When the staff at Neverthink started working remotely last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Aviv Junno retreated to his summer cabin for five months. While he was frustrated to start working remotely right when the company had gained access to brand new gorgeous office spaces, life at the cabin was enjoyable. Junno understood that the best thing about Finland is sometimes its worst side.
"One day I called up one of my investors from the cabin and told them I understood why Finns don’t always have the drive to build up billion-euro companies. Why work around the clock to become a millionaire when life is already so good for the middle class!"
Junno knows what he is talking about. In addition to his native Israel, he has also lived in New York.
The son of a Finnish father and an Israeli mother moved to Helsinki in his early twenties in 2012. He quickly noticed that the harmony of free time and work along with a functioning and safe government made life easy and pleasant – up to the point of boredom.
When Junno noticed that there wasn’t enough drama in his life and that he was missing a fast pace, he got on an airplane and traveled to the United States.
"And then I started to miss Finland quite quickly, where everything works. I love Finland and I believe I will live here forever. As an entrepreneur, I can luckily keep things interesting also here."
The state offers generous support for entrepreneurs
Aviv Junno founded Neverthink in 2016 as a service that curates online videos. It has been a success: Google Play picked it as one of the top apps of 2018. Business Finland funded the company without hesitation.
"The Finnish state does exceptional work in supporting new companies.
An initial capital of €30,000 can be matched with an “internationalisation” support package of €50,000. This is fabulous", according to Junno.
Neverthink has received support in several rounds and has received a total of three million euros. The most important part, however, was to find investors.
When Neverthink was still on the level of an idea, an investor advised Junno to get in touch with Oskari Kettunen from the investment company Reaktor Ventures. Junno was able to get a meeting and Kettunen was immediately ready to invest in Junno’s idea.
"He then became Neverthink’s co-founder. I had never thought that my idea would turn into a company. Neverthink was initially hosted at Maria 01, the Helsinki-based business campus bringing together start-up companies and investors. "Junno had contacts at the campus from his previous venture.
His advice to all new entrepreneurs is to take part in different events and get acquainted with incubators where companies and investors meet one another.
"In addition to investors, communities like Maria 01 and the tech and start-up event Slush are useful places to meet advisors and mentors. "
Failure brought humbleness
But first you had to fail. Aviv Junno founded his first start-up company soon after moving to Helsinki, yet the story was a short-lived one. Junno was a fresh migrant and had no easy access to information on, for instance investment possibilities.
"Information is easier to find now compared to those days. Present-day support programmes such as International House Helsinki and Newco Helsinki assist freshly arrived people in Helsinki in both setting in and founding companies."
The failure of his first company was obviously tough to deal with.
"It feels bad to disappoint many people. But failure is not a big deal if you have done your best – nobody is left out on the street in Finland."
Junno feels that failure also teaches humility.
"It gave me my best entrepreneurial training. It broke my confidence in a good way, and I noticed how unknowledgeable and naive I had been in some matters.
This is why it is important to collaborate with investors who know that failure is completely normal in the world of start-ups.
I said in the beginning about Neverthink that this will most likely fail – but not necessarily."
Junno thinks that Business Finland could initiate a failure fund in the case of unsuccessful ventures.
"There should be a lower threshold to receive initial funding, or investment should always be possible to receive as long as an idea is not completely ridiculous. There would be failures, but they would teach a lesson, and the next company after that could already be a success. This would be, in a way, like investing in free education for entrepreneurs."
A start-up nation is brewing
There is a word in Hebrew that means feeling joy because of someone else’s achievement. According to Junno, entrepreneurship resembles a national sport in Israel: the success of one person is a win for everyone. A similar spirit is needed in Finland so that it can grow into a start-up nation. Junno believes that this is a direction we are heading in.
"Start-up culture is more mature now than when I moved to Finland. The success of Finnish companies abroad is motivating the culture, as are the failures."
Junno thinks that investors in the start-up world are not afraid of a previous idea failing.
"And Finnish people admire it when someone fails and yet carries on with persistence."
Junno believes that culture changes also thanks to the digital natives, the younger generation who is interested in entrepreneurship.
And while many successful start-ups pop up in Israel, Junno thinks that many people there would happily trade places with Finns.
At the end of the day, everyone would want to live in a safe and trustworthy country like Finland."
Junno thinks that the fear many foreigners feel about high taxation would evaporate if they understood what it buys you: healthcare, education for children and a functional life.
"This is why I don’t think that taxes are high. If you intend to live here, grow old here or have kids, you get everything back. "
The Israeli entrepreneur Aviv Junno thinks that failure is a valuable lesson. It is also not the end of the world, because the safety net of the system catches those who fall. Junno has always received support when he needed it.