Meet Our Advisor: An Investor Must Have a Clear Vision of the Industry’s Future Value Formation Says Inka Mero
It’s about time to introduce another seasoned Advisor of Wave Ventures. Inka Mero is an entrepreneur, angel investor and new business executive with a striking track in building global growth companies, online community services and mobile software businesses. Having worked in various founder and executive positions in both startup and corporate worlds, invested in over 30 companies and with her current positions entailing Chairwoman and Founder of seed investment and accelerator company Pivot5 and Board Member of Fiskars, Nokian Tyres PLC and YIT, she is the go-to-person for anyone planning to scale up his or her newest venture.
At the time Inka Mero was starting out her career, entrepreneurship was not celebrated in a way it is today. When changing roles from Nokia to a smaller game company only ten years ago, even her own parents were terrified, and the reaction had been the same towards many of her earlier career decisions. As a pioneer female entrepreneur, investor and a dynamic actor of the Nordic and Baltic startup scene, she nowadays puts her time and effort in finding and accelerating the most promising startups in the Nordics in hopes of widening the talent pool and increasing the number of scale-ups emerging in the region.
It Is Not Age but Ambition That Brings Results
“I was keen on the team and their way of thinking, ability to analyze feedback and develop the concept, and I had always strongly advocated for initiatives that push the ecosystem forward,” describes Mero her first reaction to the idea of founding a student-run VC fund in the Nordics. Young minds are of inspiration for her, which is the most profound reason for her to help the most promising founders forward — whether it is the team of Wave or some of their portfolio companies. “I have always believed that age is not a big deal, probably since I have always been the youngest in every occasion,” she laughs. “The eagerness, the way of doing, and the ambition level are more important when looking at what essentially drives people and projects to the greatest of results.”
Mero did not have anyone to mentor and push her forward in the beginning of her career, at least not on the same scale as the support the startup ecosystem can provide today. Yet she finds encouraging feedback from others can be a valuable source to improving one’s approach. When asked what is the greatest asset she as an advisor can offer for young founders she is quick to give a confident answer: “I believe I am great at coaching and challenging the team in a positive yet realistic way that further cultivates the idea and enables the team to find their competitive edge and live up to their full, global potential. I try to help in not only recognizing the possible pain spots but in finding feasible solutions to those too.”
An Investor with a Vision
On side of organizing startup acceleration initiatives, building investment strategies, recruiting top talent to her portfolio firms, chasing tennis balls and driving kids to school, Mero is in constant search for the next eye-opening thing. On how she manages to keep her finger on the rapid pulse of the tech world she has a multi-sided answer.
“On one hand, just being involved with the startup scene makes a great deal of it, as we (at Pivot5) get to see thousands of startups in a year. An exhaustive network of core research institutions, globally operating enterprises and top players of the tech industry absolutely forms another key asset. Yet I find it equally important to develop one’s own viewpoint — for example I just spent the last eight months creating a visionary report for the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications of the infrastructure in years 2030–2050, which was a great way to unravel my own mind. Reflecting this on the startup world, I strongly believe that the substance of the business has to come from within the team, but the investor must have a vision of where the industry will go and around which the value will eventually form.”
“Immersal is bringing augmented reality to a commercial venue and as part of consumer brand experience. AR is without a doubt going to change the way we explore our whereabouts. Jakamo is then again a great example of how the traditional manufacturing industry will transform and become digital. The company has built a supply collaboration platform for manufacturing companies that enables digitalized communications, product development, claims, orders and so on between different players along the supply chain. These kind of startups that digitalize traditional manufacturing through artificial intelligence or some other solution are definitely the other next big thing.”
From an Idea to a Blooming Business — How to Divide Your Time Wisely
”My early stage investment thesis? Firstly, the idea needs to solve a real, substantial problem so that the market size is in fact considerable. Related to the market, the timing has to be right even with the most prominent innovations and technologies — there have been cases where I simply have been way too early. Personally, I love companies with a strong technical know-how, as making that leap from a small home market is easier with the sustainable competitive advantage it offers. And most obviously, the team has to be able to compete and execute,” explains Mero.
After the team has won her over with their pitch (hint: know your pitch, sum down the facts, be concrete yet enthusiastic, stand out with your story and always remember to ask for what you want), the journey is only about to begin. According to Mero, the optimal time divide between different tasks depends on the stage the startup is at, yet there are some universal things to keep in mind.
“Before anything else, prioritize finding your product-market fit — that is the prerequisite for the startup to grow. It means spending enormously much time with the customers trying to understand them as thoroughly as possible. Then again having the right people in the team is crucial in creating a culture of making things happen. I find the roles of running the product and running the sales extremely important — the first one makes you the customer’s voice in the product and in the second one you have to know how to make business out of an idea. All in all, do the right things at the right time, dare to focus and learn how to say no to other things. Have an agreement within the team of the aspect that is currently high on everyone’s list, as having everyone pushing the company towards the same direction can make that magical giant leap happen much quicker.”