We sat down with Eero Kaikkonen, the CEO and co-founder of MoveSole as he explains his ups and downs during his journey to create MoveSole. With extensive experience in entprerneurism, driving growth and even facilitating an exit, Eero has a remarkable background that is nowadays driving MoveSole forward.
1. Why did you become an entrepreneur?
For me to become an entrepreneur was more like a coincidence rather than a planned future career. While still studying at the university, I also worked part time at Mobira that later became Nokia Mobile Phones. I left Mobira in order to work on my master’s thesis at the local university. The original plan was to return to Mobira to build a career in a large corporation.
However, after graduation I was offered a possibility to join a startup as the first employee. It was surprisingly interesting to work in a small company. Soon I found myself as a partner in the startup. After a while the founder decided to go after other challenges and to give up his ownership of the startup. As a part of the process we converted the startup from general partnership to a limited liability company. All of the sudden I was a founder and CEO of Hantro Products Ltd, a job, in which I then continued for the next 16 years.
2. What are you like as an entrepreneur?
25 years as an entrepreneur has taught me a few basic rules of running a startup. Behind any successful company (big or small) you can always find a well-motivated and well-functioning team. It is very important that the whole team shares the same vision of what the company is doing and why. In my mind, the most important task of the team leader/entrepreneur is to make sure that the vision of the company is clear to whole team and that the motivation to work towards the vision is high in the whole team. On top of that, the entrepreneur’s main task is to ensure that the team has enough resources to achieve the vision.
3. What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
The biggest accomplishment in my career so far has been building Hantro Products Ltd from being a startup of two persons to a globally successful company with 80 employees. It took 16 years in two phases to develop Hantro’s business case. For the first eight years we were a subcontractor in microelectronic designs, working mainly for Nokia but also having other customers from three different continents (Asia, Europe and America). The second part of Hantro's case was the more interesting part.
By 1998 we started considering a change of business model from a service company to a product company. This was the time when 3G networks did not exist and mobile phones did not have cameras or color displays. But still it was quite obvious that video content will play an important role in 3G networks and 3G mobile phones.
From the very beginning we realized the need for venture capital to be able to build totally new video technology for mobile phones. During the next six years we raised over 20 MEUR from five different venture capital firms, grew the team from 20 persons to 80 persons, increased revenues to an annual level of 10 MEUR. By 2005, Hantro’s video technology was in more than half of the sold mobile phones with camera. At that time it meant hundreds of millions mobile phones having Hantro video technology inside.
Even though big investment rounds meant that venture capital firms owned and controlled Hantro quite strongly, I worked as the CEO during Hantro’s whole lifetime being also in charge of preparing an acquisition of Hantro during 2006-2007. I identified suitable candidates and was in charge of acquisition negotiations at some point with five different candidates. In 2007, we finally closed the deal worth of roughly 60 MUSD with listed US company called On2 Technologies Inc.
Personally to me it was very important that the Hantro story did not end to that acquisition. Google bought the whole On2 Technologies in 2010 including the Hantro team. Google kept the video technology development team working in Oulu, Finland for several years. In fact, a big portion of the same Hantro team is still working for Google but now in Silicon Valley.
4. What is your biggest professional blunder?
It is difficult to point out one single blunder, even though I have done enough mistakes during my career. What irritates me the most is when I repeat the same mistake again. Being an optimistic person myself, I often end up underestimating the challenges and overestimating the achievements while planning the future of the company. This is exactly the reason why I need to work with people that are more down to earth thus helping to ensure that we can build executable plans and not only wish lists.
5. What makes the story of your personal career interesting?
I have been working during an extremely interesting period of time where several industries in Finland have experienced major changes. When I joined Mobira as a young student in 1986, not a singe mobile phone had been sold. I participated in the process of a small wireless communication industry in the 80’s that grew to a global business worth hundreds of billions of euros, first as an employee of Mobira, then a subcontractor and finally a partner of Nokia. At the same time Finland changed mentally from an isolated distant island to a small and integrated part of the global environment. Hantro’s development from a small technology startup in 1999 to a global market leader in its own segment by 2006 was a small part of the same larger story.
It was a privilege to be able to work as a leader in building Hantro's story. Now going forward, the idea of building an internationally successful health technology company isn’t that strange based on what I have gone through earlier.
6. What is your dream for your company?
The healthcare industry is in the middle of the huge changes that are happening in the western world. If we want to ensure that we can afford an effective healthcare system in a sustainable way in the future, we need to find new ways to work and take new processes and technologies in use.
Technology alone is not going to solve the problems we face, but correctly used it can be part of the solution. Movesole’s mission is to develop technology which can help healthcare professionals to improve their patients' lives in more efficient and more human way. If things progress like we hope, MoveSole will be a part of the solution helping build future’s healthcare systems, which will help improve people’s wellbeing in an affordable way.
7. What motivates you?
Prior to MoveSole I have been involved in quite many companies in different roles, for example as a CEO, board member and advisor. In MoveSole the whole team has found motivation in a totally new level compared to anything I have seen before. It is great to be able to build products that really help people’s wellbeing and at the same time develop meaningful business out of it. During the first three years in MoveSole, there has not been a single day I have not been motivated to develop MoveSole further. During piloting our products with healthcare professionals it has been great to see that our products can and will help healthcare professionals to do their own work in a more efficient way.
8. Why crowdfunding and why with Invesdor?
Crowdfunding is quite a new and interesting way to raise funding to a startup. Nordic countries have been forerunners in crowdfunding and during the last four years also here in Finland quite many new operators have started to work in the crowdfunding field. We did compare different crowdfunding platforms in Finland and Invesdor convinced us with their professional attitude and way to work.
10. Why would you invest in your company? Give three reasons.
The market situation for MoveSole is extremely interesting:
- Number of patients suffering from type-2 diabetes is growing extremely fast and the same is true also with diabetes related diseases such as neuropathy. Diabetic foot ulcers and especially amputations caused by diabetic foot ulcers are also a fast growing problem causing suffering on a personal level and huge costs on national economic level. MoveSole Smart Insoles can bring it’s own portion of efficiency in the treatment of this growing problem.
- Movesole’s products represent new generation of healthcare devices where clinical quality level measurement can be taken outside of the clinic enabling monitoring patients in their natural environment. This way we can ensure a remarkable improvement of the quality of patient monitoring.
- Going forward, MoveSole’s technology can be part of the future healthcare revolution, where monitored data can be analysed by devices themselves and thus saving the costs can be realized. For example, MoveSole’s Smart Insoles can monitor the offloading area of a diabetic foot ulcer, and if offloading is not working correctly, the device itself can advise the patient to contact healthcare professionals in order to improve the offloading. This way unnecessary doctoral appointments could be minimized and simultaneously improve the quality of treatment by ensuring that offloading is working properly during the healing process.