Fulltime HEL: Episode 20 - Arctos Adventures
Spring has arrived in Helsinki, but it really feels like summer. The sun shines till nearly 11PM now, the trees are green and the days are warm. Visitors to Finland would be confused to think this is a wondrous land full of natural enchantments. But they’d be wrong, well not totally.
Finland for all it’s claim of cold, snowy winters does have some nice summers. Though they can be quite short. Which is why in that time everyone wants to be outside. It leads to a practical shut down of the entire country. And I can understand why, I don’t want to be inside editing this episode together, but I am.
I’d much rather be out there wandering the woods that make up the taiga of Finland. Yes technically the taiga extends into Finland and on into Sweden and Norway. And I can do some walking with ease, given how close the taiga extends to Helsinki. Nuux National Park is just a short drive away. But for longer hikes, you have to go further away. And Finland certainly makes that easy. But before that…
Welcome to episode 20 of Fulltime HEL, the podcast about startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers and co-working spaces in Helsinki, Finland. I’m your host Gregory Pellechi.
On this episode, Arctos, aiding in adventures.
Finland enshrines the right of every person to have access to the land not in any direct law but through its culture and the idea that what’s not illegal cannot be punished. Which is a really good attitude to have towards the use of so much natural beauty. And I’ve benefited from this directly, last year the wife and I went and filled a five gallon bucket with wild blueberries.
But to do something more than pick berries, or walk on the marked paths of a national park for a couple hours requires more of a commitment. If you’re not heading to your family’s summer cabin then you’re going to need a tent. Unless of course you’re hiking between the free cabins scattered throughout the wilderness. But even then you’re going to need to pack something.
Finland is a country with a culture of independence, sustainability, and self-reliance. That grit and determination to get things done even through times of hardship in Finnish is known as “sisu”. And you can see that very element in the startup culture of this country. So to connect a business with nature only makes sense.
Everyone wants to be a platform or a service these days. It’s where the money apparently is. And it makes sense, if you can find an industry ripe for such disruption. Though how much you can really disrupt the camping industry remains to be seen.
Starting any new hobby takes an investment. Not just in terms of time, but equipment. The difficulty with picking up something new without first trying it is that you never know how truly interested you are until you try something. Even then you may not get the chance to do it again. And camping, hiking, backpacking are activities that take even more of a commitment than playing a sport. Unless it’s something like American Football.
Renting equipment is not a new concept. REI, one of the major outdoor equipment retailers in the US already does it. However, you still have to transfer all of that to your destination. Other companies run guided tours that provide all of the necessary equipment, so there’s definitely competition for Arctos. However, connecting the gear rental with self-guided trips is certainly novel when you take into account the ability to organize it ahead of time.
So often you hear about how a startup pivots to build something entirely different. Twitter for example was initially supposed to be about podcasts, but turned into microblogging. With Arctos it’s interesting that their original idea while thematically the same was for a product and not a service. But then developing physical products is a costly and time-consuming process.
When I originally conducted this interview Arctos was in the process of gearing up for their pilot in Nuux. That was set for November of 2015. Six months later their website isn’t showing much, nor is their Facebook page. So it’s hard to say what the outcome of the pilot was. They may just be retooling and trying a different business model. But like many of the startups I’ve interviewed over the past year that have had their ups and downs, Arctos isn’t operating in an easy market. And it’s solely my fault for not being able to follow up on this.
Failure whether overt and fiery or covert and silent is a part of the startup lifestyle. Some claim that success can only come after failures, others seek to simply turn their business into a lifestyle one and no longer pursue the scalable growth those magic few unicorns have experienced. Whatever the result, it’s a learning experience for everyone.
For all we know, Arctos may have decided to focus on that tent after all. Maybe a product would be better than another service.
On the next episode of Fulltime HEL, The Shift, a return to Turku and its startups.
Fulltime HEL was produced by me, Gregory Pellechi. Music for the show is courtesy of Chris Zabriskie.