From entrepreneur to Google employee to venture capitalist
Koponen established his first company First Hop in 1997, and it was sold in 2008. The company focused on commercial research and training related to demanding Java programming language applications, eventually progressing towards subcontracting and selling software products. Koponen established the second company, Exoven, together with Janne Kalliola, to whom he eventually sold his share.
In 2006, Koponen established the Jaiku service to compete with Twitter. It was then sold to Google and, as a result, Koponen ended up working for Google for two years.
‘There I got my hands dirty, first in mobile products for a year and then in the development of new business activities. The work was intensive and practical, out of my comfort zone. Yet again I got the opportunity to learn, concentrate properly and get as many things over the finish line as possible. In many ways, Google is an ambitious pioneer.’
After Google, Koponen established Lifeline Ventures together with Timo Ahopelto, and they are still entrepreneurs in the same company.
Lifeline Ventures invested in Wolt in the first investment round in 2014, and Koponen has been the Chair of the Board at Wolt since 2018. Koponen lists a few conditions that pulling off a similar success story requires.
‘A substantial need is important. In some way, it must be possible to see that it is a multi-billion dollar market. In addition, the founders must have some kind of unique competence, but at the same time, its significance should not be exaggerated.’
Identifying a good idea is not always easy even for Koponen; about half of the start-ups they fund fail. However, at the time of investment, there is always faith in the company and its team.
‘A start-up must be at the top in its own field and employ people who are quick to learn regardless of age. Typically, many entrepreneurs establish several companies because they have learned important skills. In the end, there is nothing miraculous about building a world-class company as long as you have a good enough idea and right attitude.’