Blog founder interview

“The most important thing is to learn” – an interview with Sami Häkkinen

To celebrate 20 years of Frantic, we had a chat with our Interim CEO, Strategist and Co-Founder Sami Häkkinen to discuss all things past, present and future.

Off the wall ideas since 1997

Sami Häkkinen is the kind of person that makes us all wish that we had started a business at 22. In fact, he makes building and running an 85-people strong digital product company seem like a breeze.

“When we started 20 years ago, we had no idea what we were doing. There was no industry and almost no competition. All we had was this fierce will to do something extremely cool, something no one else had done before”, Sami recounts.

Although Sami suspects that the outside world pegged the founding team’s excitement mainly as adorable, he admits that the four talented and driven gentlemen might have entered the new media market at the exact right time. With advanced skills in both design and technology, Frantic was far ahead of the curve early on, which allowed them to expand and win bigger and bigger projects.

“In the beginning, our division of labor was Fantastic Four -like: one of us was good at drawing, another one at writing, one at programming and one at business. None of us knew anything about running an agency, but in retrospect our vision was spot on. Maybe because we were so young and inexperienced, we didn’t really bother trying to fit into the corporate scene – we just wanted to make cool things. But at the end of the day, our holistic approach and off the wall ideas were the two things that distinguished us from everyone else”, Sami sums up.

With those two aces up their sleeves, Frantic went on to win impressive projects and accounts at home and abroad.

As always with visionary people, the discussion doesn’t stay in the past for very long: “I think nostalgia is poisonous. We’ve made every important decision based on known facts and our intuition. Of course, there are things that I would’ve done differently, but honestly, I want to remain a hopeful optimist to the end. And that entails giving everyone – including myself – a full remission. After all, the most important thing is to learn.”

The best job in the world

When Sami talks about the Frantic of today, he does it with a contagious grin. The best part, he says, are the people who work and have worked at Frantic over the years. In fact, he considers the 150+ people strong, family-like alumni community as one of the founding team’s greatest achievements to date.

Work-wise, it is not technology or the digital industry that has kept Sami’s interest for 20 years. Instead, he is passionate about solving the problems his clients face with original, yet well-justified solutions.

“Every challenge is one of a kind and coming up with these solutions is the best job in the world. I want my brain to either sprain because things are so complicated or my thinking to shift altogether when someone comes up with an idea that I could never have imagined”, Sami explains.

When we move on to Frantic’s DNA, Sami summarizes it with two principles: playfulness and continuous development. He explains that it’s all about staying curious, learning and having a culture where off the wall ideas are more than welcome. More than anything, he stresses that the challenges he solves must make him giddy with possibilities. Anything else is a waste of time.

Currently Sami is working on designing the next version of CherryonTop Accelerator and transforming Frantic’s strategy.

“It makes me really happy when I’m able to look at things from a new perspective and build a narrative and logic around that, especially when the end result makes you think that it should’ve always worked like this”, Sami clarifies.

But even when Sami’s mind is working million miles a minute, he doesn’t believe that any good would come out of adding a few extra hours to his working day. Quite the opposite.

“If I had two more hours every day, I’d split them between playing tennis and spending time with the family. It’s important to take care of your brain and give it something else to think about. The best thinking comes from giving your unconscious mind a lot to process and then asking for ideas when the time comes”, he sums up.

Onto bigger and better things

When it comes to the future, well… it looks bright.

“We were never really founding an agency and so we don’t have to limit ourselves to that. Of course, we’re keeping a close eye on what kinds of challenges and opportunities lie ahead in the near future, but really the most important thing is openness to change and the ability to adapt”, Sami says.

“The biggest challenge for us currently is figuring out how to become global, while remaining local. That’s definitely something we need to handle in the coming years. Other than that, we need to be ambitious and unafraid of weird ideas and unconventional thinking. If we can keep learning, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

But for now, our hour is up and Sami has some important problems to solve.