Jesse Nieminen | Founder of Viima
Success leaves clues.
Finance Strategists sat down with Jesse Nieminen, founder of Viima. He shared his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the company, as well as the insight he gained from running the business.
Who is Viima?
Q: Who are you and what’s your background?
I’m from Helsinki, Finland. I have a master’s degree in computer science, and actually met my co-founders during our studies at Aalto University.
Before founding Viima, I worked at one of the fastest growing software companies in Europe, RELEX, in a variety of roles that really played a big role in helping me learn more about the enterprise software business.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?
For me, there really isn’t a single person that I could point to and say that it’s definitely them.
However, my co-founders and I have been through a lot together, and they’ve played a big role in who I’ve become professionally as well as personally.
I was also fortunate enough to work with a lot of great people at RELEX. They certainly influenced my way of thinking, and I have a lot of respect for so many of them. For example, the founders of the company were international pioneers in supply chain management research, and that in-depth knowledge of their customer’s challenges was always something that I really admired. It’s something that I think more leaders should strive towards.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were in your twenties?
We were fortunate enough to have met a lot of experienced entrepreneurs during our studies, earlier career, and the Kiuas accelerator program we took part in right before officially founding the company. We had a pretty good idea of what to expect, and were able to avoid many of the mistakes inexperienced entrepreneurs often make.
Still, even if you are able to do so, it always takes a lot more time and effort to get things off the ground than one would like, especially when you’re a first-time entrepreneur that still has a lot to learn. So, I guess I’d just go back and encourage myself to keep pushing and find ways to overcome the many challenges that were ahead of us.
Q: What is Viima?
Viima is the most widely used and highest rated idea and innovation management software in the world with just shy of 10000 organizations from around the world signed up to use our SaaS product.
With our software organizations can collect ideas from their employees, customers, and other stakeholders, and the software helps manage them all the way to innovations.
Currently, it’s startups and some large enterprises that drive most of the innovation in our economy, but we’re on a mission to change that. We seek to democratize innovation by bringing the tools, skills, and expertise needed for organizations of all sizes across the world to become better innovators.
Q: What makes your company different from its competitors?
There are many nuances, but ultimately it basically boils down to two key components.
The first is that our SaaS platform combines the flexibility, security, and robustness of enterprise grade solutions with the ease-of-use and customer experience that people expect these days. It also comes with the wealth of instructional content we’ve created to help our customers learn to use innovation to deliver tangible business results.
The second is our business model. We’ve built a uniquely scalable, low-touch business model that allows us to deliver tons of customer value for clients across the globe, including our extremely generous free Basic plan that organizations can use with an unlimited number of users, while still being the rare profitable growth company in a very competitive industry. For customers, this obviously means that we’re going to be able to continue investing in creating more and more value for the foreseeable future.
Q: What led you to start Viima?
As we’d met during our studies, we realized that all three of us co-founders were very entrepreneurial, and soon realized that we’d definitely want to try our hands at founding a company at some point.
As we gained some work experience and got closer to finishing our master’s degrees, we thought that it was finally the right time and decided to join the accelerator program that I mentioned earlier.
At that time, we didn’t yet have a very good idea of what kind of a business we wanted to build, but the accelerator fortunately helped with that, and after doing some footwork, we soon identified the challenges companies had in trying to innovate, and set out to work on solving helping them solve those challenges.
What really motivated me to become an entrepreneur were the desire to learn as much as possible, and to really see the positive impact of my work first-hand, and these are still very much what keeps me going.
Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you?
In short, pretty much everything there is to know about building, growing and leading a quickly growing international software business. I obviously still have a lot to learn, but the experience is something I wouldn’t really trade for anything.
We are a bootstrapped company, so to get the company off the ground, we couldn’t afford to hire anyone with a lot of experience and basically had to learn to do everything ourselves.
In hindsight, that’s been an incredible experience. Most people that have worked for larger companies only have experience from very narrow, specialized roles. While not necessarily an issue by itself, I’ve learned that the best leaders and innovators do understand both business and complex systems and challenges holistically, and I want to try to do that myself.
Q: Where do you see things headed for you in the next 5 years?
Viima will soon turn seven years old, and I’m very excited about the next five years! We’ve gradually built the foundations for a great business and are excited to keep pursuing our mission and growing the company.
So, while we don’t really believe in having a detailed five-year plan, we have plenty of interesting projects and innovative developments coming up that we’re excited to bring to our customers that we can soon share more about.