Karri Liikkanen is a founding member of the production company Nowhere Boy and the chairman of Helsinki Think Company, the entrepreneurship society of the University of Helsinki. He graduated as a Master of Social Sciences in 2015. In this article he’ll tell us about his encounters with the prime minister of Finland, about his company and why a current account offered by a traditional bank may be a bad solution for an entrepreneur.
Before becoming an entrepreneur and the chairman of the Helsinki Think Company, Karri started studying practical philosophy at the University of Helsinki. “My studies got me into doing really cool stuff studying risks and needs. We toured the world speaking in conferences in e.g. Rome, California and Hawaii.”
Karri got interested about entrepreneurship a while before his graduation, as his plans for the future were nowhere to be found. “I started listing things that I’ve done and things that I’d like to do. The list ended up being 10 pages long. On this basis I applied for Aalto University’s EntreMill career coaching program, which is very entrepreneurship-oriented.”
After the career coaching program Karri and Nowhere Boy’s other founding member Mikko Kananoja started the production company which they had planned for a long time. Nowadays Karri and Mikko produce anything audiovisual: movies, music, music videos, ads and brand videos.
Nowhere for Geniuses
Nowhere Boy’s productions are marked with high quality, which is a result of many years of practice. Karri had acted and made movies since his childhood and Mikko is an “all-around media jack-of-all-trades”. Mikko is also a musician in the bands Afromikko and Colorblue. “I think it’s great that we can create music for our projects ourselves. That’s very fruitful and makes our work a lot easier.”
Karri and Mikko want to do something different in the Finnish movie scene (link in Finnish). They want to stand apart from the gloominess of Finnish cinema and traditional comedies. What also sets Mikko and Karri apart is the fact that they’ve never attended film school.
“There’s a movie about John Lennon called Nowhere Boy. In it Lennon’s principal tells him that ‘You’re going nowhere’, to which Lennon replies with: ‘Is nowhere for geniuses, sir? Because then I probably do belong there.'”
The idea of Nowhere Boy is that people gather together to create. The aim is to create a production company commune where people volunteer for stuff too. “Let’s say someone wants to create a movie or a music video. They’ll get help from a friend with the lighting and from another with the shooting.”
This is why Karri likes Holvi too, and uses it for Nowhere Boy’s financial management needs. “I see Holvi as a community where its employees encounter fellow humans on a highly personal level. Their operations are community-like. I want to be part of this community.”
Mikko and Karri have authored two novels and a third one is in the making. The first novel was called Perus (“Basic”). It was originally published in the City magazine in blog form. “Perus paints a harsh picture of our world, but it’s also a study of love. It’s a novel about the modern people. What is the modern person like? We want to touch each other but that seems to be too difficult. We’re wrapped in cellophane, unable to grasp neither each other nor the world. The grip is loosening and everything is without a purpose. Everything’s just so blasé.
Their second novel Kova (“Hard”) is science-fiction. “The internet has been replaced by Supernet which is everywhere, works for free and without delay and has no visible structure or form. Henry Hayes is a master of this new era, but there’s something odd about him. Frans Koski spends his days evading work and searching for love. Against his will he is swept into a mystery the size of a galaxy, for which the solution is nothing smaller than the way the universe exists.
The third part of the trilogy Hyvästi ja tervetuloa rakkaus (“Goodbye and Welcome Love”) is not out yet. The plots of the three books are not interconnected, but instead are bound together with a single theme: love.
The Think Company Way
A sense of community is a big part of the University of Helsinki’s entrepreneurship society Helsinki Think Company, where Harri works as the chairman. Most work are done by volunteers. “In Arctic 15 someone gave a speech about how the best brands are the ones who attract volunteers.”
Is nowhere for geniuses, sir? Because then I probably do belong there.
Karri became Helsinki Think Company’s chairman roughly year and a half ago. He wasn’t familiar with the entrepreneurship society before Nowhere Boy received an offer to produce their brand video. “While filming I realized how awesome they are! I asked about ways of getting involved and they suggested that I should apply for their board.”
The brand video premiered at a Helsinki Think Company event, where Harri presented himself as the creator of the video and aired his will to work in the society’s board. “The audience applauded that someone wanted to take part. Without this community nothing would be possible. This is the main thing for us all.”
Helsinki Think Company’s mission is to tell people that entrepreneurship is a choice worth considering. And not a scary one at that! “Everything boils down to confidence, pretty much. I used to be insecure myself when I founded Nowhere Boy. I’m still insecure!”
Draconian Laws and Entrepreneurship
Karri sees the entrepreneurship scene in a mostly positive light, but there are certain prejudices that still need to be torn down. “The people who grow up during the 1990s depression in Finland still think that to become an entrepreneur is to lose your house and your family and to end up as a wino. Luckily more positive attitudes exist, too…”
Helsinki Think Company works closely with other communities to promote entrepreneurship. “I’ve worked with Suomen Mentorit (“The Mentors of Finland”) in the past. A recently graduated person told me that it’s difficult to find employment from the private sector whereas the public sector is a dull employer. I suggested that they should found a company and start doing stuff. Founding a company is a lot easier than people think.”
The Prime Minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä, asked last year in the Teonpaikka event about ways of improving the employment situation with those who have recently graduated. “We prepared an extensive report for Mr. Sipilä. The prime minister proposed a change of law that would make new entrepreneurs eligible for unemployment benefits. The current law in its draconian form makes it possible to lose everything by becoming an entrepreneur.”
According to Karri another great proposition came from Bruce J. Oreck. “Oreck had thought about citizens’ initiatives, which are currently quite popular in Finland. For example the recent initiative for full marriage equality was fantastic. What if we just gathered 100 000 signatures to make entrepreneurship easier? This might have an effect. It wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.”
The Last Straw
Nowhere Boy started running its business with a business account from a traditional bank. For a budding entrepreneur every single euro counts, which of course means that unreasonable processing fees are deadly. The processing fees are especially unreasonable when they occur regardless of the amount of transactions on the account. “I was a fool and opened a business account in a traditional bank. I lost money every month due to the processing fees which occurred even if the account had zero transactions. Holvi treats me like a human being, and their customer service is great. Why are traditional banks unable to do this?”
Karri switched to Holvi in the fall of 2015. A friend had recommended the service. “My only regret is that I didn’t switch to Holvi earlier, when I founded Nowhere Boy. I should have listened to my friend.”
The last straw was when opening of the online invoicing function of his account lead to notable expenses which were taken from his business account. “I received a 30 euro bill from the bank. I called them and was told that this a regular processing fee, which incurs every time one starts online invoicing. This 30 euros was all the money I had on my account! The fee felt ridiculous compared to my assets. After this I decided to switch to Holvi.”
The running of Nowhere Boy has gotten easier with Holvi. “Before Holvi I used to use a sepate app to create my invoices. Now I can do them inside the same app. Holvi is great to use. It’s really simple.”
Pictures: Marketing Manager at Holvi, Arttu Talvitie.
Holvi offers an online current business account for freelancers and small business owners — the first of its kind, with an app and an end-to-end platform. Besides traditional online banking features, Holvi is equipped with handy tools for online sales, invoicing and paperless bookkeeping. We’re a modern money service for the new wave of digital nomads.