Three things you always need to do as an entrepreneur: to stay humble and keep learning, to delay personal gratification and focus on creating value for others, and to work hard and never give up. As long as you keep doing these three, you’re eventually going to succeed without a doubt.
Jesse Nieminen is the Co-founder and Chairman of Viima, a SaaS product that helps organizations collect and develop ideas and turn them into innovations.
He is an entrepreneur with a passion for growing businesses, and for helping organizations to succeed and scale in the digital age. Jesse founded Viima with two of his friends and colleagues four years ago when they were half-way through their Master’s degree studies and also working for one of Europe’s fastest growing SaaS companies.
Regardless of the challenging starting point, all three founders have now graduated with Master’s degrees in Computer Science and managed to successfully bootstrap Viima from those humble origins to a rapidly growing company with a customer portfolio including Global Fortune 500 companies and organizations like the United Nations.
Where did the idea for Viima come from?
We participated in a local accelerator program at our university and initially had a completely different business idea. However, once we started to actually try to sell the product, we soon realized that our idea was flawed in many ways. At that point, we had already spent multiple months working on a prototype for that software.
So, we wanted to help others avoid the same mistake of not testing their ideas early enough and started working on what eventually became Viima. The idea has obviously evolved from that and now our focus is to help organizations collect, develop, and manage their ideas to further develop their business.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I always try to get 8 hours of sleep, it simply makes me much more productive. On a normal day that means that I’ll wake up just before 8 AM and then get to work before 9. My mornings are usually dedicated to meetings and for going through my inbox, as well as for completing other running tasks that simply need to get done.
The afternoon and evenings are then typically reserved for the more creative and challenging tasks. I’m usually at my most productive after everyone has left the office and there are no disturbances.
I love working out and have found physical exercise to serve as a great break for the brain and to help me stay at the top of my game both mentally and physically. Ever since I’ve become an entrepreneur I’ve been doing CrossFit or going to the gym almost every day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Since we bootstrapped Viima with our own savings, we’ve always had to be creative and to find ways to create something from nothing. I’ve thus had to learn a lot of different skills, such as design, marketing and full-stack software development, which has fortunately made it quite easy for me to bring ideas to life just by myself, or with a very small team. This allows us to move fast with minimal overhead.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m very excited about many upcoming trends, but if I had to pick just one, I guess it would have to be the development of Artificial Intelligence, even though there’s obviously a lot of unfound hype around the topic as well. There are simply so many different ways that AI can help us in the future that it’s difficult to even fathom all of the possibilities.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
For me, personally, it’s a healthy lifestyle. By eating well, sleeping enough, and working out a lot, I am more productive, but also simply feel better.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I was younger, I wasn’t always very hard-working as I had managed to get along in life just fine without putting in a lot of effort. For example, I very rarely did any of my homework until half-way through my first year at the university.
So, I would simply advice my younger self to remember that hard work always pays off in the end and that the key to wanting to put in that work is to do something that you really enjoy.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Happiness in life doesn’t come from achieving things or from getting something, like money or fame, but from giving to others and from building things that create value for others.
This might not sound very controversial, but when you look at how people actually operate, it’s clear that there’s unfortunately way too many people who don’t really think this way.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would say there are ultimately three things you always need to do as an entrepreneur: to stay humble and keep learning, to delay personal gratification and focus on creating value for others, and to work hard and never give up. As long as you keep doing these three, you’re eventually going to succeed without a doubt.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The biggest thing enabling our past and current growth has been our focus on inbound marketing. It’s the perfect channel for us since it emphasizes the strengths of our product compared to our alternatives, as well as allows us to get our foot in the door on exciting opportunities that we’d have no chance of being involved in otherwise. This has made it possible for us to grow in a scalable and a somewhat predictable manner.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As long as you don’t give up, you never actually fail, you simply learn what didn’t work. There are so many ways we’ve failed during our years of being in business that I’ve never really kept count.
However, if I had to pick one, it would be what we did in the very beginning before we had even officially founded the company: simply build the product and not work with customers to make sure the product actually has a market.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Time is always the resource that is most finite for all human beings, so any business that can save lots of time for others is quite likely to ultimately find a market for the product or service. Currently the area where I’d personally love to find a convenient and affordable solution is for preparing healthy and nutritious meals. It would be awesome if there was a service that knew my dietary wishes and requirements and would turn those into fresh ready-made meals for me without me having to take the time to plan meals, do the groceries, and actually prepare the food.
I’ve also previously written about tools that can help you find business ideas, so you’re looking for one, you might find that post useful, along with this great episode from the Masters of Scale podcast.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The one area where I’m not too frugal is health and sports as these are of the utmost importance for myself. So, I’d say pretty much anything that promotes health or supports my passion for sports counts.
My most recent $100 purchase in that area was a weightlifting belt and a pair of knee sleeves for helping me avoid getting injured during some of the tougher sessions at the gym.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Besides from Viima, my favourite tool is hands down HubSpot. It’s simply the best tool out there for inbound and online marketing. HubSpot is a joy to work with and has saved us countless of hours, which we’ve been able to use for actually growing our business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
This is a tough question as there are so many brilliant books out there! If I have to pick just one, I guess my recommendation for most entrepreneurs would be the “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. It’s the seminal piece on modern entrepreneurship.
However, if you’re looking to start a business with other founders in the team, make sure you read The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman. It will save you many a headache down the road. For more recommendations, you can check the list of books I’ve read on Goodreads . I can highly recommend any book I’ve given either 4 or 5 stars.
What is your favorite quote?
“How hard can it be?” by Jeremy Clarkson from the Grand Tour. I love the way the quote implies that by simply putting in the effort and getting to work, you can learn virtually anything while still maintaining a positive tongue in cheek attitude.
• The keys to success as an entrepreneur: work hard and never give up, focus on continuous learning and remember to always put yourself last.
• Make sure to focus on your health and fitness, it’s going to keep you productive (and happy) in both the short and long-term.
• You should ideally have all of the core skills in your team for getting the business off-the-ground. Relying on external partners is usually much more difficult, expensive and takes more time.
• Read a lot!