Media Influencers by Forbes, voted as number one marketing visionary in Finland by Markkinointi & Mainonta Journal as well as listed the Best Finnish Social Media Brand in 2017.
(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 Ville, how are you doing? How’s Italy?
Ville: Hello Petri! Thanks for having me. I’m in Piedmont not so close to the war zone, but between Turin and Milano. It’s quite calm and cool here, getting better and better every day. And I guess the whole of Europe is now getting ready to live with the virus side by side.
Petri: Let’s go back a bit in time. It’s late eighties you’re 16 years old and you will find yourself in the US and you didn’t actually arrive where you want it to be. You want it to be in Texas, but you landed somewhere else. And pretty much the first person you meet is Hillary Clinton. What happened?
Ville: Yes, I’m originally from Oulu, Finland, which is in the middle or northern part of Finland. I wanted to go to the States to live the American dream as an exchange student. I had a friend who went to Houston and told me all about cowboys and chicks and hot swimming pools and all those parties.
I really wanted to go to Texas. And where did I end up: little rock, Arkansas. Back then I think the third poorest state in the US. But it was good. Back in time that was the peak of the American dream from the movies: Wall Street, Top Gun, Working girl. The whole American dream was alive and well.
Hillary Clinton was the First Lady of the State for being next to Bill Clinton, who was governor back then. The First Lady of the State met all the exchange students and welcomed us all over the world to the States. I was watching all the girls and enjoying good weather instead of politics.
I was there. I have a picture but that’s all.
Petri: I can imagine that life was a bit different from Oulu which is pretty close to the Arctic Circle and then you landed on the opposite side of the world, more or less. Maybe the attitudes or the culture, was there something that stuck to your mind or maybe defined a bit your further years?
Ville: That was the big era of the great American dream movies. And, I enjoyed all of them. I still know some of the wording for Wall Street: Money never sleeps. That was really the time. I was quite thrilled to go back then to the States. The standard of living was different, even in Arkansas.
With all the other people having their own houses, a couple of cars, the weather is pretty good and all that. It was all cool and new to the boy from Oulu, a paper city, which actually then became one of the major places for Nokia R&D. But in my youth, it was a paper mill city.
The first thing that actually kind of caught my attention was the attitude toward success. Whereas in Finland, we were used to being quite humble and saying that you should not try to make a number of yourself and be humble and, try your best and you will be well received in a sense.
But in the States it was all different. They said if you reach the top of the trees, you reach the moon. So the attitude towards success and being an entrepreneur was totally different than I had learned in Oulu, Finland. It really changed my thinking and when I came back from the year in Arkansas I was ready to go to the business school and start my career just like Buddy Fox in Wall Street.
Petri: How old were you when you founded your first company?
Ville: I have co-founded 15 different companies. My first job was with a software company called QPR Software in 1995, right after the big recession in Finland. And I started there by going to the bank. And getting 20 000 Finnish Marks, which is about 4- 5 000 euros. And, taking a loan to actually invest to be one of the cofounders for the software company developing management software like Balanced Scorecard and process guides and all that. I was co-funder in a couple of companies, but I was actually a little bit over 30 when I founded my first a hundred percent owned professional service company called Marchitects Oy. That was 2005.
Petri: Now, everybody wants to live in the countryside and I would say you probably are pretty much in the ideal place at this point. You’re in the middle of a beautiful scenery and the sun is shining. You tried that already before, was it around that time 2005 you wanted to go to Italy and just leave everything behind and do remote work?
Ville: Yes. You’ve done your homework. I’ve tried to be a global or mobile nomad several times. The first attempt was 2005, as you mentioned, we sold all our property and stuff back then. And, had a little money and moved to Milan. My wife had studied in university in Italy and spoke a little bit Italian, so we moved to Milan.
But what happened back then was that I started getting a lot of job offers all around the world. Nokia was a big name back then. I received job offers from China, London, Helsinki and Oulu. It took only six months for us to actually return to Finland and me starting my own first company, Marchitects Oy.
And then in 2010, five years after that I started discussing, talking, advancing and consulting digitalisation. Where my aim was to become mobile and move my consulting business into an online platform and free myself from time and location. And what happened in 2010 then was that I got so busy building digital network and consulting that I was actually tied up to Helsinki.
