Juha Koponen – CEO and Co-Founder of Netcycler

Juha Koponen has a D.Sc. degree in Technical Physics from Helsinki University of Technology, Finland, (2000) and he was a research fellow in Max-Planck-Institute for Plasma Physics in Germany where he conducted experiments with a fusion reactor. He also worked in 1994 for a few months in CERN, Switzerland doing diagnostics software for the LEP collider.

In 1999 Juha joined First Hop, a maker of mobile content delivery platforms for telecom operators. Juha started first leading the company’s research projects and doing product concepting. After that he was responsible for the company’s product development and later he was responsible for First

Hop’s global services business. First Hop sold its software products to over 60 telecom operators around the world before it was acquired by Airwide Solutions Inc. in December 2007. Then Juha had his exit to launch Netcycler.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working with Netcycler which is a service for giving away and acquiring secondhand goods. We have it live in Finland and Germany and next we open it in UK. So far 20000 people have joined and we are growing rapidly.

Netcycler is a new way to make environmentally friendly consumption decisions by reducing purchases of new products. Netcycler supports using existing products until the end of their life cycle. When you no longer need something, the service will find someone who does. It’s an alternative for consumption centered lifestyle, an easy way to minimize shopping while still getting everything you need.

Netcycler is a swap service that really works. Netcycler makes trading of all household goods fast, easy and exciting. Netcycler is not based on two-person trades only, but trade rings in which there can be up to five parties involved. Trade rings enhance the probability of a successful trade remarkably. It’s a complicated technology behind the system, but the users can take it easy and enjoy the automations.

3 trends that excite you?

Climate change, although its quite negative driver, but its very important. We need to take action to cut CO2 emissions and we need to do it now. I had my climate change awakening in 2007 and it has changed my personal life style a lot.

Swapping. This is a bit no brainer from a swapping company founder, but I’m just so excited about the fact that you can turn the things you do not need to something useful.

Collaborative consumption- the raise of new ways to share and re-use existing items and belongings through Internet based systems.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By listening carefully to messages from all sources: users, partners, team, analytics. Then it’s important to combine things and ideas from different sources to come up with a unique idea. Then at some point one needs to prioritize- pick the most promising ideas and actually implement them quickly to see whether they work or not. Testing the idea in real life tends to bring out problems that need solving. Then it’s time to reiterate the idea to find a way to make it work.

With bigger ideas I believe that one can almost never do anything significant very fast, it takes lots

of time and effort from many bright people. In the end it requires lots of passion and persistence.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired to take part in building sustainable ways for us people to stay on the planet earth. The current way of living is far from that, but it’s a great source of inspiration to develop and see others developing new services and methods that actually improve people’s lives and at the same time make them more sustainable.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Sometimes I have done the mistake to do something in isolation for a longer time, and during the process fallen in love with my great project. And, if I’m passionate about my project, I will defend it stubbornly. And, obviously not all the projects are so great. Then finally I woke up realising how much time and effort I had put in doing it, then defending it and now I just have to kill it.

What I learned was what I had already read from many books: release early, release often. It’s essential to be able to find the smallest possible first deliverable, implement it, and test it in as real environment as possible.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Fighting for climate change can make a career as well. I’m especially excited about the interface between cleantech and internet. Lot can be done there, in optimising energy and resource usage with clever information processing.

What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?

I am using a lot my note book (the old fashioned, made of recycled paper) and a pen. I have developed a habit to write notes on almost everything. Based on these its easy to go back to discussions and meetings and see what was discussed.

For coordinating joint efforts good ticketing systems are very important. They keep things organized and ideas are not lost. We use one for development and other for customer issue tracking.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Rachel Botsman, the author of the book “What’s mine is yours, the rise of collaborative consumption”.

Why should companies want to provide a swapping service for their employees?

This question is related to the new Netcycler company edition service. Lots of companies have already forums where people sell or giveaway items. So companies are already providing employees facilities for sharing their stuff. By taking into use a more developed trading system such as Netcycler, a company can communicate its environmental values with tangible activities and distinguish itself as a environmentally friendly employer. The amount of materials saved from landfills as well as the saved carbon emissions can be estimated and this can be communicated in the Corporate Responsibility report.

From the employer’s point of view this is a convenient service: employees can save time and money by giving and getting stuff from their colleagues. Working at the same company creates trust and makes it easy to deliver items.

How do you use Netcycler yourself?

I use Netcycler a lot, and I love it. I have done over 90 swaps. I want to live sustainably and acquire things second hand. The swaps I make are also lots of fun, for example: I swapped a book to football shoes, a CD to a scale, and a mortar and a pestle to an iPod. Then baby strollers I swapped to two bikes. It’s quite amazing! I really can get most of the stuff I need by swapping it.

Some of the deliveries I do face to face and often I have very nice chats with other service users. It’s really great to meet them and to hear how they heard about the service, why they like it and what could be improved.