The loser stands tall A story of bouncing back from bankruptcy

Peter Lindberg Vaaka

“You can bury your head in the sand and try hide from the fact that you fucked up, or you can finish the story with your head held high,” says Peter Lindberg. Having declared bankruptcy for Apped, a tech startup he co-founded, Lindberg chooses the latter.

“I remember feeling like there’s light at the end of the tunnel in the fall of 2018, when my wife and I bought a summer house. A year ago that would never have been possible, seeing that I was broke and drained. Declaring bankruptcy for a startup you co-founded does that to you.

Our tech startup Apped saw daylight in 2015. I was the CEO and shared an ambitious vision with the rest of our core team. We wanted to revolutionize the business to business market with our platform offering instant integrations to business systems and gamified mobile apps.

We didn’t rest on our laurels for long. Our promise was big and we wanted to get our story out there, so we did a lot of stuff very fast. Our burn rate was high and we relied mainly on risk funding. On one hand, this approach was fruitful: big software companies and corporations were interested in us and we had prominent pilot clients, such as Finnair and Sanoma. On the other, we lacked experience in funding, and made some dumb mistakes. Those can turn out to be fatal.

After living and breathing Apped for a few years, the funding instrument Tekes (now Business Finland) ceased financing the company. We tried all sorts of snake charming to keep the business running, but eventually realized it was time to let the cat out of the bag. The company had run out of money.

Around that time my wife had just given birth to our first child, and was healing from a complicated pregnancy. In general, I believe that there’s always a solution, but at that point I didn’t have the resources to start thinking about a plan B.

In the fall of 2017, we declared bankruptcy for Apped. For a few years, all of us had given it everything we could, both physically and mentally. At best we had a staff of eight. When you’re that committed to something, it’s extremely hard to accept that the only thing you can do is give up.

There are two ways of giving up, though. You can either bury your head in the sand and hide from the fact that you fucked up, or you can finish the story with your head held high. I’m very proud of how we handled the bankruptcy. Many entrepreneurs can’t accept that sometimes it might be best to just quit. At least we took the decision in our own hands.

In many senses, Apped had a great ride. I got to stand on stage in New York and tell people that we’re going to change the world. Although we didn’t get quite that far, we got far. I can look back and say, hey, we actually did that. We did that with wonderful people, and that is valuable enough.

After pushing through roughly a year’s worth of bankruptcy fog I ended up working at Reaktor as Business Development Director. They led me in very gently and gave me the time and space that was necessary to lay Apped to rest. While my ongoing projects make my blood pump and adrenaline flow as much as Apped did, I also enjoy the job security. What’s best, I’m free to pick up my kid from daycare.

I learned a lot about myself during the bankruptcy process. I’ve failed quite a few times in my life. It just goes to show that the world doesn’t end even though you spectacularly fall flat on your face. Right now I’m not in a hurry to find the next big thing. I’d like to finish building the sauna at our summer house, though. That would be good.”

Words: Kristiina Markkanen
Photography: Bryan Saragosa