MBA Success Stories: Aku Wilenius, Aalto University Executive Education and Professional Development

Aku Wilenius is CEO and co-founder of Caidio, blending AI with the concrete sector. Recently shortlisted in the Global MBA Start-up of the Year category in the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards, Wilenius is committed to propelling his company towards an eco-efficient future

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career to date?

I have been involved in the technology sector for over two decades, starting at National Instruments, where I held various roles in technical sales, marketing and enterprise account management. After a rewarding tenure at National Instruments, I pursued an MBA to expand my understanding of complete business operations, leading me to co-found Caidio, of which I am now CEO.

Caidio aims to revolutionise the concrete industry, a sector that has been traditional and manually driven. We use AI to analyse rich data from concrete production processes and provide real-time insights that lead to sustainable and efficient operations.

Please elaborate on your current role

I guide Caidio’s strategic direction, oversee operations and actively execute everyday business. From managing day-to-day tasks to driving long-term strategy, I’m hands-on in almost every aspect of the company’s function.

Why did you want to study for an MBA in the first instance and why did you choose to do the qualification at this particular school?

I was awarded my MBA from Aalto EE, based in the Finnish city of Espoo (pictured above) in 2019. I sought an MBA to have a more holistic understanding of business operations. I wanted to study in Finland because I have a family here. Aalto EE stood out for its dynamic curriculum, globally diverse cohorts and highly esteemed faculty. As the biggest and most prestigious Finnish business school, their focus is on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, which perfectly aligned with my aspirations.

What is the most interesting thing you learned from your MBA?

The start-up modules helped me develop our business model and plan and increased my understanding of what phases a start-up typically goes through and obstacles it faces. Such knowledge has helped me keep my cool in many challenging situations.

My fellow students and I did our MBA Business project for Caidio. We interviewed potential customers in Europe and, based on the results, drew conclusions on how and in what direction the business should develop. Our company still reflects those findings and we recently conducted a similar survey in China.

What were some of the challenges you faced when studying?

Juggling the demands of a start-up with an intensive MBA programme was a significant challenge that required efficient time management and commitment.

Also, while being one of its biggest assets, the programme’s diverse cohort also posed challenges. Cultural background influences how one communicates, presents, performs tasks, thinks and schedules things. Collaborating with a diverse group of people wasn’t always easy, but I am grateful for how much I learned from this experience.

How has the MBA made a difference to your career path and leadership journey?

It equipped me with hard skills, like understanding entrepreneurship and finance, as well as soft skills, such as personal development and HR management. The practical exposure at Caidio combined with these skills has helped me navigate a start-up’s complex and demanding environment effectively. The Aalto MBA even introduced me to one of my current business partners.

In what ways have you brought what you have learnt in your MBA into the workplace?

The cultural diversity of the MBA cohort at Aalto University was instrumental in shaping my understanding of global business dynamics. The experience has helped me in establishing an international organisation and leading an international team in a way that fosters an inclusive and productive work environment.

My co-workers and customers are in different parts of the world. I have one colleague in Espoo, Finland; everyone else works overseas with my closest business partner in Shanghai.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about studying for an MBA?

Keep an open mind and venture outside your comfort zone – that’s where the most profound learning occurs.

Make the most of networking opportunities; the relationships built during the programme can open many doors. From hiring employees and board members to securing funding and gaining PR exposure, I’ve benefited immensely from my MBA networks.

What are the next steps for you on your career journey?

Currently, my journey is closely connected with Caidio. We’ve received recognition for our innovative efforts, making it to the finals of the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards – I am immensely proud of that.

We have gained traction with top global concrete producers, marking a significant step towards our goal of a sustainable future. As we continue to innovate and serve the concrete industry, we aim to minimise its environmental footprint and maximise efficiency.

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