Fun fact — I’m a startup CEO and I have an art education.

The cool part of having an art education is that while it can mistakenly sound like I’m good at crafting and glitter glue, I’ve actually been professionally trained to solve problems about narrative and perception.

Now — working on our digital products — I’m discovering a lot of similarities between designing our app UX and lighting design.

User Experience design — not so different from Elec(tric)s design

LX (or stage electrics) is what’s written on my MA degree — time to put it in use again!

For years I worked on designing illumination patterns for the stage…


As a non-technical CEO it’s an obvious challenge to build a personal relationship with the development process. It would be easy (and is apparently common) to declare yourself clueless, and conveniently drift into separate silos — you build the product, I’ll take care of business stuff. Maybe we’ll meet at the weekly standup and exchange ideas.

Never forget to use glitter!

Every single agile development advice screams against this, and the usual cure is to hire more people. To place product owners and product managers between business and development, analyzing customers and translating the insights into practical input for the coders.

But what if your…


Short answer: when they are directly told to.
Long answer: a rant about crowdfunding, learning curves and family relationships.

Crowdinvesting is quickly becoming a common hobby in many countries, and lots of great work is done around the world to make investing more accessible (and hopefully more low-risk) for everyone.

While some countries still have some limitations in place about who can participate in equity investments at the alphabetical rounds of startup financing, the early rounds of friends, family and angel investors are everywhere getting more and more fragmented with different types of crowdfunding.

But it’s not an easy match…


Crashing into growth marketing: a CEO journey. Part 10 — video ad.

It’s the last week of my marketing study journey. I’ve finished all of the video courses, and am looking forward to submitting my final degree quiz next week. Over these three months I’ve I’ve learned everything I know about marketing — but it’s definitely enough to.. I’m not even sure what would be enough for anything.

I’m not a marketer, as I still have zero experience. I’m a much better CEO because I have a basic understanding about how stuff works now.

While I still have a long way to go with understanding things in practice, I’d like to talk…


Crashing into growth marketing: a CEO journey. Part 9 — SEO (and a funny thing about winning)

SEO is optimising for humans, not for Google. Even my cat knows this now.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout this course, it’s been that I’ve had a life-long misconception about winning. As this is a long blog post, we can start from my childhood story (cue nostalgic soundtrack).

I had a major issue with competitions. I was never enthusiastic about social games or motivated to race other kids. I dreaded the PE class where I was expected to run fast and compete against others. I didn’t take part in spelling bees or science fairs even when I was good at the subjects. …


Crashing into growth marketing: a CEO journey. Part 8 — Content

Is your site really the best page on the internet for your topic?

The youngest man in this image is my grandfather. The picture is taken in the end of 1930s when he was a teenager interning at a local watchmaker.

While grandpa is also generally my spirit animal, I wanted him to join me writing this content post for multiple reasons.

  1. He was the type of person excited to learn, and throughout his life he went really deep into a myriad of subjects, be it professions or hobbies. He was a pretty good photographer, beekeeper, carrot farmer, train conductor.. and a lot of other things. Oh, a watchmaker for sure.
  2. He somehow…


Crashing into growth marketing: a CEO journey. Part 7 — Awareness Funnels

Before I get to this week’s learnings (and it’s been groundbreaking!) I’d like to reflect on some of the seriously bad advice I’ve previously gotten as a startup founder. I’m actively debunking some of these suggestions with educating myself — for example with taking this CXL course! But certainly life keeps me wondering if there’s a ton of awful advice I’m still holding on to.

Here’s a few examples of advice I’ve gotten on the way. …


Crashing into growth marketing: a CEO journey. Part 6 — Conversion

Convinced prospects

Apparently those people who know how to write sales copy. The people who have some sort of a framework of evaluating whether the copy is good enough without looking into a mirror ball and making guesses based on user behaviour whenever you get a bit of website traffic.

But suddenly — that’s me now. Guess what, it took me three days to learn. This is how it went.

This is the sixth post of many to document my journey as early-stage startup CEO through the growth marketing minidegree by CXL Institute — a 12-week online program about the practicalities of…


What does it feel like?

The CXL course has been an integral part of my life for a month now. And will be for another two months. Yes, I’ve rescheduled most of my life to accommodate the amount of time that I need to spend on this.

While it doesn’t take ages to press play and watch the course videos, going through the classes does take up a fair amount of time from my daily calendar. The new concepts need time to digest — and I’ve found that this is best done just staring at my notes and out the window in the end of…


Collecting, storing and reporting data.

While Google Analytics is a decent tool for collecting and reporting data, its ultimate strength lies in data storage. So it’s OK to collect, store and report with Google Analytics, but the real pros split the tasks between many tools — collecting data with Tag Manager, and reporting through Data Studio.

This is the fourth post of many to document my journey as early-stage startup CEO through the growth marketing minidegree by CXL Institute — a 12-week online program about the practicalities of growth marketing.

Disclaimers: I’ve done intense learning sprints before. I’ve never touched marketing from a practical perspective…

Johanna-Mai Riismaa

CEO of Zelos Team Management — an app for gig work and communities.

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