Today’s office people tend to be always on the move, and globalisation ensures that they’ve always got something to say to colleagues near and far. However, quite often they need to open their mouths or conference calls when someone else needs some quiet time, and just as often vice versa.
This is a market that Smartblock taps into: mobile quietness and mobile sound. The company’s smart and mobile meeting pods are designed to meet the needs of those who seek privacy in public spaces, such as offices, airports, libraries and co-working spaces.
“We want to bring smart solutions to meetings, wherever they occur,” says CEO Kristian Sällström. “There is a large variety of places where people need to either escape the noise or be able to make noise without disturbing others.”
Smartblock’s pods come in two sizes, for two or four people. The selection includes both closed and open options with and without integrated audiovisual technology. The pods are perfect collaboration spaces that can be further enriched with added equipment, like interactive or traditional whiteboards, while audiovisual technology enables, for example, video conferences and Skype calls.
All pods are mobile, so they are easy to move from one corner to another. This is one of the things that distinguishes Smartblock from many of its competitors.
“With wheels at the bottom, it’s easy to adjust the position of the pod to suit the purpose of each meeting,” Sällström notes.
Germany in the pipeline
Smartblock was founded in 2015, and Sällström joined the team last year. First, he dealt with operational functions, but in the summer he jumped into the CEO’s shoes. Now, the company has a team of seven, with extra salespeople being hired.
Started by Mikko Sarkkinen and Janne Orava, Smartblock received a hefty investment from Sontek Ventures in 2016. Another funding round is underway, aiming to accelerate the firm’s growth.
Currently, the company has a strong foothold in the Finnish market, with resellers and partners across the country. Things are looking bright in the neighbouring countries as well; there’s a reseller in Denmark, and Sweden and Norway are showing signs of growth.
The next big step awaits in Germany, where, Sällström tells, Smartblock has visited fairs to plant the seed for sales and increase the brand’s visibility.
Another interesting destination is North America, namely the US, where the company landed an acknowledgement in the workplace technologies category at the annual commercial design industry fair NeoCon in Chicago.
“The US is definitely an interesting market for us, and we’re increasingly seeing results stateside, partially thanks to the prize,” Sällström says.
Modern life, modern conveniences
Sällström believes that the mobile lifestyle is a sign of the times.
“In the ‘90s, people in offices were fenced out and they all had their private tables,” he explains. “Now, mobile offices are much more common, and that has brought about the issues with noise and lack of privacy.”
Thus, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the biggest customer segment for Smartblock is offices. The solution’s advantage is that as meeting rooms tend to be designed for bigger groups of people, the pod enables a gathering of a smaller crowd without taking up as much space.
That, as Sällström points out, is a money issue. In a lot of growing megacities, square metres are a significant expense, and increasingly so.
“A meeting pod is 3.5 square metres in size, so it’s possible to fit it into a small office space,” he says. “This is also why we don’t target countries as such in our marketing efforts, but instead focus on cities and regions where space is costly and offices abundant.”
Although Smartblock isn’t the only player in the field, including in Finland, Sällström believes that all companies have their own strengths. If anything, having multiple firms operating in the same market shows that there’s demand.
“Who wins will be the one with the best product for the best price,” he says. “What works for our benefit, too, is that all of our pods are made in Finland, including everything we buy from subcontractors.”
A stamp of quality, that is.