Curious about what is going on at Epicenter Helsinki, House of Digital Innovation? Then you have come to the right place. In the Epicenter Helsinki Blog you will get the chance to meet the Epicenter community, get knowledge from the digital field and read success stories. Enjoy your read!
Q&A with Patrick Mesterton. CEO and co-founder of Epicenter
Friends, members, and future members of Epicenter often want to know about the bigger picture of Epicenter and particularly Epicenter’s expansion to Helsinki. So we pulled the very busy CEO and co-founder of Epicenter, Patrick Mesterton, aside on his latest visit to Finland to ask him about the origins, vision and goals of the company.
Epicenter exists to help scale-up companies and large corporates to innovate and grow their businesses.
We started Epicenter because we believe that we need something fundamentally different to build a better society for the future. We think there are a few components that will become extremely vital in that future society. One is entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. We believe that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are the architects of the future, and how they do business is basically changing the way we work, live and play. We need to encourage and support entrepreneurship and increase intrapreneurship inside existing organizations to build strong companies and to create job opportunities.
Secondly, we believe that in a society that is changing quickly, education and knowledge become more and more important. So, if companies can share ideas to collaborate and learn from each other quicker, this will also fuel the job markets with more opportunities and new growth. That’s why we created Epicenter’s first office in Stockholm and that spirit remains today.
We are supporting growth businesses. So we’re helping companies grow both in terms of their local market but also internationally. It makes sense to be in what we call “digital hubs” where it’s interesting for companies to grow and to innovate. The Nordics are a very important region in terms of creativity, innovation, and talent. It makes a lot of sense for us to be present in those markets so we can help companies grow and expand domestically as well as internationally.
So one clear success story with Epicenter that we are very proud of is a company called </salt>, School of Applied Technology. </salt> had an idea of how to fix the issue of the lack of digital programmers in the Swedish economy. We joined forces because we believe that education is so important for us to help fuel more growth.
In our cooperation, we have organized a three-month educational program where people can get access to it with us for free. We then help them to get jobs with our member companies and also companies from outside our community. This is a program we started in Sweden back in 2018 that we’ve now started expanding into multiple markets. We’ve also opened and started tech training courses and job creation opportunities in Amsterdam as well as in Oslo. This is an example of a collaboration using the infrastructure of Epicenter, which is rooted in the curated “know-how” and “know-who” together with a sound business model of a partner that is thinking differently. These members of our community are ready to expand into multiple markets, driving value not only for that client but also for all of the other members that are a part of our community.
I think two fundamental things make us different from any other place to grow your business. First of all, it is a curated, by-invitation-only environment. We spend a lot of time handpicking and selecting the members so that we can build the right environment among people with the right experience and who match with the existing members we already have.
Secondly, we have tailored programs. Most co-working spaces are focused on selling space and practical services. With us, there is tangible help for scaling companies. We run Innovation Labs. We run scaling programs. We help with raising capital. We find talent and augment recruitment efforts. We work very actively with business matchmaking and value creation in terms of sales for you as a member. That is an essential part of our value proposition.
First of all, we look at what type of business you are. What are you doing? Are you either a digital company today working a hundred percent with digital services, or are you more of a traditional business that is looking to innovate within a specific field or area? So, looking at the business category is one thing.
The second thing is who are the founders or the people behind the company, and what can they offer our existing community? What we can offer you is one thing, but everyone that becomes part of the community also has a double-sided commitment to give something back to the community. There must be a tangible way you can add value to be part of the community. And we measure that as well. We count on you to give offerings to the other members that are here so that they would do business with you. We expect that you share your experience, knowledge, and know-who with the community. We expect this to create business opportunities, and that you, as a company, will have a very open mindset for new kinds of business.
We also look at your 12 to 24-month plan. What are the objectives that you’re looking to fulfill? This way, we can use our services to tangibly support your growth.
In addition, we look at something we call a “no assholes policy”, which is a very important requirement for us. It means that you could work for the coolest company that could be doing the best thing, but if you engage in a family-oriented situation like it is here, it also comes with some amount of expectation on how you are as a person and how you act. You have to be friendly and kind. You have to be giving. You have to be a good social fit to be in a community like this. Those are things that we look for in our verification process.
There has to be a mutual understanding, a two-way street. Usually, in the real estate business (like we are in), it’s one-sided. Businesses sign an agreement, take the space, you get your right to counsel and you can do whatever you want. But the difference here is everything is double-sided. Everyone in our community understands that we also can terminate our relationship when it’s not good for us or for the community.
These are things that we have done our best to vet and validate as part of your application process. We also take references to make sure that this is the right thing for us. And by doing that, we ensure that we create a close bond with the people that are here for the right reasons and not with someone that is just extracting a small part of our value proposition.
I think the biggest thing for people to do is to think a bit bigger. Dare to think a little bit bigger than what you are thinking now. I think Finnish entrepreneurs are really good. They are really hard-working. They often under-promise but over-deliver. But I think in terms of scope, they need to think even more globally from the get-go. They need to employ a broader horizon. That’s one thing.
The second thing is about the level of cooperation. My advice is to open up your business – dare to take on partners, external advice, and things that challenge you to expand and grow your business quicker. People here are hard workers, but from my observation, they are more determined to build things for themselves from the start and expanding it later.
So those are my two pieces of advice: Think bigger. Think out of a more visionary context that is not here and now. Expand the horizon. And then be willing to work together with partners to achieve quick growth rather than trying to do everything yourself.
An agreement is an agreement. I think there’s huge loyalty here and a very great sense of trust. There are also significant amounts of gratitude from people when you try to help them. I also love the culture of under-promising and over-delivering. There’s very little brashness with people here. I think that they are very trustworthy. If you read that something is to be done, it really happens and I think that’s a very good way to do business. There’s a lot of good values here. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.