We sent five questions to business angel Timo Ahopelto, ex-founder and CEO of CRF Health, to discuss work, success and failure.
1. Your goal is to be the first person that an entrepreneur reaches out to in times of trouble, but also of joy. How do you do this?
We work closely with entrepreneurs from the very start of their companies. We focus on solving pragmatic challenges that emerge: who to hire and when, what product features to develop, how to organize sales, and the list goes on. We have been entrepreneurs ourselves and therefore in most cases can be helpful in practice. This develops mutual trust. We genuinely always look for what’s best for a company - not our own interests. We believe that good companies will always be good investments.
2. On a more general level, what does success mean to you and how do you know when you have succeeded?
We have succeeded when the company and the team have given their all in order to be successful. Sometimes it creates a unicorn and sometimes it leads to a company’s bankruptcy. Being a successful startup is a function of attitude, skill, experience, level of effort, time and luck. The last element you cannot control. However, in nine out of ten cases the company is successful if the team has a conviction to make it happen. If the team develops this conviction and executes on it, we have also succeeded.
3. How do you know that you’ve failed? What is the value of failure?
We fail in many of our investments and always learn something. Many learnings are quite tactical and pragmatic, like how to look at different markets and technologies along their life cycles. As an investor, you know your failure very easily: the company does not return cash.
4. What makes a venture capital firm a good one?
We believe in our balanced partnerships where all the team members have their areas of contribution. We only have partners and do not have the traditional pyramid organization with directors, associates and analysts. This works for us. We can fully focus to work with our companies.
5. What keeps you happy as investors?
Working with good entrepreneurs.
In Fast Five, we ask five pertinent questions to an industry expert. This time around, we emailed Timo Ahopelto, a Finnish early-stage investor and ex-founder and CEO of CRF Health, one of only four Finnish so-called unicorns, or tech companies that have been sold for over one billion euros. After CRF Health, Timo co-founded Lifeline Ventures, an early-stage venture fund.