And living in the city and we’re so busy that there was no way I could imagine that I could live on the remote or actually kind of a central location like this. This is very close to France and Alps and wine, and very easy to fly to anywhere in the world. Although we are in the countryside, I feel that we are actually in the middle of everything.
But then this is the third attempt now, a year ago, we bought an old stone house from Piedmont, and now we’re renovating it and I’m doing board work, consulting, advising and living here.
Petri: Do you think there’s still hope for Airbnb and this type of tourism you’re building and renovating for?
Ville: Thanks for asking. One of my favorite kind of ideas is not back to the future, but back to the tomorrow. And I think the crisis is like a perfect storm, and an opportunity for us to really rethink everything. What we do in business, what’s the role of organization, how fixed our assets are, what’s our scope on traveling and all that.
I think we’re starting or in the middle of a perfect storm and now we need to rethink everything. And I don’t think that anything will return as it was. I think that we will be more interested in locations, freedom, standard of living, the lifestyles and the business models.
And we have already learned most of the things we can do on these platforms. And, really finally capitalise the digital investment in any business. And I think that’s the key to think. I’m not thinking whether Airbnb will be back, but I’m sure if you come here and visit us and you see the wine and food, weather and people, you love to spend time here. No matter whether it’s for business or pleasure.
Petri: Do you think that people would actually stay for a longer period of time? Not just for the weekend or one week or two week holiday, but they would book you for like two months and work there. It’s more like a temporary permanent residence there for a while.
Ville: You’re really reading my mind. We already got an inquiry for a two months rental, full house, everything kind of included for July and August and the money wasn’t an issue. I think we could accommodate teams of doing co-creation or remote work or anything here.
And I have to mention one of the kind of guiding principles I’ve had. I went to Athens, I think it was 2014 or something, and it was late August or early September, and for some reason it was raining all week on vacation there. And that’s when I read The 4-hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.
He had an idea of these mini-retirements and mini -breaks during the work life. And of course, the story of four hour workweek was Tim getting really tired or kind of burning himself away in a sense. And then he moved to Europe to recover and noticed that when he took little distance to his previous routines, the business actually got better. I’m a big believer in digitalisation and global tribes and networks and platforms and all that. So I tried to be part of that dream and live the dream alive. Now, I’m working with five different companies and they all seem to be quite happy with Teams or whatever platform setting we have right now, and I guess I can carry on for forever if I like, like this way.
Petri: What will happen to the corporate offices? Are we ever going back to those? Maybe your place or similar facilities will become like meeting places for people working from home mainly and then for a project or periodically they will meet and be together for two or four weeks to have some face time, quality time, and also maybe do some project work.
Do you think that’s becoming more or less like the new office?
Ville: The last two months won’t change anything. It’s a too short period of time to know what will happen. But I’m sure if we want to, we can actually adjust the leadership culture and the business models to support local or office and remote work. What’s interesting right now is that companies like Google and Twitter have said that their employees can continue working from home all this year.
Full year will definitely change some of our behaviour. When we look at the remote work, it’s a leadership and culture challenge because the remote workers need to be treated the same way. And, we need the same social network, support and control whether the work is conducted in offices or remote.
Although, evolution is quite slow, I think we will see more and more born-global companies, ideas and platforms. Working from several separate locations will become partly a new standard, but we all love to have social contacts and meeting people. But I think, Petri, next time we will meet, we’ll go for sauna and maybe some cold water.
Why wouldn’t we go for a beer and sauna? Why would we meet in an office. I think the office is something that we need to rethink.
Petri: It’s a relic.
Ville: It’s a relic!
Petri: It was a temporary basis. It was invented a few hundred years back.
Ville: You can go back to Egypt and understand what are the meeting rooms which still are built so that one talks and the others listen. The Roman empire kind of auditoriums, which is sad in a way because I think we have more interactive and more balanced and more equal ways of communicating on the digital platforms.
We need the physical connection and non-verbal communications, which isn’t the same even with the cameras. I think it’s the culture we need to adjust.
