Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Essi Suomela is an accomplished Finnish crowdfunding expert based in London. In 2014 she co-founded the crowdfunding agency called Spaceboy - a company that consults, creates and runs crowdfunding campaigns for it’s clients all over the world providing them with the right community building and engagement tools needed for a successful campaign.
Essi has helped raise over $2,5 million dollars for her crowdfunding clients to date including projects like Iron Sky and ($877K) and Moomin ($253K).
Essi also has a decade of experience in the film industry as a production manager and a line producer.
Essi, what does your current job role entail?
I’m the cofounder and CEO of a London-based crowdfunding agency called Spaceboy and I work as a crowdfunding consultant. I help clients from all over the world to launch their products or projects using reward-based crowdfunding. My work varies from customer acquisition, marketing, advising and consulting to fully managing crowdfunding campaigns.
How has your career progressed since your degree? Has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?
I studied film producing originally so I’m mostly self taught in the field of crowdfunding. Back then, there were no crowdfunding platforms or even an official term for crowdfunding. For me entering the crowdfunding industry was fairly easy because I entered it so early. I also had a decade of film industry experience behind me and I initially started with crowdfunding movie projects. Today I work with all kinds of industries and projects, including tech. There was also not as much competition then as there is now and only a few companies were doing what I did. That gave me an advantage.
How long did it take you to be where you are now? What was the biggest obstacle?
I started my company almost four years ago, but I was already working with crowdfunding projects before that alongside making films. I worked on my first crowdfunding campaign in 2013 and fell in love with the process instantly. We managed to raise over $180,000 on our first try and even though we made every possible mistake we also learned a lot. One of the biggest obstacles for me has been finding people to partner up with who have the right skill set for crowdfunding. Most people who know what they are doing have their own companies, work for crowdfunding platforms or are extremely expensive.
What are your projects you are currently working on within your company?
Our campaigns always vary from creative projects to products. Right now we are working on a feature film (USA) and a foldable cycle helmet (UK) to name a few. Both campaigns will be launched later this year. We also closed a campaign for Moomin this year raising over $250k for the new tv series production.
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you? What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur and woman in tech industry?
To me the #WomenInTech movement is very empowering. I originally come from the film world which is very much dominated by men so I definitely had to work hard to gain respect. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about sexual harassment in the film industry and even though I was lucky enough not to be subjected to that per se, I definitely had to grow a tough skin to survive being belittled by older men in power. I feel we are facing the same issues in the tech industry and women are not treated the same as men. Men get far more venture capital funding than women, however studies show that women outperform men on crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter which is why I would recommend crowdfunding as an alternative funding option for especially female founders.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I truly feel my biggest achievement has been founding my company. I moved to the UK with no guarantees if it was going to amount to anything and now four years later I’m still running the company successfully. When I came to London, I didn’t really know anyone or the city for that matter and I really had to take a leap faith in my abilities and trust my inner strength. It has been extremely challenging at times, but after going through that experience I feel I can do pretty much anything. That is something I’m definitely proud of.
In your opinion, what will be the key trends in the wearable tech and IoT industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Roughly half of the world's population is female, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the technology sector. I believe we will definitely be seeing a huge rise in #Femtech related products and services. And not just innovations for women, but I believe the health industry in general will see a big boost in both areas in the next 5 years.
Can you name any prominent women in this industry that you admire?
I’m very impressed with Dr Elina Berglund, co-Founder and CTO of the fertility app Natural Cycles. She not only founded the company but also wrote the app’s algorithm herself.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs in consumer products space out there?
My best advice to all female founders is not to be afraid to fail. Failure will happens so just embrace it and excel beyond it. Elon Musk said that if you are not failing, you’re not innovating enough. This is something I live by every day. Also, you gotta “fake it ‘til you make it”.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in tech?
To be honest, I find all women in tech inspirational but recently I was very inspired by Kristina Jones, the cofounder of Court Buddy who became the 14th ever African American female founder to raise $1 million or more for her startup. That number is disturbingly small, but she is paving the way for others. I’m also inspired by Angela Ahrendts from Apple and Gwynne Shotwell from SpaceX.
Twitter: Essi Suomela
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.