Sign In
Information about science based innovations, solid facts to support decision-making, performance and business development for VTT’s partners, customers and anyone interested in high technology and its applications.
A magazine on science, technology and business

A man driven by optimism and curiosity

Text: Leena Koskenlaakso | Photos: Vatajankosken Sähkö | 7.6.2018

​It's worth thinking big and believing that a good team can make the impossible possible, says Akseli Reho. He – if anyone – should know.

Akseli Reho 8291.jpgAkseli Reho is the man who grew Clothing+, a kidswear company that began as a spinoff of Reima, into a global market leader, before selling it for a fortune to the major US listed company, Jabil, in 2015.

Reho, who started out as a smart clothes project manager at Reima in 1998, became an entrepreneur by purchasing a controlling share in Reima with seven colleagues in 2004. The new owners soon realised that the best ideas in wearable technology were related to work and sportswear rather than kidswear. They began developing the idea of a spinoff that would sell smart textile technology to other clothing companies.

Boldly international from the beginning

When Reima's kidswear operation was sold to a foreign buyer in 2008, Reho became the CEO and co-owner of the smart clothing spinoff from Reima, Clothing+.

– We boldly set our sights on international markets from the beginning. Our turnover began to grow and we gained big international customers such as Adidas, Salomon and Victoria's Secret. We had a factory in Deqing, China. However, as demand grew, our customers began to demand the establishment of another factory. The new solvency criteria had become terrifying by 2014. To move the business onto a broader pair of shoulders, we eventually sold Clothing+ to Jabil, the world's third-largest electronics contract manufacturer. Jabil has 80 factories around the world and a billion-digit turnover, explains Reho.

Pushing the energy sector towards reform

Following the acquisition, the 39-year-old Master of Engineering decided not to live out his days as a millionaire playboy, but threw himself into new challenges after a year-long break. In the autumn of 2017, Reho began an 18-month appointment as the new business development director and management sparring partner at an energy company Vatajankosken Sähkö in Kankaanpää, Finland.

– I've always been interested in the energy business. The new CEO of Vatajankoski Sähkö believes that someone from outside the industry can provide new ideas and help the company to restructure the energy sector, says Reho.

Reho thinks that big commitments are needed so that change starts to happen.

– We want to be the smartest energy company in Finland. When we say this out loud, it inspires our staff to new insights. The energy sector is highly conservative and we want to sow disruption.

paneelit_kalle_teija.jpg 

A smart energy company respects the limits of the world’s resources and engages in circular economy thinking.

What is a smart energy company?

– Firstly, an energy company can become smart by dismantling hierarchies and doing things together. The organisation's own wisdom should be harnessed – a big part of my job description involves listening to the good ideas of employees.

A smart energy company respects the limits of the world's resources and engages in circular economy thinking. Reho feels that an energy company should act as a bond and bearer of responsibility between local actors, while seeking sources of waste for energy production. He could imagine his employer company playing a bigger role in local waste management. Vatajankoski Sähkö could participate in the management of local material and energy flows.

– You also need to be curious about finding new earnings models, technologies and marketing practices. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, you can apply established ways of pricing and packaging services. You can also learn from the inspirational success stories of others.

According to Reho, an energy-sector version of Uber could be formed based on cooperatives and co-production, for example. Housing companies could take control and participate in energy storage, with their apartment building becoming their own energy cell.

WP_20170524_12_13_27_Pro.jpg 

Vatajankosken Sähkö was awarded in 2017 the Finnish Energy’s Climate Deed of the Year award.

Recipe for success in a growth company

– The key issue is to assemble a good team, with people of varied expertise and different ways of seeing the world. A team that values diversity and teamwork is a huge resource, Reho stresses.

Achieving things must be based on respect and appreciation of others. When no one needs to fear being laughed at, people will dare to be themselves. They will then dare to present and develop crazy ideas.

– It is worth having the courage to think big and believe that we can change things together. An open-minded and optimistic attitude is the key issue. Within an organisation, people should tackle problems cheerfully in the belief that anything can be solved.

