Describe Screenful in under 50 words.
Screenful develops business dashboards that help companies to track and optimize their operations. A key part of the concept is the introduction of large touch enabled screens as a new medium for sharing information in a modern office space. We call them Information Radiators since they "radiate" relevant information for the people working in that space, or for those passing by.
Tell us the Screenful story. How and why was this project born?
Screenful was born out of frustration with the current business intelligence tools on the market. In today's fast paced business, tracking your key metrics is essential as it enables you to foresee possible issues so that you can take action proactively, rather than do firefighting later. However, BI projects are notoriously expensive and the results are often poor due to the complexity of integrations and the lack of UX skills in the dashboard design.
We wanted to make life easier for our customers by doing all this work for them and creating set dashboards that are both actionable and beautiful to look at. Since we've automated the whole process of setting up the dashboards, we can have new customers up & running in a matter of days or weeks rather than months as in traditional BI.
How do you see the future of Screenful in 5 years?
Well, that seems like an eternity in the life of a startup where lots of new things are happening every week. I'd expect that in 5 years we've made our name known internationally and we have operations outside Finland. By that time I hope that the hardware has evolved as well, making it possible to realize the whole product vision we have. We believe that in 5 years, large touch screens will be commonplace in offices and Screenful will be the leading vendor providing content to those screens.
Could you share with us how you validated your product?
We followed the lean startup principles, and validated our hypotheses through customer interviews before committing to actually build the product. The learning we got from those interviews led to our first pivot, which wasn't so much about changing the core product offering, but about finding the right target audience. There was no way we could have figured that out without discussing with potential customers early on.
We're still applying these tactics whenever planning new features. We are not ashamed of using "slideware" in our product demonstrations. If it turns out that there's no demand for the shiny new feature that we're about to build, we can just abandon it without much time invested.
What one piece of advice would you like to give to those who want to transform an idea into a business?
Think of ways to do validation early on before committing resources on actual implementation. In most cases the product that you plan to build can be emulated with something much simpler, e.g. using mockups instead of real UI, replacing automation with manual steps etc. Seek for feedback and talk to potential customers. Keep your eyes and ears open, and don't fall in love with your initial ideas.
Screenful was founded in 2013. What are the main challenges faced so far?
When you start a new business you start from zero. You have no team, no product, no customers. Typically, at this stage you have no access to investors' money either. So what you need to do is to acquire a team who's willing to work without salary to get the demo ready, so you can start approaching customers and investors. There's no manual for these very early steps - you just have to be creative and sort it out somehow.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is to stay optimistic even though all odds are against you. It's all about selling your ideas - to your spouse, your team members, your investors, your customers. If you don't believe your ideas yourself, then you can't sell it to others so you first need to sell it yourself!
What are you most excited at the moment?
I'm ultimately a product guy so I'm constantly excited to see our product vision becoming a reality day by day. Also, seeing that our team dynamics work and we're getting things done without glitches makes me believe that we're ready for whatever challenges we might face down the road.
Startup Ecosystem in Helsinki is doing pretty well and it is becoming into a hot spot in Europe Startup Scene. What kind of services are you receiving from them? What do you miss?
We have indeed very active startup ecosystem in Helsinki nowadays. We have some great events, meetups and all sorts of coaching programs for growth startups. It's not always been like that and I recall the times not so many years ago when none of this activity existed.
We're finally even seeing some co-working spaces popping up, which we've lacked so far, as evidenced by the army of people working with their laptops in cafes. I'm looking forward to see those empty office spaces or warehouses converted into modern co-working spaces as they've done London and other major startup capitals.