21st & 22nd of May
Maribor, Slovenia
Monday, April 24, 2017

Tapio Siik: The European startup ecosystem is learning to play to its strengths, instead of trying to copy Silicon Valley

Tapio Siik is a business mentor and angel investor, who joins his business interest with his passion for running and healthy lifestyle, and believes that innovations that help solve problems in the area of health-related issues and aging, can have a huge impact in our societies. 

Mr. Siik, as a passionate marathoner, you have combined your love for sports and healthy living with your passion for startups by investing and advising with several health startups (Wellness Foundry, Flowmedik Oy). You are also mentor at the Vertical Accelerator where they focus on accelerating startups from the health and wellness sector. Why did you see this as a big opportunity and decided to invest? Why is this area important?

An angel investment is something, which is quite hard to justify just on the financial basis. That’s why most of the angels invest in areas, where they have personal passion and interest. For me, human wellbeing (both mental and physical) is very close to my heart, and this has been one key reason for my involvement in this space. Also, health-related issues and aging pose a huge global challenge already now, and the problem is just getting bigger. Any innovations, which help to solve even a small problem in this area, can have huge impact in our societies.

Many areas of our everyday lives have already been disrupted by startups, but it seems that we’re a bit slow to embrace high-tech solutions in the areas that are the closest to us – our health, the quality of our lives … Which are the areas that you would like to see startups tackle, but have not yet gone there?

Many of the health/wellness related startups are still very technology driven, and address often very niche markets. I would like to see more user-centric (driven) innovations, which would target big masses of people. In order to achieve this, usability has to be in the center of the design, and this is always very hard issue to solve well.

In your very extensive career, you have had the opportunity of investing as a member of Corporate Venture team at Nokia as well as being an angel investor. How do the roles differ? Which one do you like more?

I think these roles differ like day and night. As a VC, you are executing your LP’s investment strategy with the goal of maximizing the returns on your investments. As an Angel, I invest in cases, which I personally like, and the financial returns come only after that (if ever).

What are the opportunities of Corporate Venture Funds for corporates? What are the threats and how to overcome them? 

Corporate Venture Funds come in so many different flavors and colors, that it is hard to give a short answer. I think the key is for the corporate to first decide why they are getting involved with the investments into startups? When this is clear, it is easier to decide how to organize the activity and how to run the operation in a good manner. If the objective is not clear to all parties, there will be lots of problems with ungrounded expectations.

How do you see the future of cooperation between startups and corporates?

I think corporates are slowly (maybe too slowly for some) learning how to work with startups without crushing them in the process. Startups are also becoming more aware of the potential issues with the cooperation, which is good. More discussions are definitely needed to educate all parties.

Due to your experience as well as your current role as part of the EIT Digital team, you have a great overview over the European startup ecosystem. How has it evolved in the last years and how do you see the future of European startup communities? Where do you see untapped opportunities?

There has for sure been good progress in European startup ecosystem, and we are learning to play to our own strengths, instead of trying to copy Silicon Valley or Israel to Europe. We are still struggling in getting into the platform game on the level, which we should. In my mind, one big reason for this is the fragmentation (on many levels) of European markets. We should work hard to break the barriers in EU, and create one real market, instead of 27 separate ones.

Should the startup founders prepare themselves for a sprint, a marathon or sprinting a marathon? How to prepare for the run?

I think Kenny Rogers has nailed it, in his song Gambler:

“If you're gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done”… :)

Tapio Siik is a Finnish Business Mentor and Angel Investor, with extensive Nokia background of around 17 years in various positions ranging from running large R&D organizations to Vice President level business line responsibilities. He actively shares his expertise as a Business Mentor at Vertical Accelerator, Finland and is a member of the EIT Digital Accelerator Team.  
As a passionate marathonist he is involved in various startups where he shares his years of experience and love for healthy and active living. Among others he is an Angel Investor and Advisor at Wellness Foundry, a startup committed to delivering cutting-edge web and mobile tools to help people eat better and to live healthier, their main product a revolutionary service for interactive nutrition coaching MealLogger and Angel Investor and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Flowmedik Oy, a startup that develops next generation control meters for the healthcare industry.

Tapio Siik will be a guest at this year’s PODIM Conference.