Alumnus Atte Hujanen: I have been an entrepreneur all my life
Who are you? What did you study at Aalto University School of Business and elsewhere and when did you graduate?
My name is Atte Hujanen, and I hold an M.Sc. degree in Economics and Business Administration from Aalto University School of Business. I originally started my studies in business at Lappeenranta University of Technology in 2006. From the beginning of my studies, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue my master’s studies at another university either abroad or in Finland, for the sake of variation and diverse experience. Therefore, in 2010, I ended up in studying at Aalto University, majoring in entrepreneurship.
Before continuing to Aalto University, I studied Cultural Management for two years at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences to gain professional knowledge, but towards the end, my master’s studies at Aalto University took most of my time and interest and I did not have time to complete my Cultural Management degree.
Why did you want to study in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management master’s programme? What was your study experience like?
I have been an entrepreneur all my life, and I have never worked for a company where I wasn’t a shareholder myself. So, after my bachelor’s studies in Management and Organizations at Lappeenranta University of Technology, it was quite natural for me to move closer to the applied interface. Furthermore, the subject of entrepreneurship was already familiar to me.
In 2010, Aalto University's master's programme in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management still sought its place and shape within Aalto. The programme was small in size, and the teaching took place in its own premises in the adult education center on Mechelininkatu in Helsinki. The programme had only little contact with teaching or student groups in the then Töölö main building of the School of Business or other Aalto University buildings in Otaniemi – as you can see, it was quite an entrepreneurial master's programme itself.
However, the studies were nice, although according to the choice of the programme management at the time, they were very theoretical. I had already become acquainted with the theory of entrepreneurship through my minor studies in my bachelor's degree. In my master's courses, I often found myself having opposite opinions with the lecturers, which lead to discussions about the deepest nature of science and research. The discussions were just like you could imagine in the stereotypical university scenes in Hollywood films. I don’t know what I learned, but at least the studies were memorable!
What has your career path been like? Highlights of your career?
My career path started already long before my studies, which is a significant reason why I started my studies in 2006 and returned my master’s thesis in 2016. However, I wouldn’t change anything from the past. Running your own business and gaining applied experience already before or during your studies is the best way to learn, in my opinion. Then learning is not just about memorizing or reading.
In 2011, when I had just started studying at Aalto, I co-founded Slush and started as the Executive Producer. The last time I was producing Slush was in 2014, and right after that I started working full time as the CEO of my new company. Since then, I have been the CEO of Singa.
Atte Hujanen, School of Business alumnus and CEO of Singa
Finland has one of the best student entrepreneurship ecosystems in the world, so use it to your advantage!
How did studying at Aalto University support you in entrepreneurship and working life in general?
The highly theoretical angle of the master's programme in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management did not directly provide a basis for running my own business in practice but studying in the programme undoubtedly challenged me to think critically and helped me to learn new things quickly and diversely. Challenging and developing your own thinking and finding its weaknesses is for sure the greatest value of any university studies. An entrepreneur may not do anything with a university degree, but once the entrepreneur has completed the degree, it is much easier to continue running the business.
You are the CEO of Singa. Could you tell us a little more about Singa and how you ended up founding it?
Singa is a karaoke streaming service for professionals and home users – a bit like Netflix, but for karaoke. I already knew the industry and over the years I had met all the biggest companies in the karaoke industry from all continents of the world. Over time, my initial confusion about the analogy of the industry turned into the understanding of causalities. The industry was analog because it was still good business – the change would have been costly as well as risky, and on top of all that, the directors of the companies were not particularly digitally savvy. I saw an opportunity to revolutionize the industry I knew and decided to see if I was right.
Singa is an international software company like others, so as CEO, my job is to make sure the company has the best possible employees doing the job in the best possible way – everything else is less important. To make this happen, my days are filled with taking care of the company's financing, negotiating with partners and participating in product and strategy work.
What do you think are the important qualities of an entrepreneur? And what kind of challenges does entrepreneurship involve?
Entrepreneurship is unpredictable and I do not think it can be defined in any other way. Not all entrepreneurship is stressful, risky, or tense, but usually all entrepreneurship is different in one way or another than you thought it would be. To succeed and enjoy being an entrepreneur, you need to enjoy unpredictable situations, reacting to them, and overcoming them. If the image of such an everyday life gets a smile on your face day after day, then entrepreneurship may be for you.
Other tips for Aalto University and School of Business students, who are interested in entrepreneurship?
My tip is to participate in Aaltoes (Aalto Entrepreneurship Society) events and activities. Be active and look for opportunities to experience and learn something new. Finland has one of the best student entrepreneurship ecosystems in the world, so use it to your advantage!
What do you expect from the future?
More unpredictability, because then I know I’m still on the move.
Get to know Atte’s career path more closely on LinkedIn!
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Advancing entrepreneurship and innovations
Behind Aalto's entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem are both student-led entrepreneurial activities and the university's own research and innovation hubs.
Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (external link)
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Aalto University and the startup event Slush
Aalto University and Slush share a long history together.