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Startup interview: Humidome

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Humidome

FACTS

Who? Juhani Kataila

What? Humidome is a product that saves badminton players money by maximising the durability of the feather shuttlecocks.

When? Founded in 2017

Where? Based in Helsinki, shipping to selected countries.

To whom? Badminton players, both professional and passionate amateurs.

JUICY SHUTTLECOCKS

Our recent case studies show that quality of life can, in several cases, be improved with a good dose of entrepreneurship. But we must warn you: while entrepreneurship is very effective it’s also highly addictive. And the side effects might include grey hairs and occasional all nighters. Here’s one miraculous story of a finance professional turned into an enthusiastic entrepreneur.

Juhani Kataila is a finance professional turned into an entrepreneur (and a nice guy because he brought us donuts, and we REALLY like donuts).  He founded a startup called Humidome in 2017 - and has been hooked on entrepreneurship ever since.

Juhani had been working in finance for almost 10 years when he founded Humidome and started treating his boredom with entrepreneurship. Also his friends and family have noticed the positive change. “It doesn’t feel like working when you love it” Juhani tells us. He is a passionate badminton player and he got fed up with expensive shuttlecocks breaking after just a couple of strokes. Juhani knew that badminton is a popular sport globally and wondered if anyone else saw this as an actual problem. He started Googling the problem and the findings surprised him: a lot of people had tried to solve the problem by for example holding the shuttlecock tubes above boiling water or steaming them in a steam room. It was apparent that a lot players saw this as an actual problem, but he was searching for an easier and more effortless solution to solve the problem.

Humidity is the single most important factor in increasing a shuttlecock's life span. The product works by creating and maintaining the perfect level of humidity inside the shuttlecock tube. Inside each Humidome product are non-toxic beads which can carry up to a hundred times their own weight in water. The beads work to create a high level of humidity which means your shuttlecocks are optimally stored, conditioned and always ready for use. Humidome works for months on a single charge, and when it is ready to be re-charged, it can be refilled just by putting it again in a bowl of water for about four hours.

Juhani has put his own hands in the dirt from day one. He for example has studied how diapers work - after all they have the capacity to hold great amounts of… liquid. A bit further along the product development, he asked the cleaning person of the badminton hall to collect all the empty shuttlecock tubes when they clean the courts up. The aim was to measure the inner diameters of as many non-standard tubes as possible. Juhani admits that he somewhat might have questioned his own sanity when he was scraping banana peels and other trash off the tubes to use them to test his product. While still working full-time at his previous job, Juhani made time for these product development explorations whenever he could - meaning that he would also spend his lunch breaks running and driving around the city advancing his startup idea.

Amongst hardware startup founders Juhani is a rare breed as he doesn’t have a technical background. However, he familiarised himself with 3D-printing and was resourceful in finding places where to prototype making the most out of possibilities such as Microsoft Flux, Library 10 and the workshops of Metropolia. Understanding the limitations of his own know-how Juhani worked together with an industrial designer to make his product into reality - design details, molding, material choices - it’s all coming to life in the hands of a Finnish plastics manufacturer, Karhumuovi, based in Pori.

And finally the day came when the first batch of Humidomes was ready to ship. Besides delivering a quality product, Juhani’s aim is to deliver a delightful customer experience which for Juhani meant putting thought and effort into the packaging and instruction leaflet. Excitingly Humidome started organically receiving traffic from the moment it launched. Being curious, Juhani has asked some of his early international customers how they came to find Humidome. One customer told he had come across the then password protected site many months before the launch while searching for a solution to the problem. After bookmarking the site he kept coming back to it every now and then - the best part being that by that point Juhani hadn’t done literally any SEO-optimisation so Humidome definitely didn’t coming up on the first, second or even third page of results! That’s what we call a committed customer!

Juhani continues with the well-proven combination of relying on the expertise of professionals in areas new to him, but at the same time actively studying and learning himself about these more unfamiliar aspects of running his business. At the moment, as he is up and running, shipping Humidomes (wuhuu, congrats!), he is also learning more about the magic of SEO and Facebook-marketing. And as cheesy as it may sound, it’s that constant learning which makes entrepreneurship so great.

 
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Author: Kristiina Sandqvist, Project Manager | kristiina@hardwarestartup.fi