Featured interview with Attractive.ai COO - Marc Salas Martínez (from Korean tech journal Link Asia)

Attractive.ai is going global! Following with the excitement of our recent Japanese partnerships, we've also grown excitement in the Korean tech community as well.

Korean tech journal Link Asia has had a chance to feature our very own Marc Salas Martínez, founder and COO at Attractive.ai. The interview gives an exciting glimpse into the company culture both in Finland, as well as here at Attractive.ai.

Original article is found here, for those interested in the Korean version: https://m.blog.naver.com/link-asia/222061724542 (Digital Marketing and Digital Nomad column, written by Hyunseok Choi)

The study, published in 3 parts, contains reflections on the Finnish startup ecosystem, culture and the experience Entrepreneurship community members had on the ecosystem. We also look at entrepreneurs' mental health and lifestyle, including our founder’s views on the chosen topic.

For those of you who are still learning your Korean, no worries! We've got you sorted, with the full interview available in English here:

1. Finnish startup ecosystem is known for collaborative atmosphere, openness, and transparency. What are the strengths and challenges of the ecosystem?

Finland’s startup ecosystem has many strengths, and I think most of them stem from the very roots of Finnish and Nordic values and culture. 

Collaborative mindset as a driving force for growth

As pointed out in the previous post, I agree that the collaborative mindset is a great asset in Finland. We have a multifaceted and very rich startup ecosystem. The government via Business Finland and other initiatives provides great help to become an entrepreneur with salary, grants, loans and access to international markets. Universities (also the universities of applied sciences) and even schools, have been, for many years. tailoring and perfecting their education programs to foster and provide top-notch entrepreneurship programs. There is also a very thriving, strong and proactive startup and entrepreneurship community. We have Entrepreneurship Societies in almost every city, that organize first-class events such as Slush or Polar Bear Pitching, and provide a more practical approach to entrepreneurship with renowned accelerator and incubator programs that have projected many startups to great success. VCs and angel investors have also been a strong pillar of support to the growing entrepreneurship movement. And even companies have been working very hard to keep innovating and have found that collaboration with startups is in their best interest. 

All this would not be possible without a collaborative mindset. It is like there is an unspoken vision that we all share to make progress as a society to a better future and we jointly work towards that goal. This mentality is what inspires brilliant and dedicated professionals to mentor and coach the first-time founders. It is what makes seasoned and successful serial entrepreneurs give their time to help new entrepreneurs on a pro-bono basis. And the same can be said for companies that help startups grow becoming their clients and being available and reachable for the initial and crucial steps of the startup journey. 

There is a lot of keen and genuine interest to help others, and this generosity is what makes Finland's startup ecosystem great. 

Diversity as one of Finland’s core values

In Finland diversity is very valued, we understand that talent is needed and that it can come in many forms, the most diverse culture one can build, more perspectives one is able to gain and more opportunities for growth, both professionally and on a personal level. That is why we can find more and more initiatives that promote the value of diversity, inclusion and equity in the startup scene. One example is XES Helsinki community I am involved in, where we try to remove any barriers to introduce anyone to entrepreneurship and make it accessible to everyone. Contrary to what one could think, this community is also filled with very successful entrepreneurs who are ready to help, coach and contribute to the community, making it a safe place for everyone to practice their entrepreneurship skills regardless of background, nationality, skills level, disabilities, race or gender.

Well-being strategy for a long and healthy business life

Finland has a very strong supportive culture and infrastructure for well-being, which leads to healthier teams and stronger companies, including startups. And, if you didn’t know already, Finland has been for the 3rd year in a row, the happiest country in the world. All this should make it obvious that Finland is on the right path to become a very attractive place to live in. For startups, it is even better, because you will be encouraged to lead a healthier lifestyle. 


Finland is not short on challenges either in the startup ecosystem, however, we have been very proactive in addressing them, so, the situation is improving very quickly. In any case, let’s be aware of them.

For a long time Finland suffered from long bureaucratic processes and entrepreneurs had to deal with taxation and regulation difficulties. These barriers are being slowly removed and better conditions are in the way for entrepreneurs. For example, last year incorporating a company in Finland was made free of charge, and during the Covid-19, the government (via Business Finland) has been fairly quick to react and support business and entrepreneurs.

Another challenge Finland has is a lower access to capital (lack of truly big VC funds) compared to other startup hotspots. And this is quite a paradoxical situation we have here. On one hand, Finland has a proven track record to have built some of the most well-known tech innovations (GSM, SMS, IRC, Linux, MySQL) and successful companies like Supercell, Rovio, Nokia, F-Secure and (soon) Attractive.ai. And, on the other hand, remember that Finland is the land of reindeer. So, instead of startup unicorns, we have startup reindeers (startups exceeding 10M€ in revenue), which means even greater opportunities for investors.

Finally, as Finland is a relatively small country, our talent pool is a bit limited. Having said that, since 2017, we have seen a rapid growth in talent thanks to initiatives such as Talent Boost programme launched by the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment to make Finland more attractive to international talents and to channel the expertise of international talents already in Finland to support growth, internationalization and innovation in Finnish companies. 


2.Mental health for entrepreneurs has been discussed widely and even more these days due to Covid-19. How do you take care of your mental health?

