Editor's Note: This series of posts is sponsored by Tekes and produced in co-operation with ArcticStartup to share experiences from startups about their funding experiences.
From offhand comments in forum comments, hackathons, and local tech events, I'm sure many first-time Finnish entrepreneurs have some pre-formed negative-leaning opinion about how the Tekes bureaucracy works. Without getting into a discussion on how society should support entrepreneurship, realistically there has to be some sort of balance between bureaucracy and free government money. With too much bureaucracy, the system can kill entrepreneurs time and crush innovation. But if the system is too loose, you then have "entrepreneurs" buying fishing boats for their summer cabin.
Where is Tekes on this scale and how should you mangage it? To get to the bottom of the bureaucracy, we talked to Joonas Pekkanen, who's been part of a few Tekes projects. He's currently the CFO of Flockified, who are gearing up to release a full-fledged version of their group buying service. Their teaser page proudly states, "WE'RE BUILDING THE BEST DAMN GROUP PLANNING AND GROUP DECISION MAKING TOOL EVER," which we'll cover more on later in the post, but first, here's our interview with him:
ArcticStartup: You've been part of a few Tekes projects. Has the Tekes bureaucracy changed in your eyes?
Joonas Pekkanen: I think the bureaucracy is not that bad nowadays. On the other hand I know what to do and what to expect… I completely understand that for many people the paperwork and reporting is the most repulsive side of entrepreneurship and Tekes just adds a bit more on top of all that. If you set things up properly it's not that much extra work, though. It's quite admirable if you prefer to not to get tax-payer help with your start-up for ethical reasons, but I think the fear of bureaucracy is not a good reason to do refrain from Tekes.
AS: Have you ever had any problems with the speed or efficiency that Tekes has worked with you?
Pekkanen: It has always been easy to reach our Tekes contact person when needed. We haven’t had problems or delays with making changes to the project, like extending it. And such things can usually be done over the phone and with email. Of course - unlike entrepreneurs - the people at Tekes occasionally have holidays, but you should just the delays from that into consideration when planning the reporting and your cash flows. If your cash flows are such that you need the Tekes payments urgently you can always call them and ask them to hurry. They seem to be quite understanding with that.
AS: How do you manage your reporting for Tekes?
Pekkanen: I use an electronic accounting software called ProCountor. Another quite similar SaaS product is called Netvisor. They make it easy to keep up to date with your accounting and reporting. Once you have a cost center set up on the accounting software it is quite easy to tag individual expenses for that cost center. You can also (or ask your accountant to) set up automated rules, so that certain costs automatically go to the Tekes project cost center. In addition to that we also have a Google spreadsheet for people to mark down their working hours and what they have been working on related to the Tekes project in a few words. Doing the actual reporting to Tekes is taking me maybe somewhere around half a day for the interim reports and a full day for the final report.
AS: Do you have any advice for first-time entrepreneurs working with Tekes (concerning the bureaucracy or reporting)?
- Make sure you have an accountant who understands Tekes projects and that you have a cost centre (kustannuspaikka) in your book keeping from the very start of the project.
- It’s always good if you have someone in the founding team who has some experience with accounting or Tekes. But even if you don’t, try to make sure that someone in the team is assigned to that responsibility. It doesn’t need to be the CEO necessarily.
- Call up your Tekes contact person. Have his/her direct mobile number at hand and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
With that Pekkanen tells me about their plans with Flockified. The service is based on the current gap between event discovery and purchase, which usually depends on whether your friends are going to an event too. They're currently gearing up to release a full-fledged version of their social group productivity platform that helps people make group purchase decisions with engaging reminders and social pressure. The app will help e-commerce sites who sell products or services that typically require a group decision improve their conversion rates through more efficient & consumer-behaviorally relevant lead nurturing.
The service makes it easy to see who's in and who's not via SMS, email, and Facebook messages, solving a big pain of group buying decisions. And as a consumer, it sounds like a much clearer way to buy concert and festival tickets without as much pointless communication or nagging. Flockified says it will roll out partnerships with event listing and ticking sites in the spring, so we'll have to keep readers updated in the coming months.
Hear it from startups
This series of posts is sponsored by Tekes and produced in co-operation with ArcticStartup to share experiences from startups about their funding experiences.
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