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Podcast Interview with Jesse Nieminen

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of IAMCEO podcast features Jesse Nieminen, Co-founder and Chairman of Viima, an innovation management software company growing rapidly. Jesse is seen as a thought leader in the field of innovation, having written for some key media outlets in this area. He is also responsible for overseeing growth and innovation efforts at Viima.

Jesse has a diverse background that includes experience in technology, business, design, and leadership. His broad skill-set has enabled him to look at bigger pictures and guide his team to focus on crucial areas.

The highlights from this episode include:

CEO Hack: Jesse emphasizes the importance of self-learning.

CEO Nugget: Jesse suggests focusing on building processes.

CEO Defined: Jesse views a CEO's role as taking ownership of the organization's vision and issues and then working towards resolving them.

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Jesse Nieminen Teaser 00:00

Our product is basically a cloud-based innovation management software and it helps companies drive innovation in their organization. And in practice, that means that they use our tool to collect ideas, prioritize, and then develop those ideas and basically analyze the whole process to get better and then drive more innovation in their organization.

Intro 00:19

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the IAMCEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:46

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, or what I like to call CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focused on innovation, disruption, women entrepreneurship, DEI, gig economy, remote economy, even the cannabis industry. Think about these industries and these disruptive technologies that really sometimes aren't as disruptive, but there are people that are just paying attention to what the market needs, and they're providing that. So really think about the things that are quote and quote outside of the norm, but really help entrepreneurship to grow and fully develop.

I think it's an extremely exciting time when you're talking about any type of innovation or disruption, because I think that there are so many opportunities and needs that aren't felt that are starting to be filled by different groups, different organizations, or even different industries. So what I want you to do is sit back and enjoy this special episode of the IAMCEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Jesse Nieminen of Viima. Jesse, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Jesse Nieminen 02:10

Thanks. It's my pleasure.

Gresham Harkless 02:12

No problem. Super excited to have you on. I told you I was going to give your last name a go and I tried to do my best. So I appreciate you bearing with me, but I wanted to read a little bit more about Jesse so you can hear all the awesome things that he's doing.

Jesse is the co-founder and chairman for Viima, a rapidly growing innovation management software company. As a recognized thought leader in innovation, he's written for some of the most important outlets in the field, in addition to be responsible for Viima's own growth and innovation efforts.

Jesse's versatile background, combining technology, business, design and leadership has taught him to effectively look at the big picture and help his team contribute in whichever areas they need to be focused on at any given point in time.

Jesse, are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?

Jesse Nieminen 02:54

Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for the intro.

Gresham Harkless 02:56

No problem. So let's jump right in. I wanted to hear a little bit more about what I call your CEO story and what led you to start your business.

Jesse Nieminen 03:04

Yeah, sure. So, basically I met my two co-founders during our computer science studies at the Helsinki University of Technology. We quickly became friends and having done quite a lot of projects together during our studies, we really thought it would be cool to try to make a difference and start a company of our own.

In the beginning, we didn't really have a specific idea in mind. We just wanted to help solve some problems with the skills we'd learned during our studies. And then we also really wanted to learn what it took to build a scalable modern software business. That's basically why we ended up starting the business. So that's like how we got started and what motivated us in the beginning.

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Gresham Harkless 03:38

Nice. I definitely appreciate that. It sounds like you guys had the opportunity to work together over and over again in the same study. So you had an idea of strengths and weaknesses and things like that.

Jesse Nieminen 03:47

Yeah, exactly. I think that gave us really a great starting position because we already knew each other really well. And it wasn't just that we were friends because that could have led to some unfortunate incidents if we hadn't worked together before that. So we had some practice with that and that really helped.

Gresham Harkless 04:02

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So I wanted to drill a little bit deeper, hear little bit more about Viima. Can you tell us exactly what you guys are doing?

Jesse Nieminen 04:09

Sure. So, like I mentioned or actually you mentioned in the bio, our product is basically a cloud-based innovation management software, and it helps companies drive innovation in their organization.

And in practice, that means that they use our tool to collect ideas, prioritize and then develop those ideas and basically analyze the whole process to get better and then drive more innovation in their organization. We now have a few thousand organizations using our software all around the world, ranging from startups all the way to the global Fortune 500.

So, that's like a brief story of where we're today as well.

Gresham Harkless 04:42

Nice. I definitely appreciate that. And I think that anytime you're working in an organization, especially if you've had that organization probably longer than like 22 years or a year, especially with the way technology is moving, you always need to do some hacks and things to make sure that you are innovating on a regular basis.

Is that what you find with a lot of the clients and organizations you guys are working with?

Jesse Nieminen 05:02

Yeah, exactly. The world is really moving so rapidly that there is hardly an industry where you don't have to innovate these days. So, what we see a lot of our companies do is that we have some kind of what we call like innovators and who are really driving the innovation in their industry.

