Risto Kuulasmaa is an entrepreneur and executive coach with a background in events, media and tv production.
He has also just launched 3 travel startups in the midst of a global pandemic.
In this conversation he shares stories from his career journey, beginning with adventures managing the Dudesons, through to developing and pitching Docventures to YLE, forming international YouTube community event Tubecon, to his current work today as an executive coach and startup entrepreneur.
You can hear the full conversation here or read a selected excerpt below.
➤ I would love for you to take me back to the beginning because I know you’ve had a super varied and exciting career. You didn’t start off as an entrepreneur, you started your career in media and production.
I think I’ve been through the classic creative path where I studied and had a clear goal to become a producer.
I always enjoyed being behind the scenes, working with talents, creating experiences, and that’s always been the natural place for me. I always enjoyed letting the stars shine and building the opportunities and productions around stars and great ideas in general.
So yeah, I studied, I graduated, I started to work at events, at first mainly in Helsinki and then I started to work also in TV. And during those early 2000s I was introduced to the Dudesons – Duudsonit.
➤ Can you first describe to me, what is ‘Duudsonit?’
Yeah, the Dudesons are a bunch of childhood friends who started to film their reckless stunts and their very original humor and it became a hit on a small cable channel and then it grew into a media empire.
➤ So from cable tv, it became a national tv show and then a movie and many other following series.
Yeah [it became] a full-blown multi-platform brand with merchandising and whatnot. They’ve been really monetizing the brand so well in very un-Finnish entrepreneurial thinking actually.
➤ Yes, very! Ok, can you briefly describe your role with the Dudesons?
I started as a tour manager and then I was the jack of all trades. I was the first outsider. I had studied production, so I brought in a bit of a new approach and more of a professional approach. We were young and of course it was a constant learning by doing exercise.
Yeah, so I worked as a tour manager, then producer and then executive producer and a brand developer. It was really a great house to do whatever you wanted and really exercise the jack of all trades style.
➤ Do you remember the first meeting with Jarno?
Yeah yeah with Jarno it was cool. We immediately hit off and there was a mutual understanding from the get-go. And then the actual meeting with the boys was super funny.
We were in Kallio and there was a little bar where they arrived with their style, in their old car. And all of them were suffering some kind of an injury. They were like a gallery of injuries – one had a hand in cast, I think Jukka had his leg in a cast. And yeah, their style.
➤ Did you ever think about, why do you think young men were attracted to that kind of entertainment like, you know injuring each other? I know in 1999 Fight Club came out and that was a huge thing. Why do you think people were so drawn to it? Like, what was the attraction?
Yeah, it’s a very good question and I think getting hurt was not the like the main thing obviously…
➤ That’s not the goal!
Yeah! So you know, they were just doing their stunts on their own terms and those stunts were getting bigger and bigger all the time and of course the risks got bigger and then things happen. But what was actually really interesting throughout me working seven years with the Dudesons, when I was in charge of the filming there were absolutely no injuries. That’s still unexplained because there were you know high risks all the time.
Only I got injured once. We were filming in Lapland and they did a prank to me where they attacked me with these um… fire rockets and I fell down from a patio of a cottage and I hit my back quite badly. There was like a fracture in my backbone and that was the moment where we we made a deal that this was the last prank they do for me and so that was a close call. But you know, you are young, you are just living the dream, you know.
➤ That’s kind of your initiation. Now you’re part of the gang!
[Laughs] Yeah. So that was the only moment I had kind of a close call with them. There were some accidents of course like, we did one TV series where we negotiated an abandoned house from the city hall of Seinäjoki. We were the good boys and negotiated it without payment so that we can use it as a location to shoot the whole summer.
And I think it took like a few days and – uh I was not on the set – I got a call from the boys, ‘Yeah the house is now burning.’ So the whole big farmhouse went in flames and burned. The fire brigade came and we got really bad press and the city hall was dragged into the case and but somehow somehow we managed it.
But the stakes were always like this. What’s gonna happen? Who’s gonna get hurt? What’s gonna break down? So you enjoy it at least for a few years.
Hear the full conversation on the podcast: