Road to the North - part 7: The Story of Megacorp
This is part seven of a blog series following the journey of Witted Megacorp 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.
Last week, our AGM decided to amend the Articles of Association. Our name change was finalised when it was changed to Witted Megacorp Oyj. It's been a long journey since Talented Solutions Oy was born on the sofa of Reaktor's smoking room in 2016.
Talented was founded with the idea of building successful software teams for clients and addressing the shortage of talent in the industry. The means grew as the company grew and soon we were also building new IT services companies (subsidiaries), investing in interesting new start-ups (associates) and eventually we had built a group. Talented was our growth engine that gave birth to the Witted Group and at the same time helped many other companies in need of the same. Talented will continue on this journey.
The story of Witted Megacorp was actually born when the group's subsidiaries set out to put together a team for an IPO. We wanted to bring our IT services business under one roof. Our companies were all specialised IT services companies in their own way and a name was needed for the emerging entity. The parent company of the group was called Talented Solutions Oy, which referred to our growth engine, rather than the IT service development that the group companies were doing. We had a problem in our hands - we were faced with renaming the parent company.
Changing names before IPO - threat or opportunity?
The company is dear and had a dear name. It felt strange to rebrand it. It's like changing your name - suddenly Harri is Pete.
I presented the idea to our board and the response was sceptical - would it be a risk now, on the eve of the IPO journey, to distance yourself from a brand you have consistently built for five years? I also talked to our marketing team. There, too, the initial reaction was lukewarm. On one hand, the brand has a place in the hearts of our developers and customers and has an existential lift – on the other hand, when that meaning misleads, we fight against misconceptions for years to come.
Despite initial hesitation, everyone got behind the idea. This had to be done. The longer you wait to do this, the harder it is. It's now or never.
Usually companies want to build one brand - we wanted to do otherwise
The question of brands was also a difficult one for us: there are many good reasons why mergers and acquisitions often end up merging the companies under a single brand. The fact that building a brand is expensive and time-consuming is a particular incentive to build a single brand.
The way we saw it, the winners in the industry were the ones who succeeded in the competition for talent. We have different brands because our subsidiaries are different. Instead of pulling them together, putting them in a meat grinder and seeing what comes out - we decided to do otherwise. A single brand for customers and markets is a good choice, making it easier for customers to buy and do business. But at the same time, there are many different employer brands, because people don't fit into one mould - you need different working environments and models.
Although we were creating something new, one thing was clear from the start of the project. Existing brands will be preserved. Talented will continue to be about growth consulting and recruitment and will act as a driver for the Group's growth needs. In Finland, this activity was brought under the umbrella of the newly created Talented Growth company.
Mavericks are still Mavericks, because their employer promise is all their own. Mavericks means flexible work-life balance and the best money on the market. No ballpits and bouncy castles at the office, but a workplace for people who value adult things. That promise has taken Mavericks from zero to more than 70 employees in just over two and a half years. If that brand had been merged with Witted, the promise would have melted away.
New Things Co remains New Things Co. They provide a close-knit and empathetic community. They provide a place for continuous professional development. They believe that software development is not just about programming, but also about the people behind the lines of code.
Above all this the parent brand is Witted. Witted wins the competition for software development talent on behalf of its customers. Witted is building the best possible working life, where not everyone has to fit into the same mould. Hence Witted, Mavericks, New Things Co, Talented – and many other new brands in the Witted family in the future.
We kicked off a branding project. We talked to many top agencies and finally settled on Werklig, whose work we were familiar with from branding Kyrö Distillery and the City of Helsinki, among others.
A brand is not just a name. After all, Helsinki had the same name for more than 400 years before Werklig got their hands on it. Internally, however, name evokes the most emotion.
We went through over a hundred names. A couple of dozen names made the shortlist. There was always something that felt iffy and many options that seemed good at first were ruled out. Everything felt wrong.
We wanted to keep a phonetic or semantic connection to the old Talented name, which ruled out many good options. Eventually, we discovered Witted. We didn't want to burden the name itself with anything overbearingly obvious – this whole process started because the old name had too strong an appeal to our old direction. We wanted Witted to be a blank canvas on which we could decorate with meanings.
Not every business name will pass muster in Finland. A one-word name very rarely goes through. That's why previously we were Talented Solutions Ltd and Mavericks is Mavericks Software Ltd. These solutions - software - consulting type endings are being added and are very rarely used to refer to a company in the normal way. Mostly just official records.
Our first choice of name was also Witted Oy. We knew it wasn't going to go through. We therefore offered Witted Megacorp Oy as the next option for registration. Is it humour? Of course it is. With about 400 employees, we are not exactly a real megacorporation. We are not a corporation, let alone a mega-corporation, in terms of our identity, our policies or really any other measure. That's why it's a good name - it creates a huge contrast.
Megacorp gave a boost to the branding effort. We set out to build a retro-futuristic brand image inspired by fictional mega-corporations such as Acme, Batman's Wayne Industries, Bond films' Spectre, Futurama's MomCorp, Robocop's Omni Consumer Products and Ironman's Stark Industries.
For us, the risk of being bland and invisible is much greater than using humour. We cannot be just another IT consultancy for our developers, clients or investors. This blog and podcast are a sign of that. If we show our neck here and reveal a lot, it's less of a threat than being invisible.
A new name, whatever it is, would always divide the people internally. The whole project team was nervous about how the megacorp touch of brand visuals and tone-of-voice would be received. The anxiety was for nothing. The bold move was welcomed with open arms. We like it ourselves, and apparently the outside world likes Megacorp too.
The new brand was ready
The new Witted is ready and Talented was free. Free to continue its own story and free to focus on what it once meant on the sofa in the smoking room. Talented builds successful software companies, teams and helps lost tech professionals find their dream. Witted is the brand of our software business and the parent brand of the whole group.
After the rebranding, reality and perception were aligned. We are a software development company of around 400 people, and we look like one.
Now that we've gotten used to this brand for a while, it feels like it was the right thing to do. When we came out with our IPO news, a lot of the questions were about Megacorp. It stood out among the greyness of other firms, just as we had hoped. Through calculated risk-taking with our brand, we avoided the risk of invisibility.
The story continues in two weeks again. Follow Witted on LinkedIn, on Facebook or Twitter, and we'll tip you off when new parts come in. This story is also told (in Finnish) as Witted: Matka pohjoiseen - a podcast you can find on podcast services such as Spotify Or Apple Podcasts.