Petri: Few weeks back in the episode called There’s no Control-Z I was talking to Joey in New York, and he was communicating with teams around the world, mainly in the corporate world. And what he was experiencing was that the middle management and the employees, obviously doing remote work, were having a bit of issues with the calendar.
Previously, you were just by the water cooler and asking casually something or you were looking for your colleague and see that the person is busy at the moment, so I will not disturb. But when you do it remotely, you need to book 15-minutes calendar time.
And when there’s 5-10 people doing that, you realise that those casual few minute talks actually occupied quite a bit of your day. Have you experienced similar kinds of things in the companies you’re working with at the moment?
Ville: I think the topic you’re now touching could be called something like culture redesign, which is just like how do we take care of the direct and indirect communication and information sharing when we are not in the same place together? That’s a very interesting question.
What I’ve learned or experienced is that I’m a lot more focused and prepared when everything is on the calendar. Whether I have a good hair day or bad hair day, I’m always prepared for the meetings and that brings value and quality to the discussions because everybody needs to do the same.
On the digital platforms what we have now, you still have to do it even in a ring or a group of people that one talks and other ones comment. It’s different than doing whiteboard consulting or coaching where everybody’s discussing and throwing ideas fast. It’s different.
Of course, we have Miro and those platforms that are trying to build those environments, which are quite cool already. But on the other hand, what I’ve also noticed is that we tend to agree more when we communicate on a digital platform, because there’s no like time or it’s too hard to start arguing or questioning things.
At least, I feel in the digital platform meetings that people want to get rid of them and want to get things done and move forward. We lose some of the not so important data and opinions on the way. And I think when we get back to the offices or saunas, where we meet, we should dedicate those physical meetings for wellbeing and opinions and second guessing and all of that that isn’t present on this telcos world. Our social wellbeing, after all, is the key.
Petri: How do we maintain it in these times? How do we pick up the silence signals, when we are physically present, we can see a lot more than just the words.
Ville: We have to redesign the culture to support those, whether it’s a Slack channel for daily jokes. I’ve distributed a lot of COVID19 jokes and memes just with my friends to have some fun between the lines in a sense. We need to connect socially, emotionally, officially and non-officially.
And we can’t have official radio only. That’s like BBC World after WWII. We can’t go back to the one line, one way communication. What we need to rethink is the culture, and understand and make those jokes and the cultural things, non-official things, visible and say: Hey, those are part of our work and let’s have fun now.
That’s why we also made those coffee breaks and gym things or yogas in groups so that we keep the culture going.
Petri: What drives you?
Ville: I’ve noticed even in the last three months that I’m an entrepreneur. I have the entrepreneurial spirit. I like to design and build things. I’m excited about the future and times like these are a little bit depressing and disappointing because I know that after the tsunami there will be a huge mess with the economy, and all of that.
But I also realised that the big crises are the best times to advance evolution and innovation. Not in a sense that you have all the money and time and resources in the world, but if you can finance things, everybody’s definitely listening and this is a very good time to capitalise all the digital investments.
I think one of my nightmares is what I experience and see in corporate life is that they have invested in cars and gasoline and commuting to the office. Expensive office space, computers, softwares, internet connections, software for viruses and all that, and then we sit side by side taking all that cost in, and live the analog and digital life or process side by side, which makes it very expensive and nonproductive.
What I’m excited about right now is anything I put under virtual. From virtual restaurants to virtual reality, platform economy, ecosystems, virtual business models, I’m now excited about this disruption again because I think that now we have the time and momentum for that. And COVID19, a horrible thing going off, forced us to actually test drive and make the proof of concept that we can actually live in a totally different world where Amazon takes care of our daily needs and then we can choose our life and style wherever we like it or how ever we want it, even many times a year.
Petri: Looking back at the things you have been doing, I see there’s a few loops, 360 degrees, and one of them was pretty much like 10 years ago. You were sick and tired of the corporate world, and you wanted to be a freelancer and just be free and do things. It was not virtualisation at the time, it was digitalisation which found you or you found it. Actually, you have to tell me which way it went, and then quite a lot of things happened. Can you tell a bit about that process and what you learned from it?
Ville: I have to start from the dot-com boom. Back then, I was working with telcos and then I became a co-founder and CEO in a TV production company called Intervision, which was Internet television. What we did back then right after the dot-com boom was that we created TV-formats, which were back then called cross-media concepts or cross-media TV. Where we actually created TV-shows that drove people to the websites and then to the SMS and mobile services 20 years ago.
The world and the business models weren’t ready for cross-media and unified messaging back then. What I learned was how people will or started using multiple platforms and how people behave on mobile and desktops and so on. After the dot-com boom 2005- 2010, I tried to sell the idea of cross-media communities and ecosystems to the corporate world and even global industrial companies. I tried to sell the idea that they would have R&D co-creation with clients and communities for different innovation processes. I tried to sell Nokia the idea of Nokia TV where they would have internal CNN, kind of mobile global TV channel only internal communication, but that was all too early. I really kind of frustrated myself and got tired of it then.
In 2010, I said, let’s do something else. It took about a year or less when I started evangelising and living the digital again. I tried to get rid of the digital, but it didn’t let me go. In 2010, I started blogging on villetolvanen.com. And, I started to make my work visible, which is one of my key lessons in business life: make your work visible.
Whether you’re in photography or tech or anything. Just surround yourself with the stuff and make your work visible. Create something on any platform for whether it’s singing or pictures or texts or anything. Do it!
I started blogging which was one of my best ideas I didn’t know back then. My first blog post said that I don’t think that people will have time to read other people’s blogs. And, I was quite successful in blogging, and then I had some other friends and visitors writing on my platform, so it became a small community. Then I said, I think 2012, that let’s dedicate this community to digitalisation.
So it became Digitalist Network. And then we copied some of Ted Talks and best seminars, and started running big events in Finland with digital broadcasting and a strong social media support on the side. Twitter, mainly, people tweeting from the live events. I was back with the kind of cross-media platform.
What then happened was that it became quite a big phenomenon. Because I was so ambitious that I didn’t want to end it up within the events and seminars I then sold that brand to a Finnish tech company called Ixunos, a former Nokia subcontractor. Which then became a public company called Digitalist Group.
And then I spent two or three years there working first as a CDO, and then CEO, then stayed for a year in the board. Now, I’m free and back into square one again.
Petri: Now, a lot of people are in the situation where you were 10 years back, after the financial crisis, and what you just described. They need to get the world to know who they are and they need to find the customers. They need to find the audience. They need to do all that digitally. They just cannot meet people anymore.
They are at their homes, so they need to set up blogs. They need to find their audience somehow. What are your advice and some of the experiences, maybe some failures you would like to share with people and say, please don’t do this, and this is probably one of the best ideas you could ever have?
Ville: I realised that and in the coming months we have even more people who will be out of jobs or are just frustrated with the situation and they try to start creating something. And for me back 20 years, I’ve always followed music business, the rock stars and the bands. Music was one of the first business models that was disrupted, the CD format went out.
The revenues and the profits or the revenues were redistributed between the value chain. When the music presenters, stars and bands, lost the CD sales, what they did was start touring. They started touring live and to do that, they also started using all the digital channels, taking photos, telling their stories, telling where they’re going next.
Asking people in Austin to tell their friends that the next gig will be in Houston. Metallica, which is one of the bands for me from the eighties and my youth, was one of the companies to create a big Metallica TV and started broadcasting rehearsals and any kind of material from their tour lives.
So that being part of Metallica family was being a part of their band’s life and being able to follow that. Same thing happened in Formula One and in some other sports. What they did was what I said earlier, and that’s my key point: they made their work and life visible. Instead of trying to sell anything online or trying to catch the audience, they became solar power systems.
They started gathering the energy from the live meetings and the audience and making their life and work visible. And that is exactly what I did with villetolvanen.com and then with Digitalist. And I am now someone who thinks the same like you about the future or business or digitalisation, but I go to a street corner with my small guitar or iPhone and I start communicating.
I start telling my views about life and the future and business, and I find the audience. That’s exactly what everybody needs to do right now: to become small lighthouses of their missions. Instead of trying to be smart or trying to say: hey, now we need to discuss virtual or we need to discuss artificial intelligence or any cool stuff.
Don’t become artificial intelligence experts. Start telling your perception of the world and business and find your audience, find your people, and then create something.
