For founders, the transition from making all the decisions to having almost no control after an exit is always challenging. This transition wasn't easy for Kim Väisänen, either.
This blog post is part of The Founder Files series, exploring the human side of entrepreneurship, where the distinction between success and failure is often a fine line. From founding and scaling, all the way to the exit, we reveal the unfiltered, authentic stories behind entrepreneurial journeys. Ready to hear the truth?
Kim Väisänen, the co-founder of Blancco, and the other two shareholders, had agreed that €60M was a reasonable selling price for the company. Once that was offered, they decided to sell Blancco in 2014. The first offer and quick sale raised the question of whether they could have made more.
"It was a perfectly good valuation for the company and great compensation for the work done. Why go through all the what-ifs? As Warren Buffet said, leave the last ten percent to the next guy", Väisänen says.
For Väisänen, there was no real relief. It was simply the end of one chapter in his life and the beginning of another. The transition from making all of the decisions to having almost no control is always challenging for founders, and it was not easy for Väisänen, either. For a while, he felt the urge to guide the new leadership.
"Luckily," he laughs as he reminisces about the time, "that passed".
Often, startup founders become serial entrepreneurs or investors, and Väisänen had the means to opt for the latter path. However, he made the unusual choice to not work in a field that was the most familiar to him.
"I've done my time. It was time to work with something other than information security.”
Väisänen is now a startup investor. He doesn’t miss the responsibilities and stress that come with being a startup entrepreneur and, therefore, does not see himself as an angel investor.
"In my mind, angels help companies and often receive sweat equity in return. I don't do that. From time to time, I prefer simply investing money and telling the founders never to call again. Sure, I can do pro-rata the next round, and if that never comes, no hard feelings."
"I thought to myself, how the hell can I be this wimp?"
Väisänen applies his one-third principle to his investments: he maintains no contact with one-third of the companies, he engages when needed with another third, and he actively participates as a board member or chair in the remaining third.
One lesson, among many other things, Väisänen learned the hard way. He served on the board of a company he wasn't particularly interested in and sat through board meetings that were always inconvenient and poorly scheduled.
"I'm a big boy, I can handle being fired from the board. But somehow it hurt my feelings. And I thought to myself, how the hell can I be this wimp? Yes, it pisses me off if they can't see my value, but there's no point in staying in that kind of situation or ruminating on it. This is what I wanted, and somehow it still hurts.”
“I was intolerably cocky when I was younger, and I believe I would be a much better boss now.”
Reflecting on what he would have done differently in this entrepreneurial career, Väisänen mentions leadership and recruiting.
"In retrospect, I understand that a CEO's job is not to make people's work as hard as possible, but as easy as possible. I was intolerably cocky when I was younger, and I believe I would be a much better boss now", Väisänen admits.
“I would also be much better at recruiting people. I've hired people from taxi stands and car rentals. I would definitely exercise greater discretion, recruit more professionally, and hire an HR professional right from the start."
It’s been a decade since the exit, and Väisänen has received several awards and recognitions for his entrepreneurial and investor careers. He is an angel investor for over 35 companies, including Framery, Asuntosalkku, and SuperApp, and serves as a chairman or a board member in most of them.
As an author, keynote speaker, and Growth Partner at Evli Growth Partners, he mentors and inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs. Väisänen hopes that his work has had at least a small effect on the Finnish startup community.
“In one interview, I promised the Finnish startup community would get their share of that money. And they have.”
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