But we also have a lot of companies as our customers who might have fallen behind a bit in the area where they're at, and they realized that they really need to catch up and really start innovating themselves as well. So that's what we want. So really a big portion of our customers is really investing in that section as well.

Gresham Harkless 05:34

Nice. I definitely appreciate that. Definitely correct me if I'm wrong, cause I know this is definitely your space. I feel like some people feel like you either have it or you don't, either have that innovation muscle or you don't, but it sounds like from what you guys build and what you've studied, it's something that you can practice.

You can implement it, something that you can learn if you do it just like working out a muscle.

Jesse Nieminen 05:52

Exactly. Exactly. And basically how we define innovation is basically just the introduction of something new and every company does that. It's just a matter to what degree they do that and how successfully they do that and what the impact of introducing those changes and building new products or improving their processes, what the impact of those actions are, and so it's definitely something that you can practice and get better at.

Gresham Harkless 06:15

Nice. I absolutely love that. Especially the definition of introducing something new because we all have the ability to definitely do that if we consider ourselves innovators or even if we don't consider ourselves innovators. I definitely appreciate that.

So I wanted to drill a little bit deeper. You might have already touched on this, but I wanted to hear a little bit more about what I call your secret sauce. This could be for you or your organization, but what do you feel sets you apart?

Jesse Nieminen 06:37

Yeah, so, if we basically look at the competition we have in the innovation management software field we see basically two main categories there. So, on the one hand you have these pretty simple ideation tools that are really focused on collecting ideas. And that's also where we really got started from. So we built this simple, but visual and highly engaging tool that you can use to collect ideas from a specific group of people. Maybe it's your customers, maybe it's your employees. But that's basically where we also started from. While that's really good, most organizations don't really need more ideas. They just need better ways of managing those ideas and choosing the right ones to progress. So that's kind of like, there are a lot of challenges with just that specific model.

Then on the other side, there are these big enterprise vendors that build solutions for facilitating the complex R and D processes that these really big fortune 500 companies have for developing these new complex solutions for their customers as well. What they've really started to realize like I mentioned, the world is moving so fast that there's innovation everywhere, is that single R and D process is no longer enough to really drive all of their innovation needs, but they actually need to innovate across every part of their organization. They need to make their existing products better doing these incremental innovation. They need to be better. They need to have better and more efficient internal processes for improving the efficiency of their business, and then they also really need to introduce those new products and disrupt the market themselves before someone else does that.

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So there's really a wide variety of things they need to do, and there's no way that a single process that these traditional tools are built for can do that. So what we have done is we've realized that there is this gap between these two, and we've built a really simple, yet very flexible and robust tool that can be quickly and effortlessly adapted to any innovation process. It's something that you can take into use for free online in just a couple of minutes, and you can tailor that to your specific uses, and we can see. It actually drives value for you and you don't have to like start on this year long implementation process and commit to all that before you actually see any results.

So we really wanted to make it a no brainer for companies to start using our software.

Gresham Harkless 08:47

Yeah, I definitely appreciate that. It's funny when you were talking about the aspects of the tool that you guys have built. I'm sure people are listening. You're like, Oh, my gosh, it sounds like so much stuff to do to try to implement it in our existing products, try to come up with new products, try to innovate in the HR industry and this industry and that industry.

So it's really great that you've been able to combine all those tools and make it seamless and easy for everybody to execute on.

Jesse Nieminen 09:09

Yeah, and that's what we also really recommend our customers to do is to start simple because you can't really do all of that at once. You have to start somewhere and you pick something that's really an urgent thing that you need to focus on right now.

And you start with that and you start driving smaller, incremental innovation in that area. Then you can start building on top of that once you have that momentum and your organization like starts to develop those innovation muscles gradually.

Gresham Harkless 09:35

Absolutely that makes perfect sense. The saying goes that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So just taking those small bites and you have eaten the entire elephant and you are an innovative company. So I appreciate that a tremendous amount.

I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This could be an app, a book or a habit that you have, or maybe even more about your tool that you guys have built. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Jesse Nieminen 10:00

So, for me the biggest thing definitely is just learning. So, when we started we were really just out of school. And then we were really finishing our studies even at that point. So, we didn't really have that much experience, even though we had worked in the industry before. But still, we didn't really have most of the skills that you'd really need to build those scalable software companies. So we had to learn a lot during the first years that we were in business. And that really taught us to kind of like continue that continuous learning process that we were used to from our studies.

