Sami Inkinen: "Why the Two Weeks Following Our IPO Were the Worst of my Life" | E1120

Sami Inkinen: "Why the Two Weeks Following Our IPO Were the Worst of my Life" | E1120

Intro (00:00:00)

  • Sami Inkinen became wealthy after his company went public but experienced a panic attack shortly after due to feeling overwhelmed and unhappy despite his success.
  • Sami Inkinen expresses excitement and gratitude for being invited back to the podcast after seven years.

Introduction & Childhood (00:00:40)

  • Sami Inkinen grew up on a farm in Finland, about 200 miles northeast of Helsinki, near the Russian border.
  • His parents were factory workers, and he had a humble upbringing, doing manual labor such as picking potatoes and feeding chickens.
  • Despite the romantic aspects of growing up on a farm, Sami lacked professional role models, as his parents did not even complete high school.
  • His family's background made his current success in America seem unlikely to them.

Discovering Ambition & Possibilities (00:02:34)

  • Sami Inkinen was exposed to the world of computers through magazines and convinced his parents to buy him a Commodore 64 computer before he turned 10.
  • He was drawn to the potential of computers and spent a lot of time programming and playing games, despite his parents' concerns.
  • In the late 1980s, computers were not widely discussed in rural Finland, and Sami did not realize his family's financial situation until later.
  • Finland's relatively equal society and lack of social media at the time prevented him from comparing his family's wealth to others.
  • Sami felt comfortable and had what he needed, including tools for sports and basic necessities.
  • The family farm helped subsidize their food expenses, and they saved money to buy a used car.
  • They could not afford to travel as a whole family and took vacations in turns, with Sami and his father going one year and his mother and sister the next.
  • Despite these limitations, Sami did not feel extremely poor or deprived during his childhood.

Drive to Create & Be Valuable (00:06:32)

  • Sami Inkinen, driven by a desire to create value for others, established one of the first bulletin board systems (BBS) in Finland at a young age.
  • Inkinen feels a profound need to justify his existence through his actions and does not rely on external validation for self-worth.
  • He engages in intense sports and physical activities to fully experience his physical existence and derives great satisfaction from these pursuits.
  • After his company's Initial Public Offering (IPO), Inkinen experienced significant physical and mental discomfort, highlighting the challenges of entrepreneurship.
  • Exercise serves as a highly addictive and essential practice for Inkinen, fostering a deep connection between his body and mind.
  • Inkinen believes that physical training enhances cognitive abilities, such as focus and intellectual performance, and suggests that many successful founders share this trait.

Addictive Personality & Observing Behaviors (00:12:54)

  • Sami Inkinen, the founder of MySQL, emphasizes the importance of self-observation to maintain balance and avoid excessive behaviors.
  • He uses the analogy of a computer's runtime debugging mode to describe the ability to observe one's own thoughts and behaviors.
  • Inkinen gives examples of how he monitors his sports training, caffeine intake, and work habits to prevent addictive tendencies.
  • He highlights the significance of catching emotional waves before reacting impulsively, drawing from his experiences in Finland and his calm demeanor.
  • Inkinen experienced a brief period of euphoria after the MySQL IPO when he saw a significant amount of money in his checking account.
  • He indulged in extravagant spending, totaling around $25,000, but realized that money did not bring him lasting joy or satisfaction.
  • Inkinen reflects on the fleeting nature of material possessions and compares the pursuit of money to the temporary pleasure of an espresso.

Impact of Financial Success (00:20:00)

  • Sami Inkinen, the co-founder of Trulia, shares his experience after the company went public.
  • Despite achieving financial success, Inkinen experienced a period of anxiety and disappointment.
  • He realized that he had been constantly chasing the next goal and had never taken the time to be alone with his thoughts.
  • Inkinen recognized that he had trained his mind through education and his body as an athlete, but he had neglected to understand his own mind.
  • Inkinen reflects on his past behavior of always chasing the next exciting thing.
  • He had never stopped to be alone with his thoughts and had never truly been present in the moment.
  • This realization came as a shock to him, as he had assumed that achieving financial success would bring him ultimate joy and satisfaction.

Feeling Directionless & Seeking Clarity (00:24:28)

  • Sami Inkinen felt directionless after the IPO of his company.
  • He was worried about going down the wrong path due to having a lot of money and time with no clear goals.
  • Inkinen and his wife decided to attend a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Taiwan to address this feeling of uncertainty.
  • Meditation helped him become more aware of his mind and its workings.
  • He realized that constantly chasing the next thing without self-reflection can lead to problems.
  • Inkinen experienced anxiety and panic during the retreat as he confronted the lack of a clear direction in his life.

Authenticity vs Vulnerability (00:26:45)

  • Authenticity is essential and involves being the same person in all aspects of life without pretense.
  • Vulnerability is a powerful tool but should not be practiced excessively, as it can lead to negative outcomes.
  • Leaders should be mindful of their energy's impact on others and may need to adopt an optimistic attitude to inspire their teams.
  • Authenticity and transparency do not require sharing every thought or emotion, and filtering is acceptable as long as there is no intentional deception.
  • Sami Inkinen, a leader in diabetes treatment, emphasizes the importance of vulnerability and has openly shared emotional moments with his team.
  • In contrast to excessive vulnerability, Sami reflects on his upbringing and the positive influence of his wife in helping him connect with his emotions.
  • Sami acknowledges his past struggles with emotional vulnerability and is committed to personal growth in this area.