Personally, I have been very fortunate that my lifestyle hasn’t changed much due to Covid-19. At Attractive.ai we made a conscious choice to work remotely and remain confined at our homes, but that wasn’t a problem since it is in our company culture to be flexible about our work locations. In terms of mental health, exercising is a big part of my lifestyle. I used to practise Choy Lee Fut (kung fu) and go to the gym, and I had to stop doing that. However, we set up a martial artists remote group where I got to train and learn completely new styles such as aikido and aiki weapons, karate, wing chun, brazilian jiu-jitsu, jo staff and qi gong from great masters (even a national champion) who altruistically made our confinement fun and healthier. I also made a conscious choice not to follow the news while keeping informed from reliable sources. The reason for that was that I wanted to avoid unnecessary anxiousness and alarmism that we often get from news and media. I always believed in proactively taking care of my mental health, so I continue to have regular bi-weekly sessions with a trusted psychologist where we discuss work or life matters. And, finally, I have been very interested in the topic of biohacking, that is, optimizing one’s performance, health and well-being by using science, tech and a deep understanding of human physiology and nutrition. So, I adapted my eating habits to incorporate fortifying nutrients for the immune system.


3.As an entrepreneur, how would you describe your lifestyle (Including work-life balance)?

I think I lead quite a healthy lifestyle. I take great pride in our company values. At Attractive.ai, we believe in flexibility with responsibility, so, having the freedom to make our own decisions about when, where, what and how to work, as long as this is always tied with responsible and beneficial results for the team, company and shareholders. This high level of team trust allows me to organize my days as I please and helps me spend more time with my fiancée, who works at the health sector and has more rigid and demanding schedules. In practice, this means that sometimes I can decide to start my day at 5-6am or at 10am (or even later). Also, this lets me fulfill my other commitments such as coaching in the startup community. When it comes to the number of hours per day, that also varies quite a lot. Sometimes, if I am in the zone with the right flow, and I don’t get tired, I can work more than 12 hours (with breaks in between). And when I just don’t have the right mindset to concentrate, I try to keep that day short and re-energize for the next day.

During my free time, I enjoy having conversations with my loved ones (fiancée, family, friends and pet: a lovely ragdoll kitten named Sakura), exercising or walking in the nature, playing piano, regular saunas (at least once a week), learning new skills, reading manga and manhwa or watching some great K-dramas like Memories of the Alhambra, A Korean odyssey, The K2 or Vagabond. Such magnificent acting! 

4.What kind of mentality do you have? And what would be essential components of mentality as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, I am a person who is never satisfied with the current status quo. So, I always aim to optimize or improve our society’s lifestyle and well-being. These are the qualities I would like to think I live by myself and that I believe that entrepreneurs should have: 

Learning attitude: Failure or success is not relevant, what is important is continuous validated learning, and being fast at acquiring new knowledge. 

Ambitious, persistent and resilient: One needs to believe in oneself, and have strong determination to succeed and achieve his/her goals, no matter how difficult or impossible that might look like. 

Humble, trusting and thankful: This is a team effort, you will receive a lot of help from investors, customers, employees and even random collaborators, so, be very grateful for all of that. Leave your ego aside and trust and rely on your team. 

Diversity minded: We are here to bring a positive impact to society. And this society is composed of the most beautiful variation of personalities. Being open and inclusive, investing in people’s value and potential and being respectful towards others will bring you very far and make you an even better person as you grow your entrepreneurial self. 

5.How Finnish culture and system affect your lifestyle, mentality and mental health?

I lived in Finland for almost 15 years, and coming from another culture (Catalonia), I think I picked very early on the marvels of Finnish culture. To begin with, there is a great respect for work-life balance, which means that you can safely work your 8h/day and at the end of your working day switch off completely to your family, hobbies and personal life without anyone judging you for that. That puts no pressure on your life, as no one expects you to do overtime and, if that is needed, you will be asked very politely for permission to do more hours (and always compensated). 

Nature and the environment also has an important role in my lifestyle and well-being. Our Attractive.ai office is based on a beautiful old Mental Hospital (Lapinlahti sairaala - Lapinlahden Lähde), surrounded by artists, and nature. This makes my working time much more enjoyable too. Finland’s forests, lakes, and clean air keep you rooted to nature, and encourage you to live a simpler and healthier life. 

Since I arrived in Finland, I loved sauna, and that is something I incorporated in my lifestyle too. Sauna is so relaxing, and it is a natural way to relieve any possible stress you build up during the days. 

When it comes to mentality, I learned a lot from living amongst Finnish people. I truly appreciate the deep respect for everyone's private life, and I believe Finns are very passionate in everything they do. That’s why, we have such a healthy and collaborative startup community, because people show genuine interest and think of smart solutions to solve the most difficult and bizarre problems, always giving a helping hand. 

And, as a person with visual and hearing impairment, I also enjoy great social benefits from the health system. So, all in all, I believe Finland is a great place to live in, where the society is built to lower any barriers to a happy business and personal life.



Thanks to Marc for his insights, it's always great to hear the thoughts of an entrepreneur with a lot of experience under their belt, and I personally found it quite interesting. (I'm not biased, I promise!) 

Stay tuned to our blog, as we have many more awesome UX-related posts coming out. 

Thanks for tuning in to the interview, and stay Attractive!


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