Key exec Ojanperä leaves Nokia, starts VC fund

Dr. Tero Ojanpera

Tero Ojanperä, who has been with Nokia (s nok) for 21 years, is leaving the company and is going to be working for a new investment fund, Vision+, that will fund apps and services for the Nokia and Windows Mobile 7 (s msft) platforms. The fund is going to be backed by Nokia, which is an anchor investor in the fund. Ojanperä will be a managing partner.

Ojanperä’s exit is yet another sign that the new Nokia, which some have criticized as a battleship going around in circles, is breaking links with the past. For the past six months I have been hearing that Ojanperä was being eased out. It seems that instead of Nokia’s giving him the old heave-ho, he and the company found a mutually compatible exit strategy.

And why not? Ojanperä has been a good soldier for the company and has done whatever was asked of him. He was a champion of Nokia’s mapping efforts and during many conversations, we discussed how location could be the key to the mobile experience. Ojanperä, who was Nokia’s EVP of services, was a big champion of the Ovi store and helped make that a reality. He was previously chief technology officer, chief strategy officer and head of research for the Finnish company.

When he was speaking at our Mobilize 2010 conference, I gave Ojanperä some lip, but he was very graceful. Ojanperä was a good ambassador for Nokia, especially during troubled times, because he didn’t wear blinders — though I would argue that like many of his peers at Nokia, he stayed in denial of Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone for way too long. I am going to miss talking to him and discussing the future of Nokia and mobile. Or perhaps he will be more candid in his new role as a managing partner at this new fund.

From a broader perspective, I see this exit as yet another negative for Nokia. Ojanperä’s exit takes away some of the institutional knowledge of the Symbian platform, which is still an important component of the company’s revenue stream. Ojanperä’s exit raises doubts about the NAVTEQ mapping platform too.

So far, Stephen Elop hasn’t really set the world on fire since coming over from Microsoft. Nokia’s sales are imploding, and by the time the company get its new Windows Mobile 7–based phones to the market, it might be too late.

P.S.: Join us at Mobilize 2011, our mobile Internet conference scheduled for Sept. 26 and 27 in San Francisco.

Tero Ojanperä speaking at Mobilize 2010