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January 2, 2024

The Scaling of Blancco: How Kim Väisänen navigated through the trials and errors of scaling

By Evli Growth Partners
Kim Väisänen
Growth Partner
Kim Väisänen emphasizes one rule that every fast-growing company should live by when starting up: do not fall in love with people. He repeats this advice for scaling.

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?

The scaling story of Blancco, a company specializing in data erasure co-founded by Kim Väisänen in 1997, is a series of trials and errors – particularly in terms of the business model and identifying new market opportunities. When it came to finding a suitable sales model, they tried it all: licensing their software for white-label use, using resellers, building channel partnerships, and recruiting and developing their very own sales team.

“Finally, we found the formula that worked for us. In addition to our sales team, we had regional offices with strong country managers”, Väisänen says.

Kim Väisänen at the opening of Blancco Japan in 2010.

Country managers were partners in the subsidiaries they led, offering them a clear financial incentive to succeed. In some cases, they also had a stake in the parent company. The model's weakness was that recruiting the right people for regional management was crucial for success. That took some trial and error, too.

“It wasn’t always about the people per se. Sometimes the person isn’t a match, sometimes the company isn’t a fit, and sometimes the product fails. And sometimes, it’s you, as a founder, who is wrong, but they can’t really kick you out.”

Väisänen started to notice certain features that were signs of a great hire. Being proactive was crucial, a tolerance for risk contributed to successful sales, and resilience in the face of adversity helped employees thrive in their job.

“During scaling, problems just pile up. Recruitment is only one of them. But if you have the right people in the right place at the right time, amazing things will happen.”

In the first part of this series, Väisänen emphasized that every fast-growing company should live by one rule when starting up: do not fall in love with people. He repeats this advice for scaling.

“During scaling, problems just pile up. Recruitment is only one of them. But if you have the right people in the right place at the right time, amazing things will happen.”

Väisänen also underscores that building a client base should strengthen the company, not make it more unstable. That's why he suggests securing several mid-sized clients instead of relying on just one major one.

“You rarely hear stories where a large company has stayed as a loyal customer for 50 years. They often have the resources to bring the whole process in-house, switch to a competitor, or simply eliminate the whole business branch your company happens to cater to.”

“If you are too cocky, your clients may not want to work with you anymore, or competition may take away what you have.”

For Väisänen and the Blancco team, embarking on international expansion proved to be yet another enlightening chapter in their journey. Blancco quickly expanded and established dozens of offices on almost every continent, using this as a metric for success. However, after identifying the offices generating the most revenue, they realized that closing less profitable ones could enhance their overall profitability.

“To be honest, our entry into international expansion was exactly the opposite of what should have been done. We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, attempting to be present in every possible place. Only after we began to run low on cash did we start conducting serious market analysis, instead of acting on a whim.”

While scaling his business, Väisänen states that he never reached a point where he felt the company was somehow complete. He claims that self-satisfaction kills efficiency, and the markets will teach you that lesson soon enough.

“If you are too cocky, your clients may not want to work with you anymore, or competition may take away what you have. The markets will take care of eliminating self-satisfaction.”

In the next part of the series, we will dive deeper into the real story behind Blancco’s exit. How has Kim’s personal life changed after the exit? And what are the lessons he had to learn the hard way in his entrepreneurial career?

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