Gofore was founded in 2001, after Timur Kärki convinced three friends to become entrepreneurs. The founding partners had an idea for a “payment gateway” product, which would make micro payments easier within web, mobile and digital television environments. That is where the company name came from: “Go for e-” (business and payments).
At the time, the company had almost secured its first big customer deal. A large Finnish media company needed a payment solution for its services, and Gofore’s technology seemed to fit the bill. Gofore was also in promising negotiations with venture capital investors to fund the product development phase for that first customer deal. Timur left his job as a manager at a well-known software company in Finland. He started to negotiate with this customer prospect, investors, and future employees.
But the customer suddenly canceled the project, leaving the newly founded company without any prospects. The investors stepped away, and so did the three other founders, staying at their current jobs. Timur was forced to join another company as a Chief Technology Officer and forget the idea of Gofore for a while.
Setting the values
After Timur’s first child was born in 2002, the founders sat down to decide what to do. The decision was clear — they wanted to start Gofore’s operations, and the business model would be the simplest possible. They would become a consultancy and sell their work and knowledge to other companies and organizations. They wrote down the values of the company on a piece of paper: Gofore would be the best possible workplace for them and others and thrive through their customers’ success.
Timur quit his job for the second time to set up Gofore, and the other founders followed. Gofore started operations in August 2002.
From failure to success
The first full fiscal year of 2003 was a success, and the company could recruit its first employee, who was Timur’s sister-in-law. No one but Timur’s relatives believed in the Gofore story enough to join. The second operating year, 2004, was not successful, and Gofore could not pay any salaries to the founding partners. After several failures in trying to get new customers, morale was low. Hard work finally paid off when a local industrial company agreed on a deal worth three times the net sales of the previous year. That deal started the still-continuing profitable growth of Gofore.
Today Gofore is a digitalization consultancy company, helping customers through digital change by providing tailored software and advice. The company employs around 600 people, and it has operations in five different countries in Europe. Gofore is a spectacular example of values-based leadership and purpose-driven company culture. The company has had an average 50 % annual growth rate in the past 15 years, with over 10% profitability every year.
Best place to work
From the very beginning, the founders saw that the company was there to radiate goodness around it. As decided at the outset, Gofore has provided the best possible workplace for them and others. That was recognized when Great Place to Work chose Gofore as The Best Workplace in Finland and The Second Best Workplace in Europe in 2017. It is no coincidence that Gofore succeeded in its IPO in the very same year. Long-term financial sustainability goes hand in hand with social sustainability. Gofore is a perfect example of that, reflecting the ongoing viewpoints and discussions about corporate sustainability and the purpose of companies.
Gofore has been able to grow sustainably and profitably for 15 years, creating sustainable value for its shareholders. For Gofore, profitability is only one goal, since it has always operated with a greater mission and purpose.
At the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, one of the themes was stakeholder capitalism. Though the term has become more prominent only recently, some companies have lived up to these values for a much longer time. Gofore is one of those, founded to be the best possible workplace for its employees and radiate good things around it.
The founders addressed Gofore’s values when the company was starting its operation in 2002:
1. Gofore is a great workplace for everyone.
2. Gofore thrives on customer success.
With those values in mind, Gofore has been able to grow and flourish, in a sustainable way.
From 4 people to 600 employees
Timur became CEO of Gofore in 2010. In December 2019 he gave his position to the new CEO, Mikael Nylund, and became Chairman of the Board of Directors. During his time as a CEO, the company grew from net sales of 1.3 million euros in 2009 to net sales of 64.1 million euros in 2019. The sustainable growth from a small software subcontractor to a publicly listed, 600-employee company has been a long but enjoyable ride for all the people involved.
Timur says the most crucial success factor is the shared enthusiasm between Gofore’s employees and customers. The enthusiasm grows from a shared understanding of the purpose of the company. The employees feel they are there to change the world for the better — this not just another consultancy company, but a company that makes a difference.
Gofore helping Finland to become one of the world’s most digitally competitive countries
One of the strategic moves that Gofore has made in the last 10 years has been its focus on public sector sales and projects in Finland. Gofore played an important role when the Finnish public sector changed its digital solutions development and procurement paradigm. According to Timur, Gofore and its experts have helped many Finnish public sector organizations to move into an agile way of operating and producing digital services and infrastructure. At the moment, Finland is one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to digital competitiveness, according to the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index.
Management innovation as the most important competitive asset
Timur believes Gofore’s most important innovation is how it’s managed. Gofore has developed a unique model for its operations. The company’s people-centric and data-driven culture is its strongest competitive asset. The organizational hierarchy is very flat, relying on self-direction, shared vision, close communication, and good situational awareness across the company.
There are almost no middle managers at Gofore. Instead, the company uses data analysis and artificial intelligence to monitor performance and to aid decision-making. Gofore’s own team has created the software to support this operating model.
Discussion robot Granny to advise on company culture
Gofore has a rich, open culture of communication. There are 12,000 messages a day in the internal chat system, in more than 500 different discussion channels. That is significant in a company of only 600. The management team is present in many kinds of discussions. Most importantly, so are Gofore’s discussion robots, “Granny,” “Seppo” and “Gene.” They offer a user interface for the AI-based backend system, which is providing management services for the company.
Gofore’s management model and use of AI and robots are quite often referred to at seminars and academic studies in Finland. The company is aiming to use these innovations in international business in the next few years, granting a competitive edge for it globally.
Gofore was founded to radiate goodness around it. Today it really does, with 600 employees solving various kinds of problems for their customers. Goforeans feel they are key players in crafting state-of-the-art digital solutions for the public sector in Finland and also internationally. Digitalization affects the well-being of people, providing better services with better availability. Gofore’s employees feel they are builders of democracy and a new knowledge-based society powered by information and communications technology — a better future for all of us.
Looking at Gofore’s history, in the early years radiating good meant creating the best possible workplace for the founders and a couple of employees. It also meant exceptional customer value — a new kind of consultancy company. Gofore wants to be the best possible workplace, and it thrives through the success of its customers.
From saving Finland to changing the world
At the end of 2010, the financial situation and prognosis for the Finnish economy were very bad. Gofore formed its mission statement to be, “Let’s save Finland.” Gofore saw that through digital change, Finnish organizations would enhance national competitiveness as companies and as a nation.
A couple of years later, Gofore realized its uniqueness when it comes to company culture. It had already seen its positive impact on public sector digitalization in Finland. Gofore formed a new mission statement: to change the world for the better through digitalization and through renewing ways of working. Over the years, the purpose has been written down in the values and in two different mission statements. More importantly, it has taken shape in Gofore’s company culture and the actions of the people.
Today, Gofore has a positive impact on society in many different ways. Looking into the three pillars of sustainability, Gofore has always been a socially aware company. Gofore has also been extremely sustainable economically, growing profitably for many years.
The third pillar of sustainability, environmental, has appeared in Gofore’s texts, speeches and other materials in the last couple of years. Timur says the people at Gofore have evolved Gofore to be more environmentally aware. That has happened quite naturally, given the mission to change the world for the better and unfortunate developments in climate change. Today, Gofore is not only (environmentally) aware. It also actively seeks customer projects with a positive environmental impact.