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Airbnb or Netflix for the sports industry?

Tomi Terentjeff is building his company to be a challenger in the sports and wellbeing sector.

Tomi Terentjeff came to Silicon Valley and decided to stay. He is looking for contacts, markets and investments for his Sportconnect service, which connects customers with sports and training talent.

The idea came from his own pain and background.

“I’ve been involved in all kinds of sports since I was a kid, but there was only a limited amount of sports knowledge in my small home town. About 18 months ago I started thinking that knowledge in this field could be shared more efficiently.”

Tomi Terentjeff, 35

Profession: Founder and CEO of Sportconnect.

What do you do in Silicon Valley? When Finland closed for the summer, I decided to come here to check out the local market and make some contacts. The most important companies in the sports and wellbeing sector are located here, and so are potential paying customers. The aim is to turn Sportconnect into a Netflix of sports and wellbeing within the next five years.

What do you expect to achieve here? Three things: 1) key contacts so that I can get 2) customers and 3) funding.

Your most memorable experience in Silicon Valley? I took part in a two-week BlackBox training session for new companies in Palo Alto at the end of August. Fourteen entrepreneurs attended from all over the world. Even though we all came from different cultures, we were very similar. Cultural differences disappeared quickly as we shared our passions and interests: entrepreneurship and the development of our companies.

Tomi Terentjeff is busy meeting people in Silicon Valley. Fortunately he has time for a late breakfast during the interview.

According to Terentjeff, the situation in the sports and welfare sector is interesting due to the on-going battle for the title of ‘unicorn’, a billion-dollar startup that would revolutionise the business.

One of the success stories in the sector is the Fitbit wristband, and Terentjeff thinks that another candidate for a unicorn could be the rapidly-growing ClassPass, a gym membership that allows you to go to almost any gym and class in town.

“Wearable technology and the Quantified Self are big trends at the moment. I think that monitoring oneself will continue to become more widespread, especially when the technology is better integrated in everyday life and special wristbands are no longer required. You could say that the telephone is now a wearable.”

In Finland you do it yourself, in America you pay someone else

Some things that may seem odd or funny in Finland are normal in the Unites States. Terentjeff mentions on-demand services as an example; their supply and demand are still growing in Silicon Valley.

“You can order almost anything to your door at any time. In Finland, people are used to doing things themselves, whereas here, people are ready to pay for services. Back home I used to laugh at the app that gets someone to take your car to the car wash.”

The car wash app demonstrates how a company needs to be flexible and capable of adapting to the market. What works in Finland does not necessarily work anywhere else. For example, the Finnish company Kiosked changed its strategy from an online store to online advertising and managed to accelerate its growth.

“This also works the other way round: ideas that work here do not necessary succeed in Finland. Uber, for example, has not been able to enter the Finnish market due to the strict regulations in force.”

Silicon Valley is a melting pot

Terentjeff arrived in Silicon Valley at the beginning of the summer when the holiday season started in Finland. People do not take much holiday in Silicon Valley so it is business as usual almost all the time.

After arriving in California, Terentjeff started using Twitter.

“It has helped me to find fitness influencers and information that is not available anywhere else.”

LinkedIn can also be useful,” says Terentjeff.

“I use it to find out who could introduce me to the person I need to meet. Silicon Valley works on introductions – you can’t get anywhere without being introduced to people. You need to look after your connections. A large number of connections on LinkedIn does not help. It is easy to forget names and people as everyone meets a lot of new people all the time. Everything is based on trust.”

Terentjeff has participated in as many events as possible in Silicon Valley. Networking is everything.

“I meet new people every day who’ve moved here a week or a month ago. The scale of migration is enormous.”

Terentjeff’s return flight to Finland was yesterday but he has not bought a new ticket yet. “You have to live in the moment here. As soon as you leave, you’re forgotten. People tend to focus on the short term; you make appointments to meet people next week, not in a few weeks’ time.”

A two-week visit to Silicon Valley is not very useful: “It takes a couple of weeks for things to start happening.”