Ugne Fink-Jensen on business negotiations in the age of AI and living a nomadic dream on a sailboat

At sTARTUp Day 2023, international business negotiator and entrepreneur Ugne Fink-Jensen shared the story of pursuing her dream of traveling around the world on a sailboat – a dream she is living today with her family. Ugne is now returning to sTARTUp Day to tackle the topic of business negotiations in the age of AI.

Ugne Fink-Jensen is an international business negotiator, entrepreneur and speaker with over 15 years of professional experience. After leaving the corporate world to pursue her dream of sailing around the world, she founded Firm&Fair, an international negotiation agency on a mission to level the playing field in business negotiations, and Voy°, a sailing social app.

You were at sTARTUp Day 2023 this March. What is your favorite recollection of the event?

The positive energy, friendly community, and diversity of ideas were definitely the highlights of last year’s sTARTUp. The real turning point for me, however, was sharing my personal story publicly for the first time. Talking about my dream of sailing around the world, including professional successes and challenges along the way, and seeing how it resonated with the audience, reminded me of the power of vulnerability in inspiring and connecting with others.

This year, I look forward to reconnecting with both new and familiar faces. I am particularly excited to delve into discussion about the evolving reality of business negotiations in the age of AI.

At sTARTUp Day 2024, you’ll take the stage together with Kristjan Korjus, CTO and co-founder of Pactum AI, to discuss business negotiations and AI. Who would you like to see in the audience and why?

In our upcoming talk on negotiations and AI, Kristjan Korjus and I will explore AI-driven autonomous negotiations versus traditional human-led approaches. This subject is highly relevant for a wide spectrum of attendees, including entrepreneurs and investors who are constantly engaging in negotiations, tech enthusiasts interested in the latest AI trends, business leaders seeking new perspectives of negotiations.

Moreover, this talk is designed to be interactive, with opportunities for the audience to actively participate by posing questions. This dynamic format will allow us to tailor the discussion to the interests and curiosities of the attendees, creating an engaging and informative experience.

Can we expect a heated debate between you and Kristjan?

In the B2B context, negotiations are still fundamentally human interactions. But as AI continues to revolutionize various business areas, it’s also beginning to reshape the negotiation landscape. Today, AI can play a role in assisting negotiation preparation, fostering creative solutions, and developing simulation exercises for training. In certain scenarios, it can also negotiate commercial contracts autonomously.

As an advocate for AI, I recognize its growing potential in shaping business negotiations, for example, to simultaneously (re)negotiate certain types of commercial contracts and positively contribute to the business’ bottom line or provide rational aid when human emotions or biases may cloud the judgment.

I look forward to my discussion with Kristjan Korjus. Our talk will explore the current strengths and limitations of AI in negotiation, the role of human skills, and if AI might augment or even replace human abilities in decision-making and value distribution in deal-making.

While a heated debate would indeed draw attention, our discussion is likely to be more insightful than confrontational, blending Kristjan’s deep technical expertise and my experience as a negotiation practitioner.

Since April, you have been living your dream, managing your business while exploring the world by sea. What does your typical day look like?

Living my dream means sailing and living on our Outremer 55’, semi-performance catamaran, with my husband, two kids, and a dog. Since April, my days have been a blend of business management and world exploration by sea. At sea, 'typical' days are rare — they range from quiet and slow days on anchor or port, with more time for water sports or land exploration, to more intense days with strong winds, bigger waves and non-stop round-the-clock sailing.

My typical day starts with checking the weather forecast — wind direction, speed, gusts, wave size — all crucial for both sailing plans and shaping my workday.

Work-wise, I've adapted to compress a week's worth of tasks into 2-3 intensive days, often stretching into long hours. Generally, the choppier the sea, the more it influences my schedule!

Living on a sailboat, balancing professional responsibilities with maritime adventure, is exactly what I envisioned, although it demands constant adaptation, discipline, and flexibility. It's been amazing to see my kids embrace this unique lifestyle so openly. They are learning and evolving daily, immersed in this extraordinary experience.

How difficult is it to align professional activity with a nomadic adventure like that? Does the freedom boost your productivity or make you want to focus more on other aspects of life?

Aligning professional activities with a nomadic sailing lifestyle is both gratifying and challenging. I view the inherent stress as a positive force, keeping me alert and motivated. Thanks to advancements in technology, such as Starlink, working at sea has become feasible. However, for more intensive tasks, 'land days' are essential. Whenever possible, I prefer to work in hotel lounges or coworking spaces for focused sessions, such as delivering negotiation trainings. Being physically present for certain aspects of my job, like face-to-face consulting or negotiations, presents its own challenges. Last-minute travels are seldom possible, but with advance planning, it's manageable.

While it might seem simpler to completely forego work while sailing, having a clear understanding of my priorities and values helps me effectively balance my professional and personal life. This involves setting specific work hours and being disciplined about when to switch off and focus on family.

Reflecting on the past eight months, we all, including the children, thrive on this adventure. We're all growing and learning from the diverse experiences, people, and cultures we encounter. This journey not only allows us to bond as a family but also to create unforgettable memories together. It has shown me that the freedom of this lifestyle can boost productivity, as it brings a fresh perspective and renewed energy to my work, but it also reminds me of the importance of focusing on other aspects of life besides work.

You are also working on Voy°, a sail-and-share app for sailing adventurers. Do you want to share any progress with the app?

The process of building an app is not always straightforward, especially when you try to do it without external investors. In addition, living on the sailboat full-time unveiled that there have been considerations that we may have overlooked when starting to build an app. However, "Voy° is gradually evolving into a friendly community for sailing enthusiasts. We've been focusing on enhancing user experience and adding features that cater to the needs of sailors worldwide. We are going through the initial tests of the app, and soon will be releasing the version for a wider audience. It's exciting to see how Voy° and our sailing adventure are already facilitating connections and shared adventures in the sailing community.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the sTARTUp Day audience?

The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on our priorities and the balance between personal aspirations and professional goals. In the hustle of our daily tasks, it's all too easy to forget ourselves and our dreams. Yet, my own experiences have taught me that pursuing personal dreams can not only enrich your life but also lead to unexpected and fulfilling professional opportunities. Whether in life or business negotiations, success in achieving big goals often comes from small, consistent steps, along with thorough preparation and the right mindset.

I am always eager to meet like-minded individuals, to exchange ideas, and to build a community of inspired and motivated professionals. sTARTU Day 2024 provides the perfect platform for this. If you’re interested in discussing entrepreneurship, negotiations, sailing, or your personal aspirations, I encourage you to connect with me on LinkedIn or meet up in Tartu.

Ugne Fink-Jensen and Kristjan Korjus will hold a fireside chat on Day 1 of sTARTUp Day 2024 on January 25. Check out the full festival schedule.
Listen to Ugne’s talkChase a Dream, Build a Business: The Power of Prioritizing Your Personal Aspirations” at sTARTUp Day 2023.
Articles you might also like:

Kalev Kaarna keynote at sTARTUp Day 2024: “Practical magic of growing sales in a falling market”

Kalev Kaarna's keynote at sTARTUp Day provided an insightful guide for businesses striving to grow their sales despite a declining market. Drawing...
Read more

Conquering Everest: Kunnar Karu at sTARTUp Day 2024

At sTARTUp Day 2024, Kunnar Karu shared his inspiring journey to the summit of Mount Everest. His speech was about perseverance, determination,...
Read more