good relationship between a portfolio company and an investor depends on many things. Trust, of course, and transparency too. But Irena and Jean will tell you that a quality pair of socks should never be underestimated.
And so it was that on the evening before their first joint trip to the HQ of social media software business Smartly.io in Helsinki, Irena found herself giving Jean a crash course in one of the more peculiar elements of Finnish office culture: socks, slippers, and no shoes.
Co-founder Tuomo Riekki acknowledges that for first-time visitors, the footwear etiquette can be a little jarring – “it’s almost like you’re at a kindergarten” – but there’s no doubt it also makes the environment uniquely comfortable.
In fact, its office space is a creative’s dream, and while dirty laundry is definitely off the cards, the honest and open airing of potentially difficult subjects is high on the agenda.
Months into their working relationship, and as Highland was on the cusp of investing in Smartly.io, Irena remembers breaking her news to Kristo: “I won’t make it to our first joint Board meeting in person: I’ll be on maternity leave.”
She recalls feeling grateful for the enthusiastic support (and a gift of Smartly-branded baby socks!) from Tuomo and Kristo, as well as the seamless collaboration with Tony who boarded the Helsinki-bound flight for that first Board discussion.
“We’d obviously been excited about working with Irena, but also about collaborating with Highland as a whole and building a long-term relationship,” explains Kristo.
“We’d obviously been excited about working with Irena, but also about collaborating with Highland as a whole and building a long-term relationship”— Kristo, Smartly.io CEO & Co-founder
Over the years, what struck Irena most about Tuomo, Kristo and the broader Smartly.io leadership team, was their culture of transparency and humility: “That goes a long way towards building trust and overcoming, what I like to call, rollercoaster moments.”
It turns out the socks-and-slippers way of life really can teach us a thing or two about business: Always put your best foot forward, try to feel comfortable, and never ever try to hide dirty laundry. The smell will inevitably give it away.
Image Credits: Glassdoor
“Smartly’s technology is unique in allowing creative and marketing teams to craft the most stunning visual campaigns at scale.”— Irena, Partner