Text: Roosa Laaksonen. Photo: Roope Lehmuslehto/ Betta Digital Oy.
Timo Ketonen is an entrepreneur and angel investor whose aim is to create as much success for startups as possible. As the CEO and Founder of the family-run Aboa Advest investment company, a member of the Finnish Business Angels Network (FiBAN) and one of the members of SHIFT Investor Network, Timo will be seen everywhere at this year’s SHIFT Business Festival. We met with Ketonen to discuss an angel´s attitude, investing strategy, and enthusiasm.
Why do you work with startups? ”It’s a ‘give back’ thing. I come from a 112-year-old family enterprise. My family is entrepreneurial from both sides of my family. I see it that I have been in a very privileged position my whole life. I also like to believe that startups need angel investors in order to really make it. We bring our know-hows, experiences and networks along. Personally, I don’t like the term ‘angel investor’ too much, but it has become a general term, like aspirin. However, I too in some way’s feel I’m an angel: I do a lot of pro bono work with startups. I can work from 60 to 80 hours a week, spending two-thirds of that time for them. There hasn’t been a single charmed year, but many good moments and the best ones are yet to come.”
”In this day and at my age, I get more joy out of others’ success. When younger, it was always me first. But, at the same time I feel that it’s even wrong to judge today’s youth. I see the yuppies of my generation as much worse. Today’s youngsters have a lot of energy and entrepreneurial spirit.”
”A couple of years ago, I joined the Finnish Business Angels Network because I was asked to. We’d like to activate the local business angels. SHIFT could work as a good umbrella term for this local business angel movement. I urge investors to come at SHIFT to learn and get new ideas as well as to expand their network. Last year, I especially liked the keynotes and the pitching competition. (I was strongly cheering for Belightful Design.)”
Do you have any tips for investing? ”I think the young should invest in learning and capacity-building, at the same time, to do new things. I myself have always been curious, you should too. Another point, invest in one’s communication skills! When a team has a problem, the angel investor has a problem also. Then, there might be cases when you may need to change the team. One of the main criteria’s I always check, is that the team has cross-disciplinary know-how’s and is preferably also multicultural. The people should have multiple competences and represent different ages and genders. And of course, team chemistry is essential – it shows in the results and the team spirit.
”Currently, I’m involved in 12 startups, of which I have an active role in six. My investment decisions are based on the ecological handprint that the startups have. Through my investments I can really have an influence on my surroundings and environment. For example, as I have Plantui Smart Gardens at home to grow my greens, trucks don’t need to hurtle on the roads for my herbs. All my start-ups need to have an ecological or social dimension in their agenda as well. This is what we call impactful investment.”
In this 60-80-hour mainly-startup work, you need to be creative and quite a perfectionist, needn’t you. ”My creativity is built on reading, listening, curiosity and travelling, especially in Asia. There people mustinnovate simply because there are so many of them. I think creativity is a trait of some kind, but you can pick it up also. I can’t reach perfection; however I can aim for the next best thing. I am a humane human. Humanity is born from empathy, listening and respect for others.”
What do you believe to be the next SHIFT in this country? ”It’s the change in one’s attitude. People should understand that an old lord’s attitude is a disappearing thing; You need to have an open mind and be willing to cooperate. To change, one needs to go inside their own head. Today’s leadership is built on listening. Companies also need different kinds of personalities in the teams at the start, growth and exit stages.”
“To close the gap between generations it’s good to rotate oneself in different gangs. My children are from 21 to 32 years old, through them I meet various kind of people in startups and when I worked at Palmu (Service Design agency) I collaborated with the ’hipster’ generation. When it comes to the naivety of youth, I would better call it enthusiasm. The more you have faith and enthusiasm, the better.
Is there someone you look up to? “I do have an idol, Elon Musk. He has said a sentence that I use also in my work with startups: ‘If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.’ And indeed, it’s Musk that I would like to see at this year’s SHIFT.”