Incubator Blogs — Mentor Pete Karumo: “Starting Something Has to Come From Within"

Join us as we explore Karumo's dynamic journey, learning about his insightful perspectives on responsible leadership, collaborative entrepreneurship, and the vital role of mentorship in today's evolving business landscape.


Meet Pete Karumo, the Helsinki Incubators mentor who recently joined the team fully as Programme Manager for our University of Helsinki social impact incubator TREMOR. Karumo has a robust background in venture building, commercialisation, and consulting. His extensive experience comes from various international settings, from VC-backed startups to high-growth ICT (Information and Communications Technology) multinationals. His professional journey has taken him through diverse cultural landscapes, prominently in Finland, Singapore, and France.

Having lived in various places and harbouring an interest in different cultures, Karumo considers himself a keen observer of people and identities. He explains: “I'd describe myself as incredibly curious, always eager to explore and learn new things. My insatiable curiosity, I believe, stems from my childhood, having lived in lots of different places in my first 15 years.”

A pivotal moment in Karumo’s life was the decision to break from the traditional Finnish educational system and join the Helsinki School of Economics International Track in Mikkeli. This unconventional choice opened his mind to thinking outside the box and engaging with an international community.

Ultimately, his career trajectory reflects a dedication to fostering cross-cultural interactions and leveraging his experiences to drive positive change in various professional spheres.

From Entrepreneur to Social Pioneer and Mentor

Upon reconnecting with his roots in Finland, Karumo, whose experiences had encompassed various cultures, was struck by the marked difference between the societal attitudes of entrepreneurs in Finland and those in Singapore: indeed, Karumo feels that his narrative hasn't solely been about entrepreneurial pursuits; rather, it’s been a quest to leverage his expertise and technological knowledge to drive meaningful impact.

The transition to social entrepreneurship emerged from engaging with like-minded individuals, as he notes: “Reflecting on my skill set and experiences, I connected with someone with a similar background, and our joint history of pioneering Wi-Fi globally became a driving force.” Despite a fulfilling career in a multinational corporation, he felt a desire for a more comprehensive understanding, beyond what larger organisations could offer. Shifting to launch his venture provided a distinct learning curve, focusing intensely on effective resource management.

These different experiences and his strong commitment to making the future better are at the core of his journey as a social entrepreneur. Karumo clarifies that the core motivation behind setting up a company should be a continuous driving force. "The initial thought about the reason behind setting up a company should drive you. You have to find the passion within; otherwise, there's no point,"

When asking about his commitment to mentorship, Karumo emphasises the pursuit of meaningful work. "I've always sought meaningfulness in life. I've been a social entrepreneur for quite some time, even before I knew the term existed." His journey from social impact to impact investing led him to programmes focusing on female entrepreneurship, social impact, and aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"Could you tell us more about your involvement in our community and its impact on the startup scene in Finland and the Nordic region?" The mentor responds: "I believe being a part of the Helsinki Incubators is essential due to the visibility it offers. These incubator programmes are providing the much-needed exposure that our academic institutions, like the University of Helsinki, have been lacking. They're instrumental in revamping the entire ecosystem and unlocking untapped potential and knowledge. The participants at Helsinki Incubators are truly the pioneers in showcasing the innovative spirit within academic institutions."

"You Will Put Yourself Out There, and People Will Say, 'Why Are You Doing This?’”

When exploring the essence of entrepreneurship, Karumo draws from personal experiences, emphasising the dynamic and evolving definition of this business pursuit.

"To myself, entrepreneurship is very simple: it's fixing a problem. You look at problems, think something doesn't work, and you want to fix it. If you don't find a solution, you take the initiative to solve it yourself," Karumo expresses. "You should ask my definition for entrepreneurship every year; it changes. It ties into the culture, and since I'm back here in Finland now, it's a different thing depending on different people and cultures."

The Helsinki Incubators mentor highlights the multi-faceted nature of entrepreneurship. "Some cultures are a bit more money-driven, whereas in others, it is more passion-driven. In some, entrepreneurship is a way of life, where success isn't solely defined by financial gains," Karumo says. "If you're an entrepreneur, you don't eat if you don't sell. It's not merely about having a stable salary; it's about building and selling," he remarks.

It’s no secret that choosing an entrepreneurial path comes with doubts and questions, as well as challenging times. "You will put yourself out there, and people will say, 'Why are you doing this?’” the mentor says. "You have to persevere, you have to have 'sisu'. It's tough because you might not get paid for who knows how long.”

Empowering Collaborative Leadership and Social Accountability

Shifting the focus to the market dynamics and the significance of purpose-driven initiatives, Karumo emphasises the critical role of personal motivations and heart-driven initiatives in such endeavours. "Starting something has to come from within. You see a change you want to make, and then you start studying a little bit," he adds.

"Even if you start alone, you need a cofounder quickly. It's imperative," the entrepreneur remarks, underscoring the pivotal role of collaboration. "Shared resources are vital, and having a cofounder to mirror your thoughts and decisions is crucial. It's the biggest mistake an entrepreneur can make, tackling everything alone."

The discussion then transitions to addressing social challenges, with a focus on environmental issues. "The problems we face, like climate change, need fixing. We may not solve it entirely, but finding solutions is crucial. Tackling these issues is about responsibility," he reflects.

On the concept of conscious management, Karumo highlights its universality. "Responsible leadership doesn't change, whether you're leading a team in a semiconductor company, steering a social enterprise, or a tech SaaS scale-up. It's about treating others as you would like to be treated. Engaging and incentivising employees is especially important in smaller companies, especially startups."

Speaking about the finances, the social entrepreneur explains, "Incentives matter. Not everyone joins startups for the same perks as established companies. Providing some form of financial participation, such as an option plan, can be crucial in small companies where salaries and benefits might not be as competitive."

Wrapping up the conversation, Karumo summarises, "Balancing the humanistic and financial sides is key in any venture, big or small. These two components form the foundation, ensuring not just financial stability but also fostering an environment of responsible and ethical leadership."

Get to know another mentor, Mia Uitto, here! 

The University of Helsinki's entrepreneurship programmes, the Helsinki Incubators provides support and opportunities for bold thinkers in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area interested to take their ideas and turning them into impactful ventures. Interested in taking part in our pre-incubators and incubators? Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on when the next calls open.