Road to the North – part 4: Money as a motivator for an IPO?
This is part four of a blog series following the journey of Witted Megacorp Oy as it explores the possibility of listing on the NASDAQ First North market. The story is told from the perspective of CEO Harri Sieppi. Other parts of the series can be found on the Witted blog.
This IPO project has been, and will be, a tough one. That's why I've had to ask myself why we're doing this. Not only from a company perspective, but also on a personal level. Why am I doing this?
Towards the end of last year, for the first time, there were thoughts of whether it was worth it. Is it worth pushing an intensive project right here and now?
Then when you think about it, you come to the conclusion that, dammit, this is exactly the right time for the company, and we need it for the next phase of growth.
Sometimes this all gets a bit much. In those moments when you're really exhausted, you wonder why you have to do this. Then in the end I always arrive at the same answer. I go back to that moment when I knew that I always wanted to go out and build something new and different. Something that will change the market and that would be a great place to work and a great place where your friends would like to work. We also chose to help as the company's mission.
That path is still unfinished. We still haven’t fully reached our goal. We are still not in a situation where all software people are happy in their jobs.
It's a bit of a never-ending game, so you may never get there 100%, which makes it a terribly good infinity goal, an eternal destination.
How big a role does money play?
I want to build something bigger than myself, to build something that's gonna outlive me. If time ever runs out on me, or if for some reason I ever fall out of this company, I would like this story to continue. I want us to have succeeded in creating something lasting, something that is much bigger than individuals like me or anyone else.
Quite a few people still ask whether people don't start businesses because they want to do business, to make a fortune. For me, it has never been the main motivator to do a job. If it had been, I never would have ended up starting new businesses. For me, the main thing has always been the need and the desire to help and to be good to others and to do things differently.
The world seems to me to have a lot of flaws in it. When I go out, I see things that could be done much better than they are. I want to leave my mark on this world.
I've been wondering what will happen if this thing goes through. Will I be rich? What does that mean to me?
To understand my approach to potential enrichment, it is important to know my background. I am a child of the recession era, born in the 1980s and went to school in the 1990s during the recession. When I was in primary school, it was the toughest possible economic times in Finland. I remember when the headmaster went round the classrooms and told us to cut tissues in half. Only half a sheet of tissue paper may be used.
We also never got new books, there were always second-hand books and we had to use an eraser on them. And you always had to wonder whether you could get new notebooks or whether you had to use the old ones. There was always a shortage of everything.
I lived and grew up in a single mother's family. My mother worked as a primary care nurse at Lapland Central Hospital - and didn't earn much. There were four of us children, so there was a terrible scarcity and lack of everything.
As kids, we had a game: "what would you do if you were a millionaire?" The game started with that question, and then the group would answer it. As long as the group came up with stuff, the game went on. I too had some answers that if I were a millionaire, I would buy a full-suspension mountain bike. That kind of childish stuff. Or that I would go to the corner store and buy all the sweets there.
Once you've grown up and matured, you've realised that money in itself doesn't make you happy. It may be a tool to reduce the stress of life.
We are talking about the fortunes of very many people. We have a lot of private owners, quite a few of whom can also get rich by selling their shares if this goes through. Yet most of the people I have talked to do not want to sell the company, but rather to buy more.
This is also the first time in my own life that I can be in a position to ensure that things will be better for my family in the future than they were for me as a child. My family is very high on my list of values. I could make sure that there would be no shortage of everything and that my daughter could have a chance at a different life from the one I had. For the first time it would be possible to pave that way to other people.
Realising your dreams is closer than you think
I've lived my childhood dreams, too. I bought that all-terrain bike I mentioned earlier back in 2008. When I was a kid I used to think they were millionaire's toys, but you can get one for a grand or two. Now it is within my reach, although in Rovaniemi in the 90s it seemed a completely impossible idea.Dreams also tend to change as they come true. Now that over ten-year-old mountain bike is lying almost unused in my basement, with a child seat attached. It must be nice for my daughter to sit in. The bumps on the road aren't felt at all. My wild off-road adventures have given way to paving the road for my daughter.
When I was little, our car was an old Lada. I dreamed that if I ever became a millionaire, I would buy a Porsche 911.
That doesn't feel right anymore. Why would I want to splurge and burn petrol? If I ever have more money available, I'd rather swap my current hybrid for an electric car.
I bought a small rundown cottage in Marrasjärvi, on the outskirts of Rovaniemi. While to others it has little value, to me that cottage is not just any cottage. It's my mother's grandmother's house. My dream is to put it back in order. I don't need one of those deadwood luxury villas over at Levi. I want to renovate my great grandmother's house.
If I wanted to do something tangible for others with money, I would want to help my mother. She has lived her whole life in poverty. She deserves more, and if I could afford it, I could pave the way for her too.I don't really feel that I need anything. I'm not that kind of a materialistic person. I'd probably be a boring millionaire. Maybe I would enjoy that kind of silence, get some free time, who knows. I don't think that's going to happen. I don't like doing nothing, that's for sure.
I'm not really looking for wealth for myself. Great grandma's cottage, my mother and my family. For them I wish all the best.
To make that happen, I have to get back on the IPO trail, building an IPO-ready Witted Megacorp.
The story will resume in two weeks. Follow Witted on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, and we'll tip you off when new parts come in. This story is also told as Witted: Road to the North - a podcast you can find on services such as Spotify or Apple Podcasts.