3 Things I wish I'd Known 15 years ago from Supercell Co-founder

Supercell co-founder and CEO Ilkka Paananen outlined some of his his key learnings in a speech at FallUp conference to 1,600 students in Helsinki on Sept 15.

1) Before you start, spend time thinking about WHY you’re starting. 

I hope the answer is not for the money, as it’s very likely you won’t get to your destination. It’s about the journey, not the goal.

Having a big vision is very important. If it’s not a big enough vision, you don’t get the best people, or the best investors. Why not have a big vision? Building with a small vision is just as tough, so why not think big?

2) Your team is more important than anything else.

Never work with your best friends. They always agree with each other, and a company should not work like this. If it’s a product company, the product knowhow has to be in the team somewhere, a tech team has to be the very best.

Experience is important, but the passion is more important, as well as the talent and the drive, as these replace the lack of experience. When you do something for the first time, how much can someone gain from experience? Trust yourself, trust yourself, trust yourself! Following guidance is dangerous. Listen to everyone, but make your own decisions. Pitching has very little to do with the everyday workings of a startup and its role is seriously overestimated. I don’t want to hear the pitch, I wanna understand the team, what drives them. If you don’t know how to pitch, don’t worry, build a good product and you can get quite far; I’m a living example.

3) Execution is everything — ideas are worth very little.

Going full circle back to the team, the toughest challenge is focus. People think it’s all about what we do, but we approach it from the opposite angle, it’s the things we say ‘no’ to that matter. We have meetings to list what we have said ‘no’ to lately. Competition analysis: we have almost dropped it, we have realised it has an unconscious impact, it’s not relevant in the startup world. It’s not a 100m race, it’s a marathon. However, one should speak much more to those people who have failed many times and who still keep on going, because they are the real heroes and inspiration.

So, don’t give up. Every week I make mistakes, its ok. The most important thing is to keep going!

Photo: Toomas Volkmann