Ira Wichmann joins Coventures

We are excited to let you know that Ira Wichmann has joined Coventures as an Entrepreneur in Residence. Ira has versatile experience in product design and development, eCommerce, strategy, marketing, and customer experience. She has built and led teams of professionals, designed strategies, and built products in both the UK and Finland.

Tell us how you ended up here.

I met Marko over lunch to discuss Coventures and their product management offering and I thought that this entrepreneurial approach to growing businesses is exactly what many companies in Finland need. The know-how around the product manager role is pretty thin and very focused on engineering. Hiring senior PMs is complicated, and many junior PMs end up trodding along with no proper coaching or PM seniority in their companies.

What sort of experiences have you had? Where does your background lie?

I studied economics and mathematics at the faculty of social sciences, so my educational background is pretty theoretical. I've never worked as an economist, but I went into tech early on, starting at Nokia and moving to Stockholm and London after graduating. In London, I worked with digital strategy and UX on the agency side before moving to startups and product management, and that's where I stayed. 

I've been in senior positions, building the teams and product management processes in companies in different growth stages: from 4 to 80, from 30 to 150, from 0 to 10, from near-bankruptcy to an acquisition, and a complete restructuring on the other side. 

I've hired a lot, unfortunately also fired a lot, and learned a lot about how to build and manage good teams and ensure you have to do as little of the firing as possible. 

I've also coached many junior PM people, consulted various early-stage startups on product management, and am a visiting lecturer at Aalto university lecturing about product management. I've also recently started studying agricultural sciences at the University of Helsinki - I am interested in sustainable food production and business models that could support the reform of our food system.

What are some of the most impactful ventures in your career?

I learned the most at my first startup, Swoon Editions, where we grew aggressively with some pretty impatient VC money. I learned a lot about how to race against time and execute fast, scale as quickly as possible, and focus on what moves the needle. 

On the other hand, I also learned how I don't want to work going forward, what kind of VC money I never want to raise, and how important it is to remember that it's not a sprint; it's a marathon.

As an entrepreneur, how do you help clients grow meaningful businesses?

I'm at my best with companies who want to either build a product organization from scratch or change and improve their existing product management processes and create data-driven product culture. 

I'm at my best with companies who want to either build a product organization from scratch or change and improve their existing product management processes and create data-driven product culture. 

My approach focuses on ensuring the team creates actual end-user value, measuring and validating their work, and having fun while doing it. As a leader, I focus on creating psychological safety and ensuring everyone can bring their best contribution to the table while focusing on efficient execution.

My toolkit is based on the principles of modern product management:

  • A strong focus on customer discovery and primary user research.
  • Putting in place processes for the prioritization and validation of development ideas.
  • Ensuring consistent and purposeful communication and setting up the tools and processes to communicate product vision and strategy.
  • Creating internal buy-in and alignment.

Why Coventures?

I dislike flying solo, and I don't believe it's a very efficient way of doing things! Being part of Coventures means I have a bunch of brilliant minds around me to learn from and collaborate with, which I really enjoy.