Supponor founder whose vision became a reality
The man who founded Supponor, Erkki Rantalainen, is to retire from the company after 13 years.
Rantalainen was inspired to produce virtual advertising for sports while watching the Millennium celebrations in New York’s Times Square.
He saw adverts projected onto a blue wall and reasoned that it must therefore be possible to project virtual advertising onto any background.
Rantalainen came up with the prototype for DBRLive – called the Virtual Advertising System – in late 2000. He founded the company, then called VAS, in Mikkeli, East Finland, where he was a physics teacher.
He was the technical brains behind the venture and his co-founder, Vesa Viipuri, handled the commercial side.
At first, they relied on funding from friends and contacts, and money was often scarce. When they had to make the difficult decision to spend, they justified it to themselves with the mantra: "This is a money-making company, not a money-saving company".
Rantalainen, who leaves Supponor as Chief Scientist, has entertained colleagues with many "war stories" from the early days. But his clear vision of what was possible, coupled with a technical understanding way ahead of his time, drove him and inspired those around him.
By 2003, for example, he was foreseeing Remote Adder remote access tool, even though it wasn’t implemented until 2010.
Supponor’s success is due in no small part to Rantalainen’s cultivation of a working environment which encouraged open discussion and the courage to do things differently.
Vesa Suontama, Supponor’s Chief Technical Officer, who has worked with Rantalainen since joining the company in 2008, said: “I’ve always admired Erkki’s optimism, and the way he sees the bright side of things and doesn’t look back. He also genuinely values people in a way that creates trust.”
He added: “The last event I worked with Erkki on was a basketball event in Barcelona in early 2010. Only Erkki and I were there from Supponor, and we had to work extremely long days setting up heavy billboards and lifting camera equipment to high scaffolding.
“Then disaster threatened when we realised we were missing a power adapter. We had no choice but to improvise a new one – and luckily Erkki always travelled with a welding iron!”
What is all the more remarkable about this founder of a cutting edge technology company is that he is the son of a farmer, born in a house without electricity or running water.
Rantalainen will be no less active during his retirement. He is active in politics (a member of Mikkeli City Council), enjoys outdoor sports like cross country skiing, orienteering and hunting – and doesn’t rule out future inventions.
He said: “I think the time is right to retire. I feel I have given my input and there are very good people in place to continue the work I began.
“I leave the active work life feeling thankful, especially towards the people and organisations who have helped us over the years as our vision became a reality.”