Challenges of Working with Your Spouse (00:33:24)

  • Sami Inkinen and his wife co-founded Vert in 2014 and had two children during the first six years of the company's life.
  • Both Sami and his wife worked full-time during this period, which led to challenges in balancing work and family life.
  • Inkinen recommends against working with your spouse due to the high risk of damaging the personal relationship if things go wrong.
  • His wife decided to stop working full-time after six years due to the increasing risks of damaging their relationship.
  • Inkinen acknowledges that their children may have suffered from the lack of parental care during their early years due to their demanding work schedules.
  • He expresses regret over not being able to be there for his kids as much as he would have liked.
  • In hindsight, Inkinen suggests that it would have been better to be less ambitious and prioritize family time over career success.
  • He recommends that couples with flexible schedules consider one parent taking on a more flexible role to support the family and the relationship.

Secrets to a Great Marriage (00:37:25)

  • Sami Inkinen and his wife, Sarah, rowed across the Pacific Ocean for 45 days in 2014 to raise awareness about the dangers of poor nutrition.
  • During the trip, they realized that having children was the most meaningful experience in life and had their first child nine months later.
  • The shared challenges and hardships strengthened their bond and trust, allowing for deep and meaningful conversations, even about complex topics like achieving peace in the Middle East.
  • Despite being confined to a small boat, living through challenging experiences brought them closer together, revealing their raw essence.
  • Sami Inkinen, an engineer, chose Sarah as his wife among his friends, leading to an argument with his wife.
  • Sami experienced moments of doubt and despair during the first 10 days of the journey due to slow progress and harsh weather conditions, but his wife's encouragement and improved weather helped him persevere.
  • Sami emphasizes the importance of perseverance and grit for entrepreneurs and founders, but acknowledges that there is a point when stubbornness can become counterproductive, requiring a balance of determination and practicality when deciding whether to give up or continue pursuing a goal.

Losing Passion & Knowing When to Quit (00:48:10)

  • Markets, lack of funding, and other factors can kill a company, not just a founder giving up.
  • Great founders may still pursue the wrong product or market for years.
  • It's hard to know objectively when to quit, as there are always stories of successful turnarounds.
  • Sami Inkinen personally experienced a loss of passion while preparing to take Trulia public.
  • He felt disconnected from the company's mission and uninterested in continuing.
  • In hindsight, he realized the importance of setting a clear and motivating mission as a founder.

Tying Identity to Company (00:51:25)

  • Tying one's identity to their company is a natural process for founders, but it can be unhealthy.
  • Founders should consciously cultivate different identities in their brains to protect themselves from cracking when things go wrong.
  • Having multiple identities makes it easier to take calculated risks, which is critical for the success of a growing company.
  • Sami Inkinen consciously cultivates different identities in his brain, including being a parent, spouse, family person, friend, and athlete.
  • These identities are non-correlated with his founder identity, which helps him to stay grounded and avoid cracking when things get tough.
  • Cultivating multiple identities also makes it easier for him to take calculated risks, which is essential for the success of a growing company.

Protecting Against Burnout (00:55:34)

  • Sami Inkinen shares his insights on avoiding burnout as a founder.
  • He emphasizes the importance of a foundation of health, treating oneself like an Olympic athlete, and prioritizing sleep.
  • Inkinen stresses the significance of cultivating multiple identities and having a trusted group of people outside of one's immediate circle where vulnerability and authenticity can be expressed.
  • He highlights the value of YPO (Young Presidents' Organization) as a platform for CEOs to connect, share personal challenges, and receive support.
  • Inkinen suggests that men may find it harder to form deep, authentic friendships compared to women and encourages men to seek out trusted individuals with whom they can be vulnerable.

Being a Great Father (00:59:50)

  • Sami Inkinen considers parenthood the most fulfilling experience in life and believes it does not hinder his ability to be a great leader.
  • In a successful marriage, he prioritizes respect, fun, honesty, and intimacy.
  • Sami Inkinen credits his wife for teaching him the value of finding joy in every moment.
  • He shares insights gained from his company's IPO, stressing the importance of choosing meaningful endeavors and embracing enjoyment in every situation.
  • While acknowledging the significance of physical attraction, he emphasizes that it is insufficient to sustain a long-lasting relationship.
  • Sami Inkinen advocates for maintaining a positive outlook and avoiding taking oneself too seriously.

Quick-Fire Round (01:06:18)

  • Sami Inkinen believes free will is an illusion and that our decisions are influenced by our wiring and circumstances.
  • In terms of diet, Inkinen eats when he's hungry, focuses on real food, and avoids processed carbohydrates and sugar.
  • The best founders consciously choose venture capital (VC) funding that provides helpful advice, governance, and capital.
  • Founders should avoid making fundraising too transactional and should be cautious when making quick decisions about potential investors, as it's a long-term relationship.
  • Inkinen emphasizes the importance of long-term relationships, ethical considerations, and thorough due diligence when making business decisions.
  • He envisions his company as a global leader in addressing obesity and type 2 diabetes through lifestyle treatments, contrasting it with companies like Novo Nordisk that focus on treating symptoms with drugs.
  • Inkinen aims for his company to be recognized globally for its positive impact and to continue playing a key role in its growth and success over the long term.

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