But then kind of like build on that, that I'm circling that not just regarding computer science and software engineering, but across all the different aspects of the business. So learning about all the accounting, the marketing, the sales, the organizational stuff, leadership management, and obviously innovation, which is the industry that we're in. And then like really start learning all over on all of the aspects of the business, whatever was the most urgent problem we had to learn to do that ourselves. Because we didn't really have the means to buy expertise or hire experts for all of those areas, we had to learn a lot of that stuff ourselves. So that's something that I really found useful.

Gresham Harkless 11:10

Yeah, that makes sense. It's funny that you said sometimes you study things in school whether they'd be business or learning how to start a business or whatever it might be. And then you get into the quote and quote real world and then you realize that you have to do even more learning and then you probably have to do.

That is because, like you said, technology and things are changing so rapidly. You have to actually put it into your specific business. So there are certain things that have moving parts that you have to connect from there. So it's a constant learning experience even after school and when you are running the business because there's so many different moving parts.

Jesse Nieminen 11:42

Exactly. The more you learn, the more you know that there's more to learn. So that's also what happens, there's so much more to learn. And I guess what they say is that the more you learn, the less you know.

Gresham Harkless 11:54

There you go. That makes perfect sense. So now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. This is a word of wisdom or piece of advice, or if you can hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Jesse Nieminen 12:06

Yeah, so, as I mentioned in the beginning, we're bootstraps company. So we didn't really have the means to really hire people in the beginning. For the couple of first years in our business, we had to basically work part-time in another company as a day job to kind of like finance the company, and it was just the three of us in the business. So we really learned to do all of the stuff ourselves. But then when we started to build the organization and we had more customers and more traction then what we struggled with was that having this engineering background and that basically background of doing things ourselves.

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We all love solving problems with that engineering background, but we tended to focus a bit too much on doing that stuff ourselves instead of building the organization and the systems and processes for making it scalable. We realized that fortunately, really quickly, but it's still something that we occasionally struggle with. And I really can't stress the value of focusing on building those processes and building the organization and hiring the right people enough. So I think that's all really a big part of that.

Gresham Harkless 13:09

And so I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show.

So Jesse, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Jesse Nieminen 13:19

For me, it's basically about taking absolute ownership for your organization and basically it's success. So, It's really challenging because the minds that you have to take is that all of the problems are basically your fault. You have to think about what you can do to fix those. And that's what also makes it so rewarding is that you have the ability to actually get to those problems and sort them out and try to get the organization to a better place.

Because a lot of times there are people that really inhibit you from doing that when you're in a larger organization and there are multiple layers of people above you. Oftentimes they have good reason for doing that and oftentimes they might not, so it depends. But when you're leading your own company that's basically what you really have to take is that absolute ownership for the organization.

Gresham Harkless 14:05

Yes, absolutely. I love that perspective and that definition because you have to tap into your inner engineer, so to speak, and be able to solve those problems and figure out whatever those are from an actual practical standpoint of engineering. But also from employees and making sure they're motivated and make sure you're bringing on the right people.

It's all those kind of engineering kind of mindset you need to take to those aspects of your business. So I definitely appreciate that perspective.

Jesse Nieminen 14:29

And it might not always be problems. It's also opportunities. So how can you tackle the unmet needs of your customers or development of the market in general as well. But still, it's the same kind of like problem-solving mentality for that as well.

Gresham Harkless 14:45

Exactly. Yeah and I guess there's a saying that goes that, a lot of times the biggest opportunities are dressed up as problems. So if you're able to solve that, it provides a tremendous opportunity for your organization or your business team members and so on and so forth.

Jesse Nieminen 14:57


Gresham Harkless 14:58

Nice. So Jesse, I truly appreciate your time. Appreciate all the awesome things that you're doing and spending some time with us today. What I wanted to do was pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know. And then of course, how best they can get ahold of you, find out about all the awesome things you're doing and of course, download the software.

Jesse Nieminen 15:15

Yeah, my pleasure. So, thanks for having me on the show and thanks for the opportunity. So I think if you want to learn more about Viima then the address is viima.com. That's where you can also sign up for the free version of our software, so if you're interested in what we do, the best way to see what's going on is to actually sign up and test it for yourself.

It doesn't cost you anything and takes just a few minutes. But that's what I would recommend you to do if that's something you're interested in. And for contacting me if you're on social media, then Linkedin is probably the best, but that's where I'm the most active. You'll find me with my name. We'll have that, on the show notes for people to see. And then my email is jesse@viima.com. So you can also reach out to me directly.

Gresham Harkless 15:54

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much, Jesse. And like you mentioned, we will have those links and information in the show notes so that everybody can follow up with you. But I appreciate your time. Appreciate all the awesome things you're doing, especially in that innovation space that we all are craving to be experts. And so, thank you so much. I hope you have a great rest of the day.

Outro 16:09

Thank you for listening to the IAMCEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. IAMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the IAMCEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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