Neil Patel

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When it comes to building a billion-dollar company, doing it once might be considered luck, but doing it twice is a testament to skill and perseverance. Sami Inkinen, the entrepreneur behind two successful ventures, shares his journey from humble beginnings on a Finnish farm to founding companies like Trulia and Virta Health.

Sami’s story is about resilience, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of solving meaningful problems. He talks about being an immigrant in the US and an outsider and then, becoming an insider and building a unicorn.

Sami also reveals his journey of shifting from one segment to another: from real estate to healthcare.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

From Potatoes to Computers: A Finnish Farm Boy’s Quantum Leap

Sami Inkinen’s early life in Finland was far removed from the tech world. Born and raised on a farm near the Russian border, his parents hadn’t even attended high school. Growing up surrounded by chickens and pigs, Sami learned the value of hard work early on.

However, his interest in technology was sparked by magazines showcasing computers, leading his father to buy him a Commodore 64 sometime in the mid-80s. This early exposure to computers opened a new world for Sami, shifting his focus from farm chores to software and technology.

Even before he turned 10, Sami was reading about modems (U.S.obotics 2400bps was his first purchase) and pre-internet bulletin board systems or BBS’es.

He ended up starting, building, and running one of the first BBSes in Finland from his bedroom in his parents’ house, using the family phone line for people to dial into before investing in a 24-hour dedicated line.

These experiences opened Sami’s eyes to the immense potential out there beyond his life on the farm. He financed his way through college, working as a software developer and IT support person. While doing his Master’s in Physics, he got the opportunity to join eQ Online.

The Birth of a Tech Entrepreneur

Sami’s journey into entrepreneurship began in Finland, where he joined a startup equivalent to E*Trade, known as eQ Online. As one of the first employees, Sami witnessed the company’s rapid growth from zero to an IPO in less than 18 months.

This experience of building something from scratch that millions of people used was exhilarating and planted the seed for his future endeavors.

Despite his initial training in physics and software development, Sami’s foray into the startup world taught him invaluable lessons about teamwork, inspiration, and the power of creating something meaningful. [my_form_shortform]

A Million-Euro MBA

After a stint at Nokia, Sami co-founded his first company, Matchem, a software business, for which he raised €1M or $1.08M of venture funding, which was eventually acquired by a German company.

Sami describes this venture as his “million-Euro MBA” due to the numerous lessons learned through mistakes.

This experience solidified Sami’s passion for startups and the excitement of building something from the ground up, reinforcing his desire to avoid large, stable companies.

Learning the Ropes at McKinsey

Sami’s journey detoured through McKinsey, a global management consulting firm. This move might seem odd for someone with entrepreneurial aspirations, but for Sami, it was a strategic step towards gaining entry into Silicon Valley.

McKinsey taught him the importance of balancing analysis and execution, a crucial skill for any entrepreneur. This period helped him calibrate his approach between slow strategic thinking and fast-based execution, preparing him for his next big venture.

The Stanford Reset and Birth of Trulia

Stanford University served as a reset button for Sami, reigniting his entrepreneurial spirit. Here, he met Pete Flint, his co-founder, and together they founded Trulia, a real estate marketplace.

Despite having no prior experience in the U.S. residential real estate market, Sami and Pete, both students and immigrants, saw an opportunity to revolutionize the industry.

Drawing inspiration from other vertical-specific online search and marketplace companies like Expedia and, Sami and Peter envisioned creating a consumer-first online marketplace for real estate.

The duo realized that these online classified verticals were essentially a consumer-first internet marketplace or internet service and could be adapted into residential real estate.

Since a consumer-first real estate destination and platform had not been developed in 2004, it was clear that someone was going to own the mind share of consumers in real estate.

They would target customers who wanted to buy, sell, or rent a home.

Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Success

Trulia’s journey was not without its challenges. The 2008 financial crisis hit the real estate market hard; survival required grit and determination. The Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the industry that was worst hit was mortgages and residential real estate, Trulia’s core market.

Trulia’s clients were going out of business. It couldn’t raise more money and revenues were dropping. By 2009, as the market began to recover, Trulia had weathered the storm and was poised for long-term success.

The company went public in 2012, and in 2014, it was acquired by Zillow for $2.5B. Sami looks back at the deal, which basically involved two public companies coming together. Zillow was bigger than Trulia, but teaming up by industrial logic made sense.

