Pouria, talking to the participants of his workshop at the School of Startups.

“The More You Learn the More Questions You Have” — Pouria Kay

Pouria Kay, entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of Grib, has been a good friend of The Shortcut from its beginning. Pouria’s story is an inspiring act on how one should follow the goals, have a passion to learn and give back to the community.

You might have met Pouria at the Startup Debut or workshops of the School of Startups. Pouria, whose adventures in the Finnish startup world started to bring positive results, agreed to share his experiences with The Shortcut.

It all started with a dream

“I decided to move to Finland already in 2009. I was working full-time, had two jobs simultaneously. I had finished my bachelor studies in Iran and career-wise everything was fine, but i felt that i needed to learn more and Iran wasn’t the environment for that. There’re social structural problems that do not allow you to learn especially if you’re young and too enthusiastic. I tried different ways and it didn’t work.”

“The more you learn the more questions you have.”

As I had lots of questions, I jumped into different areas. Back in Iran I started as a designer, doing small design processing in the advertising department. First I just wanted to improve the process, that led to the need of improving the whole PR and advertising, then I had to fix marketing and later the strategic planning and management too. Although I didn’t have enough time to study everything properly, going through that made me learn a lot. I also found that the more you learn the more questions you have.

“Although I didn’t know much about Finland, it seemed to be an environment where I could grow” Image by Marja Suurpalo

I started searching online where I could learn and what I could do about it. I found IDBM (International Design Business Management, Master’s program in Aalto University, that integrates business, design and technology — author’s note), which was starting for the first time as major. I was like “I’m going there!” I applied and I got in. Although I didn’t know much Finland except maybe a few general things that people know about the Nordics and seeing a bunch of pictures, Finland seemed to be an environment where I could grow, learn and develop.

“Finland is like home. I’m living here, I like the the environment, I want to stay here.”

It was the first time I was leaving Iran. I had several issues to solve in order to come here — military service, finances, visa, language exam. I had none of it. I started the planning seriously — “must have IELTS by this time, apply by this time, have this much money…” eventually I managed it all. It took a lot of effort and my friends were “Oh, you’re just lucky”. What was interesting is that I knew exactly what I was doing for the first time in my life and I’ve been focusing on one thing at a time. I’ve learned a lot from that. I came here for the studies and I wanted to do things. That led me where I am now.”

Saving humanity from annoying 3D software

“When I started Grib, I was already deep into the startup environment.When I got to Aalto, I got introduced to Startup Sauna, which was still a garage at that time. Ideas after ideas I started to help other startups.

My company was registered in 2016, but Grib itself started as a project in 2014, right after I graduated. Now we are in the stage of product development. We’re constantly looking for opportunities, learning, trying and seeing what we can do. I consider a product not just an app, for a startup a product could be the whole business model. We’re working hard on validating what we get to the market.”

Pouria found his new home in Finland.

Giving back to the community

“I got a lot and I’m still getting from the startup scene in Finland. It’s a good thing that people give back. The hard part is that everybody is trying to help and has very strong opinions, so some of the things you get are not necessarily right or good. Not everything I received was positive, but I guess it’s part of the learning. You hear different opinions and views, listen to them, learn and decide by yourself.

I wish there was some kind of system that would encourage everybody to share and give back. When you’re giving back you’re getting stronger. The dangerous side is that you also get stronger in your opinions, so you definitely need feedback. Circulation of information and feedback, I think it’s still missing.”

We need more “shortcuts” in the system

“It is important not to put 100 people to one box, but see each as individuals and understand what drives them, why they do what they do. Once you understand their drive, we can change the way we see them and can help more efficiently.

I’m not that far from the time I’ve been to that kind of environment, maybe 2–4 years ahead compared to the people who participated in the School of Startups. If I’m able to add anything then of course I’ll be around.

What helped me with Grib at the early stage were the mentors, I had very good mentors. For those who are at the very early steps, just having an idea, not even a concept, — the best mentors are the ones who’re just a bit ahead. It’s same with kids who are more likely to be influenced by other kids, — mentors are the ones who sit next to you, work with you through the process. If the person is a CTO of another 3 year old startup, that’s a great mentor for your tech idea. They have been through the same thinking, can see things the way you see it. It’s also good that each one gets connected to someone in industry. There are tons of people who have potential, but they’re disconnected.

One single channel can not do this, then The Shortcut may be a facilitator. I think The Shortcut is good and we also need others like The Shortcut in the system. Those are very effective.”