For the founder of Verto Analytics, the sky’s the limit when it comes to growth. According to seasoned entrepreneur Hannu Verkasalo, product development must be in lock step with customer needs right from the start.
In 2006 Hannu Verkasalo had an idea. “Nokia had a problem. They didn’t know what consumers were doing with the tens of millions of mobile phones they were selling annually. I worked with Nokia employees, helping them to build models, products and processes they could use to become more in tune with consumers. Nokia was an important customer, but I was also learning things from them,” recalls Hannu Verkasalo, CEO of the technology company Verto Analytics.
Back then, the young entrepreneur from Oulu had three degrees: one in ICT from the Helsinki University of Technology, a second in financing from the Helsinki School of Economics, and a third in economics from the University of Helsinki. He was working hard on his thesis, and he had established his first companies back in 2002.
Ten years later, he analysed his career.
“In the first phase, I was a consultant; I sold working hours and taught the customer to build better business models, services and products. In the second phase, I had learned so much about mobile technology that I built a technical platform that I licensed to customers,” Verkasalo recalls.
“Now I am in phase three. We are collecting data about mobile device users and about users of other digital data, and using analytics to produce services for our customers based on that data. For example, Supercell might research how their new game is being played compared to eight competing games.”
Verkasalo’s “we” is the Verto Analytics he established in 2013.
Verto’s service offers mobile world businesses a unique opportunity to analyse the use of their services, applications or marketing. Verto collects data from two channels, analyses it, and then offers refined data to its customers.
The business idea is simple: acquire raw data for cheap and sell it forward at a high price and scalably. Some of the paying customers, like Microsoft and Facebook, are the same customers Verto acquires raw data from.
“We collect data through extensive and comprehensive panel research and directly from the metrics of industry players using the big data concept.”
Verto’s panel research has some 100,000 active members, mainly in the United States and Great Britain, and Verto collects real-time information about their use of smart devices. Another data stream comes from sector players, like from app stores and various advertising networks.
“The collected panel data is unique data that no one else has. Data acquired from other players in the sector is licensed data that we have the rights to use. The technology used to combine and refine this data and then offer it to customers as a service is our core competence.”
And what is Verto’s unique business model?
“We own and manage unique data benefitting the customer’s business. We are a completely unbiased player in the sector, unlike e.g. Google or Facebook. We have succeeded in turning data and analytics into services customers can use to benefit their business.”
Eight years in the United States, particularly in the brutal business world of New York, has given Verkasalo perspective in assessing the Finnish startup world and business culture.
“The notion that technology innovation and patenting are big things is still too prevalent in Finland. Endless product development is carried out before thinking about commercialisation. It’s most important that we do things that customers can genuinely benefit from,” Verkasalo says.
Pilots have to be delivered to customers quickly, the feedback has to be instant, and revenue from the product has to come in quickly."
According to Verkasalo, product development must be in lock step with customer needs right from the start.
“In New York, there isn’t time for drinking coffee and chitchat; you have to be able to argue the customer benefits within a couple of minutes or the meeting is over. Pilots have to be delivered to customers quickly, the feedback has to be instant, and revenue from the product has to come in quickly.”
Verto’s turnover last year was about two million US dollars and it will grow manifold this year compared to last year. The rapid growth constantly requires new capital, which has been offered by Finnish Industry Investment and a number of Finnish and international investors, such as EQT Ventures.
Even though Verkasalo has so far been a serial entrepreneur, Verto is now his mission. Ten years from now he still wants to be working at Verto, which will then be a listed company and its business will be deep in the core of advertising markets. And the turnover will be in a totally different sphere than it is today.
“The global advertising markets this year are valued at EUR 600 billion, one percent of which, i.e. EUR 6 billion, goes to companies doing media metrics. In a quickly changing sector, the winner takes the lion’s share of the markets. We intend to be that winner.”