Industrial logic made sense because combining two brands would be more beneficial for customers and lead to operational efficiencies. Reflecting on this journey, Sami describes the merger as a bittersweet moment, marking the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

From Real Estate to Healthcare: The Vision of Virta Health

Sami’s next venture, Virta Health, was born from a desire to tackle the world’s largest health crisis: type 2 diabetes and obesity. Virta’s mission is to reverse diabetes in a hundred million people through telemedicine, lifestyle change, and nutrition.

This for-profit healthcare tech company partners with employers, health plans, and government entities to deliver its services, making diabetes reversal both, effective and accessible.

Sami’s goal is not just to build another successful company but to create a lasting impact on global health at the individual and population levels.

Virta’s business model is that payers – such as employers like Papa John’s, U-Haul, United Airlines, health plans like Humana and Blue Shield of California, and government organizations like the Veterans Administration – pay for the service, and individual patients get free access.

There’s a substantial ROI for payers because Virta saves about $6,000 per patient per year when reversing T2 diabetes and charges less than half of that. Virta Health is VC-backed and has raised $360M of equity funding to scale its business and build its platform.

Storytelling is everything which is something that Sami Inkinen was able to master. The key is capturing the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Raising Funding Comes with Responsibility

Sami doesn’t take raising money from investors lightly. He compares raising investor capital to a mortgage that has to be paid back not with a 5% or 7% interest but hopefully with 50 to 100% annual interest!

The amount of money raised for Sami is not a measure of success but more of a vanity metric.

Founders should know how to balance not raising too much or too little. Since Virta is in the healthcare industry, it has long B2B cycles, and the need to invest in clinical trials and evidence generation is critical, making it capital-intensive to scale a healthcare tech company.

Sami wanted to ensure they could access capital when they needed it the most. With lessons learned from 2008 in his mind, he pitched for and raised money to be somewhat opportunistic to have the necessary capital available.

Sami’s hopeful vision for the future, when Virta reaches its full potential, is like Europe in the 1970s when there weren’t many people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

He came out of quasi-retirement to start Virta Health because he had stumbled on a way to help billions of people reverse type 2 diabetes and obesity sustainably.

The solution is to use nutrition and telemedicine to address the root cause of poor metabolic health and reverse its symptoms from obesity to T2 diabetes.

The Secret to Success: A Mix of Luck and Strategy

According to Sami, there is no formula for building a billion-dollar company. However, he believes in a few universal principles:

  • Taking the First Step: Many people have ideas, but execution is key. Taking the first step is the most important, setting the stage for the journey ahead.
  • Solving Meaningful Problems: Start with a problem that needs solving and build your solution around it. Technology should serve the problem, not the other way around.
  • Playing the Long Game: Building a successful company takes time and perseverance. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and staying in the game for the long haul is crucial.


As Sami opines, there are no overnight success stories, or it’s exceedingly rare; almost all success stories are 10 years in the making.

He has enjoyed the journey mainly because Virta Health was impactful and successful. In retrospect, he advises founders to be patient and pace themselves with occasional and necessary all-in sprints.

It will take more than a decade to build something, and it’s like running a marathon. You can sprint over a hill, but sprinting all the time means that you’ll never finish the marathon.

Founders should focus on understanding the importance of focus and identifying areas where they can have an unfair impact.

You can’t start a fire with a magnifying glass unless you really focus the sunbeams or the photons into this one little piece. That’s what building a company is all about: focusing energy to start a fire.

Conclusion: The Road Ahead

Sami Inkinen’s journey from a Finnish farm to Silicon Valley is a testament to the power of resilience, innovation, and the pursuit of meaningful goals.

As he continues to build and grow Virta Health, his vision remains clear: to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems through technology and entrepreneurship.

With a track record of turning ideas into billion-dollar companies, Sami’s story inspires aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide.

Listen to the full podcast to know more, including:

  • Sami Inkinen began on a humble farm in Finland, showing that big dreams can stem from modest beginnings.
  • His interest in computers and software was sparked by a simple Commodore 64, highlighting the importance of nurturing curiosity.
  • Inkinen’s journey through the 2008 financial crisis with Trulia exemplifies resilience and perseverance in tough times.
  • His first company, Match’em, served as a “million Euro MBA,” teaching him invaluable lessons the hard way
  • Experience at McKinsey sharpened his ability to break down complex problems, strategically approach solutions, and calibrate execution vs. planning
  • Inkinen’s mission with Virta Health is to reverse T2 diabetes in 100M people.
  • Success doesn’t happen overnight; Inkinen emphasizes the importance of dedication and playing the long game in building impactful companies.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.


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