Mihkel Oja knows a thing or two about growth, leadership, and passion. His resumé can attest to that. He started working at one of Estonia’s top companies in 2002 and had since moved up the rungs of the corporate ladder. In 2019, after more than 17 years of service, he stepped down as CEO of LHV Varahaldus.
Now, Mihkel is taking on a role he is very familiar and knowledgeable with. He is the current CEO of so.fa.dog, where he juggles his time between growing the company and being a content creator himself.
In this conversation with Mihkel, he shares his plans for so.fa.dog and tells us why investors as well as content creators should check the company’s services. Mihkel also shares his newfound love for vlogging and how passion — like his — can change the way we view work.
Mihkel Oja, as the CEO of the company, what is your long-term vision for so.fa.dog?
As a software development company, we aim to try to solve some problems 10x better. Only then can we offer value, and also be valued by others. At the moment, we’re trying to fix how video content creators are getting paid. The content creator market is ruled by gigantic social media platforms — ones that put their own interest first.
Since we’re talking about vision and goals, what are your targets for this year? Are expansion plans outside Estonia or Europe already on the horizon?
Our platform’s stability and performance is nice. But there are many features to be added to automate processes, especially when it comes to payments. That’s the tech team’s focus in 2022. We also focus on growth in some markets. The first large market that so.fa.dog is targeting is Brazil. There are many reasons why we chose Brazil as our target market, but the main one is that local creators seem to be ready for our offering.
What made you decide to put up a startup that offers a platform for passion economy creators? How has your previous job at LHV Asset Management helped you in this decision?
We started as a software company building mobile apps that deliver video content. That side has not changed. But we did rethink how and who is using the platform. Initially, we published news-related content, but now the platform is open to all kinds of decent content. During the first part of my career, I spent 17 years in one company. The company looked like a startup in the beginning, but changed a lot over the years. So I was lucky to experience that change over many years. I believe that so.fa.dog also needs to be in constant change, keep its eyes open and react fast.
Do you consider this move as a career shift?
I wanted to work on new problems. Some rotation in life is needed. You have to step aside to see things from a different angle. Sometimes, you need to step back to also move forward. I’m happy that my previous employer is doing very well.
In your view, what sets so.fa.dog apart from existing passion economy platforms?
A cornerstone of so.fa.dog is our focus on video content. Video is very data-heavy, and delivering video in a frictionless way is a complicated technical task. Maybe people don’t realize that, because we all watch Youtube and TikTok, which work so well. But if you think about it, then these are platforms with huge resources. so.fa.dog, a startup, can also provide comparable performance.
Now, for startups like so.fa.dog to thrive and stay afloat, it’s no secret that there needs to be an ample amount of funding. How can you get investors to put in their money on so.fa.dog? What’s your pitch to them?
I think so.fa.dog is a “make it or break it” type of startup. Patreon, the market leader in helping creators get paid, is valued at $4 billion or more. But Patreon doesn’t have its own video delivery. So, so.fa.dog has strong cards, but we have to play them right. They say that ideas are worth very little and it’s the implementation that matters. If we implement our plans well, then so.fa.dog is, by all standards, an attractive business for VCs and the like.
You yourself are maintaining a channel on so.fa.dog. How’s the experience of being a content creator yourself? And how do you juggle it with your responsibilities as the CEO of so.fa.dog?
I believe using your own products is part of the CEO’s responsibility. Would you want to dine in a restaurant where the staff doesn’t eat what they cook? But I also wanted to create real content, that’s why I chose travel vlog as my channel’s topic. I plan to catch up with traveling after the pandemic lockdowns. And it happened that my channel was kicked off with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica.
Now onto the more personal side of things. Recently, you braved the harsh cold of Antarctica for a marathon, and you’ve chronicled those adventures on your channel. What keeps you running? Has it always been your passion?
I have not been running since then. LOL. I love physical activity and sports, but I’m not a pro. Last week I went skiing in the French Alps. Now I will do cross-country skiing in Estonia until the snow melts and roads become runnable again. Visiting Antarctica is an experience and running was just a part of that.
How about vlogging? Is it a newfound passion? What joys or satisfaction do you get from vlogging?
I have about 40,000 pictures and videos from previous years, mostly from traveling, but it’s new to me to edit the footage and create content that’s presentable to others as well. It’s an extra task that needs planning and time, but after uploading the finished piece, you do feel satisfaction each and every time. And now it also motivates me to travel more.
What are your other passions and how did you figure them out? What keeps you motivated to pursue these passions?
I’ve been jumping from one thing to another. Two years ago I did paramotor and paragliding. Before that, I went winter swimming and mountaineering. At the moment, I’m building an aquarium for my child. From the business side, my second passion is carbon credits and initiatives that help reduce the carbon footprint and reach “net zero” globally.
We’ve written extensively about how industry leaders believe passion is a game-changer in the way we do and view work. We believe that you subscribe to this school of thought, right? Why is this so? What’s your take on tha matter?
It’s a privilege to work on engaging and challenging problems — and with a mission that you feel passionate about. I value this kind of fulfilment in life, and also believe that passion is the needed extra driving force enabling you to build new and big things. You might have to give up on short-term gains if you want to work on the things you’re passionate about, but in the long-term, life fulfilment is more important than buying more and more things.
What’s your advice to budding content creators? Why should they sign up for so.fa.dog?
Find and live off your passion. Don’t promote brands that you don’t care about — the world has enough fake content. Fans want the real you. And so.fa.dog helps you have an honest relationship with your fans.
If you haven’t yet, download the so.fa.dog app and check out our awesome community of content creators and fans. Follow us on our social media channels, and stay tuned for our next posts right here on the so.fa.dog blog.