Petri: During those years, you were really active in all the media possible, Twitter included, and you had a bit of a troll experience, and you needed to have some internal thoughts and feelings and experiences settled with that as well. Can you share something about that?
Ville: It’s a good question. Not everybody’s gonna like what you start doing if you become a lighthouse of your own vision. First of all, I have to say about being active. I was really active because I made my life a glass box in a sense that when I met with people I said thank you on Twitter: it was nice to meet. So I made my network visible.
When I had workshops or meetings with clients, I wrote a small blog post about the matter we discussed like: “Hey Petri, thank you from today.” We could actually now publish a small blog post about culture redesign. Because we touched this concept that I could take and spend ten minutes and put it on my blog.
Petri: Please put it in English.
Ville: Yes, I can do that. But I mean, we have created something. When I make things visible, when I experience something, I try to record it and publish it so it becomes visible to all the others. And it’s not any of the right stuff or wrong stuff. It’s the lighthouse in the dark that starts messaging people.
Hey Ville Tolvanen, that’s the digital guy. He talks digital, he knows digital, he works digital. And one very important thing before we go to the trolls and all that is that I never did any separate or additional communications. I just made my workshops, my blogs, my keynotes and podcasts.
And those became articles by journalists. So I did my stuff. And that goes in a way back to the musicians and artists. Even in the visual arts, they paint or they take photos and distribute those. The only thing that people do that they usually present when asked. And what I ask is to present every day, live your life and make a story about it.
I co-wrote a book about personal branding, where we say that your best work and job insurance is to be known and have a name. But when you start making noise or you become a voice, not everybody’s gonna like it.
It’s the same situation what happens in every episode of American Idol or the Voice of Finland. We see somebody singing for 30 seconds and we immediately know whether we like it or not. We shouldn’t worry about that because no one’s gonna like all of us or everybody’s not going to like all our stuff anyhow.
Those people who are not our fans or so-called fans, they are not going to come to our funeral and we’re not gonna share a retirement home or do business together. That’s okay. You don’t have to be agreed by everyone and you have to live your life, and do it for yourself and for your own mission.
And for those trolls and people I was objected quite clearly for becoming the digitalist. Many people said that: “Who is that guy? I’ve done websites for 20 years. What is he talking about right now?” There was some objection and some disliked also my glass box branding and being so visible in the media and social channels.
So, those are important. I always say that those are the people that coach you to be better. Those are the people you can say: “Hey, let me show you how good I am and what I will do next. Watch me doing this.” And it’s also very hard to get attention without those critics. So in a sense, we need those critics to understand that we actually are affecting people and the communication is effective. If nobody says anything, we’re not making a point.
Petri: I recall it took awhile for you to embrace the critics and those who are mocking you. But then you accepted it and started to use it to your advantage and at least once you were tweeting and saying: “Hey, that blog post I was writing today, it’s a bit confusing and messy and I really need this person to actually make it really witty and make it better. So please, can you make it a better version of what I could come up with?”
Ville: Those were the early times within social media. I was a case where I got this alter ego, I’m Ville Tolvanen, and then somebody started writing Tolle Vilvanen blogs and distributing and reimaging me. I was doing a lot of keynote business back then and some of those people were harassing my company meetings and events.
So they were like destroying the Twitter feed and all that. So it became, at some time, it became an obstacle for me in a sense that when I was interviewed for different events or hosting a keynote or throwing in a keynote, I was asked like how will those accounts behave. I couldn’t say no more than that I don’t know, but for sure they will increase the interest in the matter. So in a sense it was really affecting my business in some sense. But on the other hand it made me a lot more interesting. And the followers, the sizes of audiences, grew into the level that I would not have reached without having those people doing that.
I have to be kind of thankful. And, it was painful at times, and it was a growing experience. But,I’ve learned a lesson. That’s why I talk about artists and rock stars and painters. No one’s ever going to like everybody’s art.
If we understand that in the beginning, we are well better off and better built for the critics, which will of course always affect our feelings.
Petri: What is your advice for someone who is experiencing this for the first time? Words hurt and there’s somebody who’s stalking or doing something publicly which you don’t really appreciate, is it better to mute or block? What’s your advice?
Ville: First I could say, congratulations, you’re famous! I If somebody starts imitating or harassing you, it means that you really have reached something. I’m muting everything nowadays. I see some critics. I don’t bother. I sometimes go to the websites that discuss politicians, and then I see what people think about prime ministers, and say, hey I’m well off.
I have a couple of people who spend their lives bullying my stuff or lowering my work. But, I’m glad I’m not a politician. So it’s quite easy to mute. I don’t follow them. I don’t spend any time thinking about them.
Somebody just asked me today, how do you create your visuals and writing titles and all that? I said, I do one thing at the time. When I write blog posts, the most important thing for me is to write out one idea. And then put a good title or kind of idea around one idea and then publish it. I never think about readers. I never think about whether the idea is good, is bad or high or low quality.
I let the audience decide. I learned from 10 years now in social media and personal branding experience that you can’t guess what the audience likes. All my biggest hits and all my success has been part of the chain, part of the experience, part of the lot. I can’t control or decide who’s going to like it, and that also comes from the music.
When you’re singing in the street corner or doing your first gigs in a pub, you can’t decide who the fans are going to be. What kind of audience will enjoy the music. You can’t control your future. You can’t design the audience. All you can do is put out your best.
Petri: What makes you happy?
Ville: I said earlier that I’m an entrepreneur, so I like to achieve things. I like to plan things. I like something what I learned in business school is that management is planning, leading, organising, and controlling all activities. So I like to do planning. I like to do, I like to organize things. I like to lead processes, and I love analytics.
I love numbers. I love to follow. I’m so fascinated still with digital platforms and instruments that I keep following all the numbers in Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Google Analytics, all but just for the learning experience to understand how the communication actually works and how we can create things and affect people.
Petri: You were describing that and some even quoted you publicly saying that you are digitalist evangelist or the evangelist of digital in Finland at least. Is there enough space or oxygen for other people? Now, everybody needs to start to have their own tiny brand or find the audience. Is that actually even possible if everyone becomes their own brand?
Ville: Like sharing the Zoom-channel for 10 000 digitalists. Let’s go back to the music. When music was disrupted by digital platforms, one of the key phenomenon was the long tail. And, the same thing happened with startups and digital innovation. There was a big long tail of things around the big ones. The new wasn’t born in a big way that there will be a third player in the market, but there will be a long, long tail of small players.
I’ve believed that there’s space for a lot of people and a lot of different roles. If we would take say data who personally owns data in Finland or Sweden or London, you can’t really come up with a long list of names. The same thing happened in music. There’s so many subcultures.
The same thing happens with technology and digital. There’s so many different playgrounds you can establish or run, that you can actually do enough for your own business to get the attention, find the partners, find the customers, and live happily ever after. I think that everybody should start their own channel and keep doing the job and also keep finding the tribe they belong to.
It doesn’t have to be massive. It has to be part of the business. Although they say that I’m the evangelist, I have never done separate communication. I just speak out what I’ve learned or what I do or what we’ve created. I’m kind of visible in a sense. Of course, it means that I communicate a lot more than the average entrepreneur does. But, that’s the way I have reached the standard of living, being and still being able to finance my businesses, finding the clients, satisfying clusters of clients and finding new jobs all the time.
Petri: So to put it in a word, it’s about sharing. You are sharing the journey you are on. It’s not about preaching to people telling them what to do. You let other people know what you’re doing and what are you thinking at this point.
Ville: Yeah, making your work visible. That’s the key thing, and I have to elaborate a little bit on that because this is so funny to me that often when we discuss these things, I have to go back to the birth of the Worldwide Web and the Internet. Like what’s the idea of the Internet connecting computers to share data. Which means in the advanced and mobile platforms and digital connections sharing user experiences, sharing people’s ideas and values and value.
When we started preaching digital, we had a saying: sharing is caring. We meant that if you want the other people on their computers, offices or living rooms to see the information or learn from the information, you should be sharing things.
I connect making things visible and creating your own voice with the sharing’s caring principle. As you become the blinking light house for any vision or idea you have, it takes a little bit time and there may be objection, but then you become an expert in the field and finally, sooner or later, it’ll be yours. You’ll start living by doing that, it becomes your profession.
