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Higher Ed Entrepreneurial Inspiration: Harri Suominen, Asia Exchange

5 min read

Rama Eriksson

Childhood friends, Harri Suominen and Tuomas Kauppinen didn't anticipate their journey as entrepreneurs when they left Finland to study abroad in Asia during the 2000s. Their transformative experiences, however, sparked a desire to facilitate and empower others to embark on similar life-changing adventures. 

Suominen recently joined host Scott Miller on the Keystone Higher Ed Chats podcast to discuss, among other things, the life-altering impacts of studying abroad, the challenges of entrepreneurship, and the meaningful aspects of the work itself. Suominen and Kauppinen’s companies recently joined the Study Abroad division of Keystone Education Group. 

As the founder of multiple successful ventures, including innovative educational platforms and consulting firms, Suominen’s own journey exemplifies how entrepreneurial principles can drive positive change. 

"The journey from curiosity to innovation is fueled by a relentless pursuit of knowledge and experience." - Harri Suominen 


Keystone Higher Ed Chats podcast Episode 8 Harri Suominen co-founder Asia Exchange 

Read on for key takeaways from the episode.  

Entrepreneurial Inspiration: The podcast delves into how Suominen and Kauppinen's initial encounter with Asia during their international study program sparked a profound desire to facilitate similar life-changing experiences for other students.  Suominen reminisces about the pivotal moment with Tuomas, "We both got jobs...and we had a good, nice beginning for our careers. But we didn't feel that we would be changing the world. So we wanted to do something meaningful. And one evening Tuomas just said to me, 'Hey, Harri, do you remember our exchange in Shanghai? Could we help other young people to experience something?'"

Curiosity and Innovation: The conversation emphasizes the role of curiosity in driving Suominen's entrepreneurial success. He stresses the value of being intellectually curious and open to new ideas and experiences, highlighting how a curious mindset fosters innovation and growth. He articulates, "[...] that's what makes life interesting. Being interested in things and finding solutions and finding answers. If you are interested in things, you are able to learn anything." 

Overcoming Challenges: The dialogue explores how Asia Exchange navigated challenges, particularly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Suominen discusses the company's adaptive response, which led to the launch of the Beyond Abroad brand. This challenge came to emerge as a strategic pivot to sustain and expand their offerings. Illustrating resilience and agility in the face of adversity, he reflects, "[Our new brand, Beyond Abroad] probably would not have happened without the pandemic. So again, that was actually a blessing in a way for us." 

To listen to the full podcast episode with Harri Suominen, click here. 

Meaningful Impact: Suominen underscores the profound impact of their work on students' lives, beyond academic pursuits. He shares poignant anecdotes of students finding love abroad and forming families, highlighting the deeply personal significance of their programs. While emphasizing the human aspect and intrinsic value of their mission, Suominen expresses, "Every single student's story is an accomplishment or something like a success story... It brings tears to my eyes."  

Peer-to-Peer Influence: Suominen underscores the power of authentic storytelling in fostering trust and engagement. The discussion explores the influential role of peer testimonials in student recruitment efforts. He emphasizes the credibility and effectiveness of these student narratives in inspiring others to pursue study abroad opportunities, observing, "The happy students are the best marketers... It's always different if it comes from the student's mouth."  


Harri Suominen has been a trailblazing innovator in education since 2007, exemplifying the transformative power of global exploration through his personal journey. Inspired by his own experiences abroad, Suominen has devoted himself to creating life-changing opportunities for both students and institutions. Through meaningful connections and empowerment, he has guided individuals and institutions on transformative journeys overseas.


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