Reho believes in innovation-based business

– A Finnish business cannot be market-driven, due to the scarcity of capital. The most natural thing for us is to come up with an invention or solution to a problem. A business has the prospect of being successful as long as its business idea is based on a new insight, he says.

hlokunta2.jpg – Firstly, an energy company can become smart by dismantling hierarchies and doing things together. The organisation’s own wisdom should be harnessed – a big part of my job description involves listening to the good ideas of employees, says Akseli Reho.

Internationalisation – so yesterday's news

When Reho is asked for tips on internationalisation, he says that the idea is somewhat oldfashioned.

– Whatever its new business idea, a company should think about where, in the world, its best customers are and just go there and do business. When you go abroad you get instant references and a deep understanding of the markets.

Finnish startups have language skills nowadays – Reho states that these are no longer an obstacle to internationalisation.

– For my generation, modesty is no longer regarded as a virtue.

Learning and solving problems

Reho is inspired by learning, creating new things and the dialogue that emerges from working with small groups. For him, it is important to do meaningful things in working life.

– Solving the energy issue is the decisive problem of our age. We cannot afford to screw this up.

– It is characteristic of my generation that we want to bear responsibility and be genuinely involved in solving the big problems.

Reho is involved in many activities of this kind. In addition to his own work, he has served as a sparring partner on VTT's 'Innovative Business to Solve Exponential Problems' programme. This concerns VTT's internal financial instrument, where scientists focus on solving the major challenges facing society and making big leaps forward.

– I acted as an external mentor for three groups of researchers, each of which had its own idea for a research project. I helped them to crystallise their approaches, he says.

 

 

VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/ImpulseVTT Impulse
Smart industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-industry.aspxSmart industry
Towards carbon-neutral materialshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Towards-carbon-neutral-materials.aspxTowards carbon-neutral materials
What and how will people eat in the future?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/What-and-how-will-people-eat-in-the-future.aspxWhat and how will people eat in the future?
Technology enables good urban livinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Technology-enables-good-urban-living.aspxTechnology enables good urban living
A future without wastewater?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-future-without-wastewater.aspxA future without wastewater?
Are environmental claims believable?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Are-environmental-claims-believable.aspxAre environmental claims believable?
Matti Apunen: At the core of the solutionhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/At-the-core-of-the-solution.aspxMatti Apunen: At the core of the solution
Automation gives packages wingshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Automation-gives-packages-wings.aspxAutomation gives packages wings
Better beer based on long-term researchhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Better-beer-based-on-long-term-research.aspxBetter beer based on long-term research
Challenges conceal opportunitieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Challenges-conceal-opportunities.aspxChallenges conceal opportunities
Designers needed in printed technologyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Designers-needed-in-printed-technology.aspxDesigners needed in printed technology
How to become a leading country in flexible energy production systemshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/How-to-become-a-leading-country-in-flexible-energy-production-systems.aspxHow to become a leading country in flexible energy production systems
Intelligence for machineshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Intelligence-for-machines.aspxIntelligence for machines
Minister of Energy would like to expand emissions tradinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Minister-of-Energy-would-like-to-expand-emissions-trading.aspxMinister of Energy would like to expand emissions trading
Same old routine for the next 100 yearshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Same-old-routine-for-the-next-100-years.aspxSame old routine for the next 100 years
World in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questionshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/World-in-2030-answers-to-tomorrows-questions.aspxWorld in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questions
Controlling friction and greenhouse emissions by digitalising materialshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Controlling-friction-and-greenhouse-emissions-by-digitalising-materials.aspxControlling friction and greenhouse emissions by digitalising materials
Digital societyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Digital-society.aspxDigital society
Return on investmentshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Return-on-investments.aspxReturn on investments
Smart Citieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-Cities.aspxSmart Cities
The FinnCERES competence centre will take the materials bioeconomy to a new levelhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-FinnCERES-competence-centre-will-take-the-materials-bioeconomy-to-a-new-level.aspxThe FinnCERES competence centre will take the materials bioeconomy to a new level
Bioeconomy and circular economyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Bioeconomy-and-circular-economy.aspxBioeconomy and circular economy
Low carbon energyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Low-carbon-energy.aspxLow carbon energy
Health and wellbeinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Health-and-wellbeing.aspxHealth and wellbeing
Business developmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Business-development.aspxBusiness development
An export product tougher than nailshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/An-export-product-tougher-than-nails.aspxAn export product tougher than nails
It is the duty of entrepreneurs to seek growthhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/It-is-the-duty-of-entrepreneurs-to-seek-growth.aspxIt is the duty of entrepreneurs to seek growth
Clearing the way for new materials with ChemSheet technologyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Clearing-the-way-for-new-materials-with-ChemSheet-technology.aspxClearing the way for new materials with ChemSheet technology
Finnish fuel cell technology aims for the worldhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finnish-fuel-cell-technology-aims-for-the-world.aspxFinnish fuel cell technology aims for the world
Brought to you by Paptic: Wood fibre challenges plastic in carrier bagshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Brought-to-you-by-Paptic-Wood-fibre-challenges-plastic-in-carrier-bags.aspxBrought to you by Paptic: Wood fibre challenges plastic in carrier bags
At the digital forefront of mininghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/At-the-digital-forefront-of-mining.aspxAt the digital forefront of mining
Digitalization in RTOs: Speeding up the development of bio-based technologies with digitalizationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Digitalisation-in-RTOs-Speeding-up-the-development-of-bio-based-technologies-with-digitalization.aspxDigitalization in RTOs: Speeding up the development of bio-based technologies with digitalization
A better world based on positive energyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-better-world-based-on-positive-energy.aspxA better world based on positive energy
Finland is good investmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finland-is-good-investment.aspxFinland is good investment
Impulse 2/2015https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-2-2015.aspxImpulse 2/2015
Combinostics: Faster diagnoses with artificial intelligencehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Combinostics-Faster-diagnoses-with-artificial-intelligence.aspxCombinostics: Faster diagnoses with artificial intelligence
Senior Scientist Jukka Hemila, VTT: From technology hype to customer understandinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Senior-Scientist-Jukka-Hemila-VTT-From-technology-hype-to-customer-understanding.aspxSenior Scientist Jukka Hemila, VTT: From technology hype to customer understanding
Can a phone help you achieve peace of mind?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Can-a-phone-help-you-achieve-peace-of-mind.aspxCan a phone help you achieve peace of mind?
Impulse 1/2017https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2017.aspxImpulse 1/2017
Pilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activitieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Pilot-plants-forge-innovative-ideas-into-business-activities.aspxPilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activities
Sustainability and acceptability for mining operationshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Sustainability-and-acceptability-for-mining-operations.aspxSustainability and acceptability for mining operations
Swift and agile in business and in the foresthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Swift-and-agile-in-business-and-in-the-forest.aspxSwift and agile in business and in the forest
Using nuclear power to mitigate climate changehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Using-nuclear-power-to-mitigate-climate-change.aspxUsing nuclear power to mitigate climate change
More than siliconhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/More-than-just-Silicon.aspxMore than silicon
By measuring you can improvehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/By-measuring-you-can-improve.aspxBy measuring you can improve
Media production and housing services are preparing for the 5G networkshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Media-production-and-housing-services-are-preparing-for-the-5G-networks.aspxMedia production and housing services are preparing for the 5G networks
Optical isotope spectroscopy – More and more detailed informationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Optical-isotope-spectroscopy-more-and-more-detailed-information.aspxOptical isotope spectroscopy – More and more detailed information
Artificial intelligence reveals cardiac patients’ risk of complicationshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Artificial-intelligence-reveals-cardiac-patients-risk-of-complications.aspxArtificial intelligence reveals cardiac patients’ risk of complications
Tracking peoplehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Tracking-people.aspxTracking people