At the Silicon Vikings event on September 11, David Helgason, CEO and Co-Founder of Unity, recounted his entrepreneurial journey in an intimate “fireside chat.” The evening’s discussion was hosted by a fellow Nordic entrepreneur, Henrik Bennetsen of Innovation Center Denmark. The venue, StartupHouse, reflected the event’s entrepreneurial theme. StartupHouse is a shared-desk workspace and dormitory for entrepreneurs, early stage startups and their teams. After Helgason’s informal but candid interview, over 15 startups from around the world delivered one-minute pitches to the audience. Attendees had ample time for networking and the opportunity to chat with Helgason and the many startup company founders, all while enjoying complementary beer, wine and appetizers.
The moderator began the fireside chat by prompting Helgason to describe Unity in his own words. Unity was founded over 12 years ago, “One of those overnight successes,” Helgason joked. While Unity began as a video game company, Helgason and his founders discovered that their passion was in designing tools to create games. “The meta of games,” as Helgason calls it. Helgason points out that this is a common trajectory for many companies. In its early stages, Unity became a moderately successful company, however the opening of the iPhone app store in 2008 allowed Unity to become one of the most popular tools for making mobile games. Unity became highly profitable through mobile gaming, with their game design program being purchased by customers worldwide.
Despite Unity’s immense success, the company had humble beginnings. Helgason started Unity as a young programmer with a few friends, borrowing money from their parents and taking out personal loans from several banks. After securing their modest funding, Helgason and his co-founders created a business model for their product. They wanted to design an accessible and affordable product, with promotions such as free trials. Helgason describes their strategy as “outdated” by modern standards, but effective in 2003.
While startups are ubiquitous today, during the early 2000’s in Copenhagen they were comparatively rare. As a result, Helgason had very little guidance during Unity’s early stages. “There weren’t networks” or peer communities of fellow startups to help guide Helgason and his cofounders.
Helgason went on to describe the influence of San Francisco and Bay Area entrepreneurs on Unity’s evolution, his experiences as a public speaker, the difficulty of rejection as an entrepreneur, the importance of a guiding mission statement, managing an ...
On September 23rd, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, the Silicon Vikings partnered with the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra to gather a group of expert panelists and ten Finnish startups. The panelists included: Dr. David Lindeman, Director of Health Care for CITRIS; Bill Reichert, Managing Director at Garage Technology Ventures; and Kyle Kling, Vice President of Business Development at Fenox Venture Capital. Each Finnish startup delivered their pitch to the panel and then received feedback and questions about their product and business model.
Before the Finnish startups presented their pitches to the panel and audience, Sami Inkinen gave a keynote presentation, entitled "My Journey into Digital Health." Inkinen described himself as a lifelong “techy” and a dedicated athlete who constantly monitored his own vitals. Inkinen had his “wake up moment” while taking a blood sample from his finger, which he would do dozens of times a day, and discovered his blood glucose levels were pre-diabetic. Because of his immaculate diet and highly active lifestyle, he was understandably shocked. Inkinen realized that issues such as diabetes and obesity were not necessarily due to one’s poor diet or sedentary lifestyle, but were instead an exposure problem. “As I spoke to doctor’s and scientists I realized that the last 30 years of nutritional advice has been mostly total garbage,” lamented Inkinen. Since the public has been constantly told to avoid fatty foods and cholesterol, the fat in most packaged foods, even foods touted as “healthy,” have been replaced with large amounts of processed carbohydrates and sugar.
To show the benefits of avoiding sugar and complex carbohydrates, he and his wife rowed from California to Hawaii on a 45-day journey, fueled by only whole foods without any processed sugar or carbohydrates. Inkinen rowed to Hawaii as a way to show the public the benefits of a whole food diet; he wanted to change people’s lifestyles for the better. Then, in an unexpected segue, Inkinen said “The most powerful tool to affect change is through a for-profit company,” because a successful for-profit company can affect millions of people in a matter of years. Inkinen invests in several companies that attempt to create healthier lifestyles for their users, including Strava and Beddit. Strava tracks all of a user’s runs and bicycle rides; a user can set personal records and break those ...