Microsoft offices: The Gold Mine of Start-Ups in Salo

One of the biggest strategic hubs in Salo, Finland, is located in the Microsoft Offices in the outskirts of the town. Many companies choose to found their companies here as it is one of the biggest collections of knowledge, skill, and diversity in the IoT and mobile industry in the world. There are many people willing to create, and also those with more than 30 years of experience with technology and software development that is crucial to the creation of innovative and progressive products.
Juha was the first person to attend us in the Microsoft offices. Our main aim was to see what the Nokia offices were, what happened to them and how the life changed there since they sold it to Microsoft. We wanted to look around, and already the first 5 minutes there were very entertaining because we discovered the different Nokia devices from the last century that made us feel nostalgic. We stumbled into Juha while we were wondering around. He was kind enough to explain to us everything that goes on in there and give us a small tour through their working space.
On the second floor, the fun started. We were immersed into the life of cool startups, all related to IoT, technological innovation, electronics, and software. Juha is the founder of a startup called Radiotele, which created a small portable wifi device that collects data and sends it to the cloud and analyses it for more controlled environments and operations. One of the applications of their device is to understand and analyze the patterns of heating units in the house. The device collects data about humidity, temperature, the usage and contrasts it with the data collected from the weather forecasts and patterns of other users.
In reality, the device that they developed is incredible. It is very very versatile and has so many potential applications that not even the founders know all of the applications for it. Juha has shared with us the video that explains how the device works, which was created by other exchange students in the university of Turku in Salo. The video was created to explain their prototype and concept to one of the competitions, which was very technical and quite difficult to get entirely.
This was where we identified our first business opportunity. Many of those guys create awesome products and have so much skill and experience but have no idea how to explain it to others and sell it to the potential customers. Here is where we come. We asked them if maybe they would want to collaborate with us, or even would be interested in our branding and marketing services. Right now, they are not paying for the use of Microsoft offices but soon the building will be bought by private investors, and no one knows if they will be able to keep their costs so low. This means that they are in a need of a good marketing strategy, branding, pitch for the clients and many other things that will allow him to present the product to the customers. Even having clear their potential target market would be helpful to start off.
Juha showed his interested in attending one of our brainstorming sessions, where we could study and develop a good marketing strategy with a clear description of a customer. We are also trying to elaborate an offer of our digital marketing services, to see if there is a market for it. We know that potentially it would be a good opportunity because while we were having the conversation, two more co-founders of other companies joined us and showed their enthusiasm for our products and projects.

One of this cofounders was Rami Metsaranta, who is the director of engineering in the start-up called Neolitics. They started their operation in last April and now they have grown to be 9 people in the company. The company was founded in the United states, and their CTO and CFO are in California at the moment.

Neolitics is developing a Near Infra-Red Optical Analyzer (NIR-OA), which main aim is to analyse particles and substances in different materials. Their main innovation lays in controlling, processing and optimising data measurement in different materials and substances. They are leveraging Texas Instruments (TI) technology, specifically TI’s Digital Light Processor (DLP®). Together with their intellectual property they are able to create the most accurate measurement device that exists right now in the market.

The Finnish founders of the company are former Nokia and Microsoft employees, who had worked in these companies for the last 20-30 years. This is the main advantage that they have compared to their American colleagues- they have been working together for so long, in a familiar place with the same people and on similar technology. They are able now to make the most out of the experience and create amazing start ups that are different and game changing.

The Microsoft campus was a former Nokia building that was bought by them. Their former employees don’t have to pay for anything right now for the space rent or cool freebies (like free soft drinks and coffee). However, this can be changed very soon, as the city of Salo and some private investors are looking to buy the Nokia HQ and convert it into a big Start Up Hub very soon. According to Rami, there are around 20 companies currently functioning in the building and around 30 startups in total. The average age of the founders is around 30-40, but there are more senior citizens than younger generation.

In the HQ, the technology that is mainly developed is related the internet of things (IoT), sensors, electronic devices, software for engineering and industrial use, design and mechanical engineering.

