Spotlight on Arctic growth companies
Oulu, the self-titled ‘capital of Northern Scandinavia’, is a hotbed for high-technology success stories.
It may sit just 230 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, but the city of Oulu is one the hottest technology hubs in Finland. Historically the city is known for its strong telecoms expertise and everyday 2.6 billion people use ICT and wireless technology developed in Oulu. But lately it has been innovative startups and growth companies which have drawn attention to the Northern city and its 200 000 inhabitants.
“There are hundreds of startups in Oulu today…The special characteristic most of these startups share is a [physical] product based on very high technology,” says Janne Mustonen, ICT Account Director at Business Oulu. “It is in the city’s DNA that we have always built products from scratch all the way to global markets.”
Good News from Finland met four of Oulu’s most inventive growth companies who have succeeded in exactly that.
The most established company on our list is IIoq which has been disrupting the mechanical locking industry since 2007. Iloq is behind the world’s first self-powering digital locking system which doesn’t require cabling or batteries but instead harvesting electricity from key insertion.
“The user interface is familiar, a key, but everything else is digital,“ explains Mika Pukari, CEO of Iloq. “User identification is digital and strongly encrypted which makes it possible to manage that information over the internet.”
Both ease-of-use and security are increased as one key can be reprogrammed many times or, if the key is lost, all access rights can be easily removed.
Iloq is a prime example of a growth company. In 2013 it topped Deloitte’s list as the fastest growing technology company in Finland and today Iloq employs 60 people in Finland and its main growth markets of the Nordics, Germany and Holland.
Not many recognise the name Aava Mobile, although the company’s tablets and handheld devices can be found in stores and factories around the world. Founded in 2009, Aava develops rugged mobile devices which can be easily modified with different modules, such as payment terminals, for a whole variety of enterprise use.
“We make enterprise class devices which can handle water, dust and being dropped” says Kari Räisänen, COO of Aava. “They are similar to consumer products, but can be used in point-of-sales, warehouses or when climbing a utility pole. The requirements are very different from a device on your living room table.”
Aava also licenses the hardware and software developed by its 85 member team. Most of its clients come from the US, Europe and Japan which include systems providers and some of the world’s largest tablet manufacturers. While far from the only company in the enterprise device market, Aava takes on established players with the flexibility, fast development and high performance of its devices.
Next for Aava Mobile is a range of dedicated mobile devices for the fast growing contactless payments and point-of-sales markets.
Four-year old startup Filmme wants to make it easy to shoot high-quality Internet videos for coaching and education purposes and has come up with a unique solution.
“We use technology to replace the camera crew, producer and distributor,” Filmme CEO Christian Sundell says.
How does this work? Filmme has created a proprietary video camera and location mapping system which pairs with a digital wristband worn by the subject or with a tag hidden in their gear. As the subject moves the camera smoothly tracks them and can automatically save or stream the footage online through Filmme’s cloud platform.
The system has already been used in a variety of sports, including riding, football and even ice hockey.
After three years honing its product, Filmme has begun expansion into Spain and the UK, where the company already has users. A wider European roll out will follow before targeting the US.
Founded in early 2015, QuietOn is the youngest company on our list. The startup has developed noise cancelling earplugs targeted at anyone craving silence while travelling, sleeping or working in noisy environments.
The earplugs combine active noise cancelling technology and passive attenuation, but the real innovation is their size.
“This kind of device that is entirely designed to create silence, is wireless and so small you can put your head on the pillow wearing it, has not been seen before,” enthuses company founder Janne Kyllönen.
The earplugs will soon start mass production, but have already raised global interest. QuietOn’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign sailed past its 50 000 dollar goal in just 75 hours. Now, at the time of publishing, it has passed 300 000 dollars with backers from 76 countries.
This won’t be the last we hear from QuietOn.
Text: Eeva Haaramo