Our alumnus Mikko Kuitunen: Vincit’s business idea was written on a coaster at Näsinneula tower café
Rubber ducking and other employee stories
Mikko Kuitunen says that he likes to look at the world through lenses of opportunity and, first and foremost, work for a better tomorrow. These premises were also strongly present back in 2007 when Mikko founded the software company Vincit with one of his ex-colleagues, another Tampere University alumnus Pekka Virtanen.
“I was 26 years old when I decided to step on a new path and take the reins. We wrote down Vincit’s business idea on a coaster with Pekka, at the then downstairs café of the Näsinneula Tower. I guess this would make a more appealing story if we had had something else in our glasses, but I believe we only just drank soda,” Mikko says with a grin.
The guiding principle behind the company was that going to work on Mondays should not feel like agony. All other choices and decisions were subordinated to this idea. Mikko believes that a major factor behind Vincit’s success was the very fact that it was originally built to be a great workplace. Between then and now, Vincit has also been granted many awards for being one – both in Finland and the United States.
“We wanted to recruit the right talent, and especially in the early years, this objective had a major role in our whole business design and management model. In a way, everything else was reflected against this mindset. When employee satisfaction and the customer side of the business are well-balanced, they also radiate positive impacts back to each other.”
At an early stage, a certain black bathduck became Vincit’s widely known emblem. The duck also originated from the company’s recruitment efforts, and the connection between software development and rubber ducks is actually not as far fetched as one would think at first. People in coding know the term ’rubber ducking’ as a method in which code is checked and explained line by line to an imaginary person – or in this case, a rubber duck – for troubleshooting purposes. A rubber duck placed above a coder’s monitor also works as a sign to others that this person is in the middle of an intense working phase and needs some peace and quiet.
“The history of our own rubber duck is actually closely connected to Tampere University. We had only recently founded Vincit and we were planning our participation in the university’s Yrityspäivät recruitment event. We wanted to find some giveaways for the visitors, so I paid a visit to a business gift shop. They happened to have some rubber ducks on clearance sale, so I bought a bunch of them and we had our Vincit logo printed on them. The only reason I chose the black ducks in particular was that they were the cheapest ones, Mikko reveals.
Dotting the connections
The year 2007 was significant for Mikko Kuitunen not only due to Vincit’s founding but also because he graduated as a master of science from the then Tampere University of Technology. Mikko had taken an interest in mathematical subjects and science in his upper secondary school, which he completed in his former hometown of Toijala, near Tampere. Due to his commendable study performance, he was admitted to TUT without entrance exams. His university studies focused mainly on industrial economics and management.
“In my view, industrial economics and management most of all taught us how to learn and how to think about causes and consequences, for example – instead of leading us directly to a specific profession. What I learned back then has been later reflected in my work and it has allowed me to keep my scope quite wide,” Mikko notes.
Mikko’s student days also left him with a wide network of former student colleagues. With many of them, his path has later crossed in work contexts. This network accumulated both on study courses and leisure, as Mikko was also widely active in his student organisation. What’s more, he is proudly a prize-winning prankster – a Finnish champion, to be exact.
“I guess I spent my student days in quite a traditional and even stereotypical way. I often hung out at the guild room, and I also chaired our student organisation Indecs for a while. My studies advanced a bit slowly at times, but I did alright in the end. Overall, my student years were one of the major milestones in my life,” Mikko says.
Even after graduation, Mikko has been actively involved with the university’s affairs and says that he has been very happy to do so. He has been a member of the Advisory Board of TUT Faculty of Business and Built Environment, for example, and he also supported the Tampere ICT project that promoted the search for competent ICT field applicants and better matching the education with practical work.
In his path through studies, Vincit, and the present day, Mikko identifies a certain common thread: a wide-ranging curiosity and the willingness to learn something new. After leaving his position as Vincit’s CEO in August 2021, whole new room and airiness opened up in his everyday life. Even though chairing Vincit’s board and all his other positions in company boards and as an investor and advisor still require a lot of work, he says he enjoys being able to better manage his own time.
“I like to think of the well-known phrase ‘Connecting the dots’ a bit differently. Even though there are many differences between companies, there’s also a lot that they share. I like to look at the contexts of different companies, find similarities and consistencies, and seek correlations. The mindset is then reformulated as ‘Dotting the connections’ – making use of similarities and thus refining the wheel rather than reinventing it,” Mikko states.
Who: Mikko Kuitunen
Education: Master of Science (Industrial economics and management), TUT, 2000–2007
Work: Founder and Executive Chair of Vincit Plc, Chair of the Board at OffiStore and Happeo, Board Member at Robit, Soil Food, Tylko, Integrata and LähiTapiola Pirkanmaa
Quote: ”I’ve always tried to get involved with things I don’t know much about going in. This allows room for learning and accumulating new experiences. You can learn a lot as long as you expose yourself to the possibility. While doing so, however, you also have to get used to feeling completely puzzled at times.”
Text: Tiina Leivo
Picture: Mikko Ovaska