When Mika Viskari decided to start Wunderdog, he didn’t know who the other founding members of the company would be. He wasn’t a software developer, but had a few ideas about running a business. This is the second part of the interview with Viskari (read here the first part), in which things get a bit more personal. We talk about Wunderdog’s growth, opening chapters in other countries, the future and how a CEO of +150 people disconnects the mind from work (hint: he doesn’t).
Let’s talk about Wunderdog’s growth. The company has grown quite fast. How did that happen?
We trust our people and we want them to like what we do. Thus, finding the right people is fundamental. We grew thanks to recommendations, to people talking with each other about us. That’s how we are more than 150 people now, counting our ecosystem.
What about starting companies outside of Helsinki? Can you tell us about some of your learnings regarding Berlin?
Be patient and trust your instincts. You have to keep on searching for the right product-market fit and once you crack that, the highway is open. It won’t be smooth but having the right team in place is the key.
Regarding Berlin, how do you envision the company in the future?
At first it was like living the early days of Wunderdog Helsinki again. Now I am very proud that they independently drive the growth there, and use the synergies with Helsinki whenever they need. I would like to throw Jasper (Van Ghemen) a challenge: I will buy you a nice dinner as soon as you grow past Helsinki.
Let’s rewind to the beginning. Why do you think some of the people you contacted through LinkedIn said no, given how well it worked out in the end?
When creating a startup, life situations affect you a lot. People can see embarking on such an adventure as a big risk. There were multiple cases in which both – the person I met and I– ended up saying “thanks, but no, thanks”. Sometimes you meet great people but there’s no click. Building a company like this requires a lot of chemistry, empathy and good communication.
Did you ever think of founding a company all by yourself?
Well, I could, but it’s difficult to scale it upwards on your own. Meaningful projects need a bigger capacity, and the idea behind Wunderdog is to provide a full life cycle service. For that you need more people, a team.
What made you choose the people you chose?
It was a mix of honesty and determination. I value people who are capable of saying “I don’t know this, but I’m willing to learn”. The right people for Wunderdog were those who sought to develop themselves not only tech-wise, but also in terms of relationships, leadership, and people skills.
Let’s get a bit more personal now. Where do you, as CEO, allocate your time?
It might sound a bit cheesy, but a considerable amount is directed towards development work and keeping the good spirit of the early years.
Is the company a big part of your daily life?
Yes, it is. I even wear our brand and gear (laughs). I was quite young when I started, and since then I’ve grown in many ways, including family-wise. My life has changed considerably.
How can someone cope with 40h/week and being the CEO of a company?
In my case, I hardly ever go offline, I’m always thinking about topics. Even in simple routine situations, such as jogging. I enjoy chatting with our people, family, friends, old colleagues, and asking them about their opinion: “Are we going in the right direction?”. I don’t really have working hours, it’s more about dividing the thinking time and the “actual” work. I’m used to it because I come from a family of entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us about some good and bad moments as a CEO?
The bad moments usually come from bad communication. In other words, the type of communication that gives room for speculation. I hope people can be brave and ask for help and input, and I appreciate thinking before saying. Unclear communication can create problems sometimes.
And the good?
The culture. Seeing people’s continuous development is very exciting. It’s rewarding to see them being vocal, proposing and suggesting changes without being afraid. This is also what we offer to our customers as well.
Now that you are moving on to another phase in Wunderdog, where you’re no longer going to be the CEO: How do you see yourself in the future of the company? What comes next for you?
First of all, I think that change is always good. It is time for Ville to step in and take the company to the next level. He already has my full support to help us succeed in this. Regarding myself, I love working closely with people. I feel that’s what I’m good at. We have built an amazing culture and great ways of working. I hope that I get to spread this work philosophy around, also among our customers, where my next focus is.
So, to conclude, Mika, if somebody wants to talk to you, how can they reach you?
In usual times, stop by our office and have a coffee with me. But, as said, LinkedIn has worked for me pretty nicely too.
This post (part II) is an adaptation from Joonas Kykkänen’s interview to Mika Viskari in Joonas Kykkänen’s podcast, “From 0 to 100”. Joonas Kykkänen is a software developer from Wunderdog and author of the blog Flashover. To listen to the podcast, click here (In Finnish only).