Kustaa Valtonen
IMPACT INVESTING

Kustaa Valtonen

#73

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Entrepreneur and Angel Investor

Using an investment company to leave your comfort zone – Kustaa Valtonen

“Be persistent, be patient and focus on the goals you want to reach. You’lll get there one day.”

ABOUT

Kustaa Valtonen is an experienced sales and investment professional. He has more than 13 years of experience from HP and Microsoft where he worked in sales with some of the largest corporate customers.

Last 11 years he has worked as a business angel helping a large number of startups get funding and grow their businesses internationally. He makes investments through his privately held investment company and jointly owned investment company called Random Ventures. He is also a major contributor to the FinEstBayArea Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel program that is being constructed with private funding.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Kustaa Valtonen

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
Well just like do we like to do is jump right into things? So welcome. Thank you very much for joining us today Costa. I’ve been waiting for this call for a while because I’ve been excited to dive into all these great projects that you’re working on which is very exciting and I’m sure you get to hear this lot. But the way we like to start is if you could share a little bit about your background a little bit around um kind of where you started the things that you’ve been up to today.

And then one thing about you that no one would know.

Kustaa:
Wow. So something about my background and something that nobody knows. Um let’s I have an IT. Background so worked in uh IT. Companies in different types of sales roles. Hewlett Packard HP for a long time more than 10 years. And then uh at Microsoft and at both companies I I was doing service sales more or less. Well at Microsoft had kind of the whole account for Nokia and Innocent at the time, and Nokia, Siemens Networks or the networks business. And about, well, 10 years ago, a little bit more than 10 years ago, I started to had enough of the corporate life and wanted to do something else.

So I started to look at what I could do. And I had made some just a couple of angel investments by that time. So I thought that, okay, let’s see how the working life is with the startup companies. And uh, I did that for a year and I kind of liked it.

So here I am, 10 years after and I have maybe 30, 40 companies in my portfolio, a number of others that I’m somehow connected to, advising or mentoring or helping out in one way or another.

Jeffery:
Very exciting.

Kustaa:
And I’ve been doing that very to that nobody else knows. So this is not a complete secret, but in uh, in Finland, uh, there was a very famous uh, startup Accelerator program called Startup Sauna that was started like 2008, 2009, I guess something in that timeline.

And um, it’s now been on hold for a few years, but I’m actually the first angel investor to invest in a company that was owned at the time, but they changed the name after the first batch, but I invested in a company called Audio Draft. The company still exists. Very happy about that. It hasn’t been a big success yet, but we’re still hoping for it to be, but did my first agent investment into the first batch of that?

Jeffery:
Awesome, awesome. We’re having a little bit of internet connectivity issues, but well, it looks like we’ll be able to work our way through them. So I want to kind of go back a little bit to your tech background and then explore kind of how that’s um really enticed your angel investing. So if you go back to your Hewlett Packard and your Microsoft days on the technical side, what are the things that really stand out the most that you learned about companies? Was it because while you were in these big conglomerates that you were getting access and exposure to early-stage companies and then it was giving you kind of this framework for how you invest today, or did it just become random learning and you just don’t go into early-stage startups?

Kustaa:
So how I got started uh and kind of the impact of the technology companies. So, um uh let’s, I’ll give you a little bit longer answers. So I think because what I learned from companies like HP and Microsoft was kind of how large organizations work and that has been very useful for me in many ways, so that there are processes and there are forms to fill in and you need to give feedback and you need to receive feedback and your these ways of doing things if I put it very clearly, and that’s uh has been helpful in order to understand kind of how to work with the large companies.

So, for startups, sometimes working with a large organization is not very easy because there’s so many people you need to talk to and you don’t really know who actually makes the decision. And it could be that the real decision-makers or the budgets are sitting somewhere completely else that you’re thinking about. So, so that that I think has been very very good learning experience and of course the corporate culture, how it’s created, how it’s maintained is very important. Also to understand HP for example, fantastic example of uh of a large company that’s been successful and uh um it’s kind of like the original startup, so started like in 1938 or something in Palo Alto when there was no Silicon Valley. So that’s good to remember that those guys actually created Silicon Valley to some extent. So it’s great to go back to the roots in some sense, so happy to be kind of rooting for that type of legacy.

But then if I kind of look at how things worked in in HP, in Microsoft. So both companies are kind of technology-driven. So there’s a lot of uh new technology, new innovation, they are creating all the time. And uh that also draws uh the attention of uh other companies, usually, they are kind of small or medium-sized companies that uh kind of connect with the large companies to create some sort of a service suffering or solution. And hp had like 20 years back or actually more than 20 years ago they had this uh a function called HP bazaar that was uh like, well well it’s basically what we call coworking spaces nowadays. So it was like an open area. I think they had like five or six of them around the world. One was in Espoo in in in Finland and then they had one in Singapore and somewhere in India.

Yeah, I think shanghai and san Francisco so on. But anyway, the idea was that they opened up like their internal office space and invited uh small technology companies and larger ones also to join in, they held events, Pizza coca, cola, hackathons and so on. And the idea was to create uh buzz around kind of what HP is doing, but also to promote uh kind of all different types of technologies and see what can come out of that.

So um when you’re kind of uh involved in that type of an environment, it’s kind of easy to get excited about the technologies and find contacts and companies to collaborate with and explore.

Jeffery:
So because that gave you the exposure to almost new and exciting tech that was coming into the world, it gave you that opportunity to explore those new technologies and then implement them into the business, which gave you exposure to the world.

That startups, even though startups might not have been coined as start-ups at the time? Probably just a business, um, there was leading some cutting edge technology and you guys were able to start working with them. So in that kind o