One of the most interesting innovative companies that we talked with was Nuviz, which is a start-up that aims to bring Head-Up Display to the motorcycling helmets. They device attaches to any helmets and smart sensors project all of the relevant information to the rider without having to take the eyes off the road. This technology is cutting edge in branding motorcycling safety to the roads, and the sensors and camera allow to track and record the driving experience through the online platform.

These guys had co-founded the company between the United States and Finland, and are currently based in Salo, Finland. They have been doing the R&D for already a year, and in few months time, they will start selling their first prototypes to the general public. In their team, there are 30 people and 21 of them are from Nokia and Microsoft. This again showed us that the employees from Nokia were not affected as much by the change, but rather moved on to the new ventures and started creating amazing new products and services. Just the fact that Microsoft allowed them to stay at their premises, shows their dedication to the employees and their care for them- which is also a good thing for the economy.
Their technology is based on the research that was done in Nokia during these years, but also from the collaboration with the VTT Group, which is the biggest technology research company in Finland. Their experience of 30 years in Nokia, together with the research did allowed them to create not only a revolutionary product, but also a new venture that helped them to move on from the sale of the Nokia company and redundancy. Their main feedback on the situation was that before there was nothing happening and the first months were depressing. But with the time as they started working on their new technology, things changed and it became much more interesting than before. They liked the change and the challenge it presented. Now they have a small company, they have more chances in traveling to Redmond, US, California, China, do the things their way. It was very interesting to see such a perspective and such a positive attitude and adaptation to such a strong change.

Soficta was presented to us by their CEO and cofounder Sami Metsanpera. Again, because of their experience and expertise after years of working in Nokia, these guys have created a great start up that provides industrial internet solutions, digital media services and software solutions for small and medium businesses.

Their business model consists in creating projects and work for clients that gives them income, and re-invest into other prototypes that are more experimental but more innovative and daring. In the last year of their operations their income was around $200K, which is an incredible result for a company operating for only one year. One of such experimental projects is a cloud solutions for regulating and analysing heating problems that there are in the houses and businesses around Nordic countries. They are working on this prototype together with Sensoan, another start up in the hub and Samsung.

In this company there are 15 people working, who are mainly the ex Nokia employees. It was very interesting to see that they are implementing a Scrum philosophy in their software development. As I have interest in team efficiency and project development, I had asked to get a meeting where these guys can explain in much more details how scrum works and how it can be implemented. We agreed on meeting with them next week on Tuesday for this workshop, which might be interesting for other people in my team.

This guys not only develop software and hardware, but they are also experts in digital media marketing such as web page creation, graphic design, presentations, etc. Here is an opportunity for a collaboration and knowledge fertilisation. The work they had done looks very interesting, innovative and different from anything else, and we would like to know how can we exchange ideas.

Finally, their outlook on the whole problem of Microsoft buying Nokia is that their location is very good and that they change did not affect him or their employees that much. In Salo there are cheaper apartments and rent then in Helsinki or Tempere (main Finnish technology hubs) but it is still relatively close to those cities. For now they have some employees that have to commute every day from big cities a lot but it provides an opportunity for Soficta, in the moment of attracting the best minds with more competitive salaries and cheaper location.

One of our main motivations that we had was getting a meeting with Turing Robotic Industries, in which we were not as successful as we desired. We go the contact from Heikki form Yrityssalo, and were directed to the Microsoft offices. During our visit there, we were told that Turing Robotic Industries has rented out half of the building but it is very rare that they appear around. It was very strange to find out that they are not working on their potential phone that is going to come out this summer and that there is nothing being done about. Turing Robotic Industries is founded by Chinese founders, but they don’t usually appear around.

Our main aim right now is to find out more about their story and may be revealed that they are a fake company which is not selling real products, which is also a very interesting story to explore.

Until today, we didn’t know what to expect from this town and people that live here. We didn’t expect to find such a warm welcome and so many open people willing to collaborate and share with us their expeirence and knowledge. We will be back for sure with many more visits, interviews and interesting projects, as this place is truly a gold mine and we are going to make the most of it.

One Comment

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  1. Interesting !
    I would nevertheless suggest to add some links inside the text to have direct access to the Startups’ webpages.


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