It’s the same thing what you have to do whether you’re a Formula driver or a singer or take photos or anything. You just have to repeat thousands and thousands times and keep sharing.
Petri: Within the last year, you’ve been starting to take at least baby steps towards something new. Maybe you don’t know yourself either what’s gonna come at the end of that but you’ve been throwing some ideas, discussing with your community and people, and one of the terms came up by looking at what you’ve been writing is a virtual activist. What does that mean?
Ville: Virtual activist is something. Uh, and you’re right. I’m kind of rebuilding myself once again. My accountant said that I have journeys of three to five years. I should build my business also so that that topic lasts for a 1000 or 1500 days.
Which is, by the way, very similar to say David Bowie, who even changed his name and character totally during his career to find the next era or start a new era. Which is fantastic, of course. The guy is bold enough to introduce a new name and go to a live TV show and say, Hey, I’m Ziggy Stardust or something like that.
Virtual activists is something that I look into the post-COVID19 / post-coronavirus world and ask myself and the community that is it so that the last 20 years we spent on distributing mobile phones, laptops, and connections. Then that was called digital channels or digitalisation in some sense, is it now that we start virtualising business models and ecosystems on platforms so that we can actually capitalise the investment we’ve already done ?
As I mentioned earlier, I see so many analogue processes with digital channels or computers side by side. And I’m thinking, why do we spend so much money travelling, events, physical matters in a sense that couldn’t we find a better balance? And I think finding a better balance with virtual outsourced ecosystems, shared resources and so could be something that we could call virtual. Virtual restaurants or virtual business models, our virtual platforms. If I’m thinking about how we could activate the virtual phase of the world what we need is to become activists in the field and as companies and their owners on boards that could we actually virtualise some of the business, our business models during the next 2-5 years.
So, to actually create a better and more sustainable version of the company and the business. And, not go back to the future, but back to the tomorrow. By returning tomorrow with different ideas and different kinds of systems and different platforms for the business, which we already are doing.
Petri: What is the most radical idea you could give a CEO or entrepreneur running a company?
Ville: I think the most radical thing you can do in any business is take a clean sheet of paper, a white paper, and have a so-called zero meeting or workshop. And say, let’s draw or design this company as if we would start it today. And I’ve done that practice with several companies and some owners. And, the fact is that if you draw the company design as if we would start it today, the picture is totally different than the existing operations usually.
And then we can ask why are we running these legacy things? Why are we in silos? Why do we have processes? Why are we organised the way we are if we will not do it if we were to start the company today. And it gets to be a scary thing, I’ve also seen a lot of rejection. I see a lot of CEOs saying, I don’t want to do it.
I don’t want to draw the picture because I know how much different it would be and I don’t like the idea of the work that needs to be done. Change is difficult, but I think we should always embrace the change and say that let’s hug the future and tomorrow, and make the better version of the company and ourselves every day, every year, and all the time.
As we do in sports or arts and culture, we try to improve things. We never say that the last painting was the best I can do. We always say, let’s do even better.
Petri: What is your favorite word?
Petri: What is your least favorite word?
Ville: Don fix it if it ain’t broken.
Petri: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Petri: What turns you off?
Ville: We know.
Petri: What is your favourite curse word?
Petri: What sound or noise do you love?
Ville: I love the Italian bird singing in Piedmont. They’re very loud, they are very noisy. You could be disturbed by that but that’s a lovely thing. The summer is here already.
Petri: What sound or noise do you hate?
Ville: People fighting to get into the plane or trying to get into a restaurant without a reservation.
Petri: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Ville: I would love to build houses or do interior design.
Petri: What profession would you not like to do?
Petri: If you could be a co-founder of any startup at any era, which one would you choose?
Ville: I never thought about that before but just instantly came to my mind that of course I would like to be picking apples in California.
Petri: Thank you, Ville! It’s been a total pleasure.
Ville: Thank you, Petri! It’s been awesome time and I think it’s very nice to share thoughts like how we’re thinking at the moment during the COVID19 crisis. It’s definitely a momentum and start for something new, so it’s good to be part of this. Thanks!