Turku, Finland. Expat. Technologist. Believer in the long way. Zebras Unite chapter lead Turku, Finland.
A Zebra is…
… rare and wild. It’s an undomesticable animal that is unique and searches for a way to survive in a world in which their habitat is seriously jeopardized.
Our realities are often in conflict with each other which means we’re too often causing each other harm.
Douglas’ vision for the future
Call me a pessimist but I think we have not managed the world well, it’s too often in conflict. I would love to live in a world where we could come together and work together collaboratively to achieve more positive sustainable values and goals.
Many people get turned off by the difficulty of governance and participating in democracy. It feels like a lot of extra work when we’re already pressured with so many other obligations and responsibilities, when you’re just trying to keep your head above water. But I believe that participating in group governance and democracy to be super valuable. I am one of those people who believes that doing work in small cooperative groups will help develop skills that we can use in larger segments of society and help transform the world.
Participatory capital allocation
In my ideal future, capital would not be a private but a collectively and locally governed resource. You have to distribute capital investment decisions equitably and fairly throughout the world and allow people to participate in these decisions.
When we talk about risks and dangers of global magnitude, I think we all should have a say in how we want to approach these challenges. Because their consequences will affect us all.
On a local level, I would love to see an active solicitation for requests for funding and legitimate real feedback to the people who make those requests. I know Zebras Unite isn’t there just yet but I hope to attract funding for Zebras here in Finland and I hope that that allocation process is an equitable and participatory one. We need to have transparency about what the due diligence process looks like and that’s why real, honest, in-depth feedback is vitally important. If we’re going to go against business as usual in the startup funding world, that’s where we need to start. We need to know what’s going into our investment decisions. We need to know that it’s fair, equitable and just, that it’s a level playing field.
I hope that in the future, organizations like Zebras Unite are able to uphold their commitments to supporting diverse founders, those who do not have access to the conventional avenues of support and whose ideas are not attractive to venture capitalists.
Decolonizing decision making
I have recently come to grips with the fact that I used to live on stolen land in the United States, on the extractive colony of Hawaii that is the unceded territory taken from the Hawaiian people by force of arms. While we might celebrate the U.S. as a melting pot of all kinds of people, I’m having trouble seeing that as anything other than a product of colonialism.
Living in Finland, I have come to embrace the contribution that the Sámi people, the native people of Finland, have made in establishing this land. Without reparations and the acknowledgement of having taken their land and suppressed their culture, we cannot move forward.
Diverse participation matters.
Whether in the U.S. or Finland or anywhere else where native people were evicted and their land stolen, we have to first create space for diverse participation. A diverse group with a variety of perspectives is always going to come to a better outcome for all than a homogenous group.
Solving real problems, not inconveniences
To be honest, I was shocked when I moved to Finland and encountered their startup culture. My picture of a Nordic social welfare state did not involve a Silicon Valley and venture capital perspective. And still the economic and business elite of Helsinki in particular and Finland in general has embraced this venture capital perspective. Many of the programs here are mostly geared toward the classical unicorns.
If we as a society want to support entrepreneurship we should be looking for diverse ideas and fund ideas that aren’t served by the current capital allocations. For example, one thing that really gets under my skin is that the sort of ventures that currently get funded attempt to solve “problems” that are only relevant to relatively privileged, consumption-focused college students who are looking to make their lives more convenient. There are so many more interesting ways to create value and solve real, more serious problems than finding out whether you can have your pizza delivered faster by some underpaid, non-unionized person to your dorm room 24/7.
The startup culture of the future ought to embrace a diversity of perspectives. So we can solve real problems.
We need to be funding different types of solutions to different types of problems. By including more diverse perspectives from more diverse groups into the startup community we will be solving more relevant problems better.
My role is to mentor younger people who are just starting out in business. Based on my experience and perspective, my support looks different from typical entrepreneurship education programs.
My main focus is a cooperative venture for entrepreneurs who are new to Finland. I’m looking to help immigrants and career changers to find their way in the world by starting businesses – in brief, people who have been left out of the mainstream startup community and capital allocation cycles. I work with non-mainstream entrepreneurs to help them bootstrap their ideas.
How Can We Support You?
Because I’m on the periphery of the Zebras Unite universe here in Finland, it would be really helpful to grow our reach in the Nordic countries. This region has a rich history of cooperatives, they are a huge part of the economy even today. I’d love for us to make sure we raise awareness of Zebras Unite and our belief that startups are more than the occasional unicorn.
Support means that we give a fair fair shake to people who come to us and ask for capital investment.
I work with Startup Refugees, a social innovation organization founded in Finland. We exist because the solution for the fast integration of newcomers to the labour markets needs to be created now. Together with a network of more than 1000 members, we offer asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants support in employment and entrepreneurship.
Expat. Technologist. Believer in the long way. Zebras Unite chapter lead Turku, Finland.