Welcome back to our ongoing (in fact, unstoppable) ‘Startup Spotlight’ series, which features relatively under-the-radar but interesting European tech startups on a weekly basis.
This time, we shine a light on Helsinki-based Meetin.gs, coincidentally right around the time the startup is releasing a product it's been working on for a while now: SwipeToMeet (think 'Tinder for scheduling meetings').
tech.eu: How could you best describe Meetin.gs and what you're trying to achieve in just a few lines?
Arina: SwipeToMeet is the simplest and fastest way to schedule anything on the mobile. SwipeToMeet minimizes the effort for both organizers and participants by eliminating the need to match calendars manually. Instead of wasting several days, a suitable time can be found within minutes.
What's the killer feature / magic sauce i.e. the one thing that differentiates you the most from your competitors in your space, in your view?
In short: Unlike our competition, the real-time SwipeToMeet algorithm matches peoples availability automatically – no calendar hassle. iPhone and Android apps are available for organizers and participants don't need an app to provide their availability.
It's a fully optimized mobile experience that works on all platforms that makes finding a time for a meeting as fast and intuitive as finding a match on Tinder.
Unlike our competition like Doodle, we also use email as a last resort for delivery of meeting invitations because it is the slowest: Primary delivery mechanisms are SMS and push notifications.
The user experience on the mobile to book meetings/get-togethers/appointments is cumbersome. You have to constantly switch between your calendar and IM or Email to confirm your availability. Then you have to manually enter the event to your calendar. The organizer needs to lookup their calendar to send options and participants need to confirm their availability from their calendars. Mistakes happen.
We completely eliminate the need to look at your calendar and make inviting meeting participants integrated with your phone's address book. Checking for availability is as simple as swiping for a match on Tinder. We show each suggestion along with your calendar for that day.
Our magic is the real-time algorithm back in the scenes that matches your availability, your preferences and what the service already knows about the availability of other participants. Usually participants never even receive suggestions on times that don't work for them. Participants do not need an app: It works on over 40 different mobile handsets, including a black & white Kindle. We integrate your calendar directly to Google or through the app on your phone to any electronic calendar.
People who are still on a paper calendar will be happy, too. They just receive a couple of suggestions more than others.
Where and how did the idea for a simple meeting scheduling tool come about?
Meetin.gs was designed for busy business people. We wanted to create a meeting booking solution for everyone, not just corporates to expand our addressable market. One day I tested Tinder and realized that finding a time for a meeting should be as easy as finding a match on Tinder. We observed there was no mobile solution to talk about for finding a suitable time on the mobile so we decided to build it.
How did you meet your co-founder(s) and what were (most of you) up to before starting Meetin.gs?
We had high standards for team members, advisors and investors.
I had 15 years of experience on working with collaboration technologies and social media. CTO Antti Vähäkotamäki worked with Teemu before to build online collaboration solutions. Visual Designer Lotta Viitaniemi was one of the top designers at Taivas digital agency, a subsidiary of Ogilvy Group. Front-end Designer Jussi Kaijalainen was one of the top guys selected by the Finnish Military to work on their web projects and I hired the guy at the first opportunity.
We selected KoppiCatch as our hands-on Accelerator because Inka Mero and Harry Santamäki had the right connections and expertise for our early days. Later Communications Expert Antero Aalto, UI & UX Designer Mikko Tapionlinna and Mobile Developer Tuomas Lahti joined the core team, all excellent hires.
Our advisors and other investors were also selected based on their abilities to help and connections, not just capital.
How much funding have you raised to date, and from whom?
We've secured €1.35 million from public and private investors. Lead investors are KoppiCatch and Veraventure. Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes is also involved.
What is your business model - or your future plans to monetise if you haven't yet settled on one? Has your thinking on business model evolved a lot since the start of the company?
SwipeToMeet is our free offering to consumers and Meetin.gs is our paid for offering for businesses for 9 € per user per month. We also work with operators such as Telia (Sweden), Elisa (Finland), TeliaSonera (Finland), KPN (the Netherlands) and BASE (Belgium) to deliver our paid offering to business customers.
We also provide Meetin.gs as a matchmaking platform for events. SwipeToMeet is our spearhead to acquire users, as it is inherently viral (you have to invite someone to setup a meeting).
What's Meetin.gs' plan for the next 3 to 6 months? (expansion, adding markets/languages, new features?) And what do you hope to have achieved in 12 to 18 months?
We are looking to raise a Series A round, work on the next iteration for SwipeToMeet based on user feedback and also launch SwipeToMeet in Finnish, Swedish, Dutch, German and French.
What are your thoughts on your local ecosystem (funding landscape, government support, cost of living/starting up, etc)?
Finland is the best place in the world to access early stage capital. Regional support for entrepreneurs and public funding agencies are a great basic foundations to establish the first days for a company.
Angel investment community has really picked up in the last couple of years thanks to Finnish Business Angels Network FiBAN.
When it comes to A round investors, there are already some great funds with great experience in building internet companies but most startups would look west for accelerating their growth.
What are your thoughts on the European startup ecosystem(s) as a whole?
Fragmented but coming together. Accelerators like Startup Sauna and Seedcamp, various startup awards and events like Slush and Web Summit are excellent initiatives to bring the whole region together.
There are some great hubs like Helsinki, Berlin and London. We have some enterpreneurship-friendly countries like Estonia.
Which decision have you made in your professional life that has had a negative impact on your personal life? Provided you've found a fix for it, how have you handled that?
I've never felt any mental fatigue on working on stuff I love. This led to working long hours on Meetin.gs that eventually led to some stress related health issues. I guess when you turn 30 you are no longer young ;)
I fixed my own problem and am writing a book about it. It is called Biohacker's Handbook. It is a book on how to upgrade your mind, body and life with biological and technological tools. It is a book for tech-savvy entrepreneurs too who want to kick ass and get the most out of what they are doing.
Do you allow people to bring pets to the Meetin.gs office? Why (not)?
Pets are commonplace at the office. These include some dogs, bunnies, girlfriends & boyfriends and cool city bikes. Our office is like a living room and people don't seem to like to leave it once they enter it. I think the working environment is important if you want to make sure you don't have to define working hours in your startup.
If you could live and do your startup from anywhere else in Europe, which place would you pick?
While everyone is looking at Silicon Valley, I would keep my eye on Berlin and Amsterdam.
Read more from our Startup Spotlight series:
- Toothpick, the UK startup that wants to take the pain out of booking a dentist
- Blinkist summarises books so you don’t have to read the whole thing
- Weekdone, the Estonian startup that wants to help teams work better together
- Silk helps anyone tell their stories online with robust data visualisation tools
- Italian hardware startup Solenica wants to bring more sunshine into your life
- Danish startup Fitbay wants to help you find your 'body double' and a perfect fit
- Dutch startup Vigour teams up with MTV to bring its multiscreen tech to the masses
- Q&A with Vivian Chan, founder of scientific info recommendation engine Sparrho