29-07-2021 08:49

Innovator turns musical passion into global business

A fanatic bass player, Chilean-born Douglas Castro first came to Finland as an exchange student, drawn by his reverence for the great Finnish metal bands. Now permanently based in Helsinki, he has founded two globally successful companies and his favourite artists have become his fans. What advice does he have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Douglas Castro has lifted Finnish niche products to global markets and was named Young entrepreneur of the year in 2020 by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.

“If I tell you not to pursue your dreams and you don’t, it wasn’t a true dream after all. But if you have a truly burning desire, you’ll try it anyway,” says Douglas Castro, founder of Darkglass Electronics and Neural DSP Technologies.

In his early 20s, Castro was an electronics graduate hot on the heels of his own dream: to create products that would help bass players take their sound to the next level.

He started out in Santiago, Chile, building, modifying and servicing gear for friends, and working on his own designs in the evenings. He then returned to Finland, where he had a golden opportunity to fine-tune his creations with the help of Stratovarius’s Matias Kauppinen. Not long after, Darkglass Electronics was born.

We’ve dreamt big, turned our dreams into a vision, then into a plan to be executed, and finally into a reality.

Douglas Castro, founder of Darkglass Electronics and Neural DSP Technologies.

The first of Castro’s companies, Darkglass Electronics manufactures high-end bass pedals which intensify and creatively distort sound. Clientele include Faith No More, Foo Fighters and Jamiroquai. Castro’s second company, Neural DSP, follows in these footsteps, producing state-of-the art amplifiers and plugins powered by artificial intelligence and neural networks. Both companies have a strong – and growing – global following.

Keep the dream alive – and find others who share it

Based on his experience, would the 34 year-old recommend starting a company to others? “Well, I’d say it might get difficult and painful. You might fail and competing is difficult, not to mention recruiting a team, raising funding, developing a product, managing growth, etc. If you are OK with being always worried and can put up with lots of stress, it’s fine,” Castro says half-jokingly.

“But if you have real passion and a sense of mission – of the reality you want to create – that’s far more important than the pain you might experience when starting your business.”

Douglas Castro is in no doubt about the key to his success: having the right people on board. “My team consists of people I admire, respect, can learn from and like to spend time with. We’ve dreamt big, turned our dreams into a vision, then into a plan to be executed, and finally into a reality.”

He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to “define what talent, competencies and experience you need, and try to find the smartest people who share your values and want to share your dream. Your dream needs to become theirs.”

Going forward, stay agile and vigilant

Neural DSP, now three years old, is still a startup at heart – and Castro intends to keep it that way. “If a company gets too comfortable and tries to secure its position in the market, it will get disrupted by newcomers keen to capitalise on missed opportunities,” he explains.

“We’re going to keep the startup mentality and mindset forever. There’s something beautiful about a small group of people very passionate about their mission. They’re flexible and agile, and always have a fresh perspective on how their product or market could and should be.” 

The bank is essential

Douglas Castro has been a Nordea customer for years, both as a personal customer and as a corporate customer with the Startup & Growth unit. He appreciates the speed and quality of the service provided: “I’m happy with the people and services of Nordea.”

“The entrepreneur’s life can be hectic, so it’s essential that the bank is agile and can react promptly to both the company’s and individual’s banking needs,” says Jakob Widström, senior relationship manager at Nordea. “When we partner with a startup or scaleup company, we mobilise a vast network of actors, from startup-friendly legal advisers to potential investors. Done well, this is highly appreciated by our clients – and it’s also quite unique in the market.”

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