The world’s best innovations are born from genuine customer needs. This is a bit of an overused expression, but it fits 9Solutions perfectly. The story of Oulu based 9Solutions started after a tragic incident: in summer 2008 Sami Herrala’s mother died and his father was left alone with his farm in Lappajärvi, which left Herrala wanting to know how his dad was doing.
This led him to think about the possibilities of remote monitoring. As a result, he created a device resembling modern day intelligent wristbands, which transmits information about the person wearing it over a Bluetooth connection.
Herrala contacted Martti Karppinen, a technology influencer from Oulu. Together they started to toss around business ideas for the device. At the same time they thought of indoor positioning, which has grown to be a central feature of the 9Solutions application. Eventually in May 2009 they founded the company together with Teemu Sivonen and Jari Kylmänen. Sivonen and Kylmänen were Herrala’s co-workers from Flextronics, a company manufacturing phone models for various brands. The team possessed valuable know-how of wireless technologies as well as designing and implementing electronic devices.
9Solutions started by offering the location-based communication and security application to all kinds of customers, ranging from cement factories to mining companies and gas station chains.
“However, we the founders had specified a date in November 2012 when we started. We had decided that on that day we would stop to reflect on our customer segments and select the one with the best traction. The original segment of healthcare had proven to be the most lucrative so we proceeded to focus on that”, Herrala explained. “We started to concentrate on indoor positioning and nurse calls, with care houses as our primary customer segment. I estimate our current market share in new care houses to be around 80%.”
Making the right decisions for growth
In addition to identifying the optimal customer segment and focusing the product, Herrala lists a few other factors affecting the companies success.
One significant right decision was to enter the market via distributors. 9Solutions is still today the only company in its business domain which has products in distributors’ catalogues. Also the speed & agility to develop and launch new solutions have been central capabilities for 9Solutions.
“Even though our product is technically complex, we have not stayed in our lab to make it perfect. Instead, we have boldly gone to our customers to collect feedback and experiences. We listen to our customers’ challenges and needs very carefully. We adopted this humble attitude already while working at Flextronics.”
9Solutions has grown with an annual rate of 50% in recent years. In 2018, the company founded a subsidiary in Sweden. One can also predict a bright future for the company. As the baby boomer generation ages, there will be plenty of demand for the 9Solutions application in care homes, hospitals, and home care.
“Our vision is to help society with ageing-related challenges. For nurses our value proposition is to ease their work and shift it from routine tasks to actual nursing. For elderly people we offer the possibility to age with dignity and live safely & independently”, Herrala concludes.
Text by: Santtu Toivonen
This is a feature in our monthly ‘Portfolio Insights’ blog series, where we showcase our portfolio companies and provide insights on their businesses. 9Solutions is one of our Innovestor Growth Fund I portfolio companies.
Innovestor is an early-stage venture capital investor, who actively offers direct co-investment opportunities and builds growth programs.