It’s exactly 3877 days since I founded my company. That’s about 25% of my life. I had just resigned from Microsoft, after moving back to Helsinki from Dublin. This wasn’t a solo journey, as I had my brother to start and bootstrap the company with me. We named the company Onsight Helsinki, as I’ve been a keen rock climber for almost two decades so it only made sense at the time. We focused on delivering training and consulting services on the Microsoft stack – Office 365, Azure, later Microsoft 365 and what have you.
We ran the company together from early 2009 up until 2017, when we merged with another company (called Sulava). Even after the merger, we remained as active employees and major shareholders of the company.
Today, the company is 100+ people, well on track to surpass last year’s sales of ~11 Million Euro. I’m very proud of the achievement I’ve helped achieve, in a quintessential Finnish way. It’s the work of dozens and dozens of people – shareholders, the board of directors, customers, employees, partners, Microsoft, and many others. I had some part in this, but I felt more my role as setting an example of how to lead and how to create a successful environment. For this, I think I’ve succeeded beyond my own expectations.
Today, Friday 13th in 2019, is my last day with the company. I’ve sold the majority of my stock, I’m handing over my keys, laptop, and my lunch card, and closing the door to our Helsinki office for the last time as an employee and owner.
But, why? And why now?
It’s been a long journey with plenty of reflecting on the way. Having turned 40 a few years ago, I decided I want to be brutally honest and raw, whenever I can.
I reflected on my years of starting as a novice IT consultant and developer back in 1990. I still remember, with relative fondness, the very long evenings, weekends, and nights fixing the Linux- and MS-DOS-based servers and systems for our customers. That’s almost 30 years ago, as I got started young. That’s also one reason for starting my Executive MBA journey this year – I wanted more perspective and different types of challenges. And I wasn’t wrong there, it’s a lot of mental juggling to get those post-module assignments done. But it’s also amazingly much fun. And I happily pay for it.
I realized late last year, when I returned from my paternity leave, that I’m too comfortable with my work. This isn’t to say I excelled at everything I did, but more of “welp, I’ve seen this before – perhaps in 1997 – so here’s my solution..” kind of way. And I understand one needs to stay humble to stay in this business.
I pivoted to a new role within the organization, doing mostly research and working on those problems that I felt were the hardest and most challenging for our company and customers. This included Mixed Reality, AI, security, RPA, and other interesting technologies and paradigms we felt might help our customers.
Then, in January this year, I sat down with my brother. We’ve worked side-by-side for over 10 years. Often calling each other in the middle of the night to discuss a pesky business problem, or deciding on a 20,000 or 200,000 euro investment over lunch on my balcony. As we own the shares of the company together through our holding and investment company, we had to mutually agree to exit. Or stay.
In the end, we both agreed it’s for the best – we both needed a change.
From there on, it was a lot of meetings, dozens of cups of coffee with lawyers, shareholders, and the board of directors. All in all, it took about 9 months from January to September. I’ve read more legal texts during this time than in the previous four decades. I don’t plan to become a lawyer, any time soon – and these professionals have my immense gratitude and respect for the work they do. We worked with a local Finnish company called Attorneys-at-Law TRUST, and I can highly recommend them for M&A cases like this!
I’m immensely happy and proud we could agree on everything in a civilized way, as this wasn’t a fallout. I still consider all my now-former colleagues and owners as friends. As I wrote above, we’ll remain as major shareholders with the company together with my brother, as we trust and root for the company in the future, also. They’re in good hands.
So, what’s next?
Great question! Next question, please.
Well, to be honest – I have plenty of ideas that I’ll want to work on.
I’ve been running quite a bit more, and very much enjoy that. I might need to hire a personal trainer to fix some of the mistakes I have when running. If anyone’s into that, please get in contact! 🙂
I’ll also continue privately investing in interesting businesses in the future, as that’s something I feel is challenging and rewarding at the same time. I will also continue on some of my existing responsibilities, such as helping out with the upcoming European Cloud Summit, and the European SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure Conference (December 2019) and a few other events. And I need to finalize a few books I’ve got underway!
I’ll continue blogging, doing my studies for school, and enjoying breakfast and dinner with my family every day. Perhaps my kids will later in life voice their grievances as they get to hear my dad-jokes. Every. Single. Day.
Finally, I’ll have a glass of some really good wine, sit back for a bit, and think what would be interesting next.
I’m open to ideas, of course.
I work with Azure and frequently write about my experiences. I’m a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, ex-MSFT. Based in Helsinki, Finland.