Hi Kalle. How did you come up with the idea of Foodie platform?
We had a couple of competing ideas that we toyed around with; one of mine was a game based on augmented reality, a little bit like Pokémon Go. The initial idea for a new kind of grocery shopping application came from another one of our founders, Samuli. The idea was inspired by a music recommendation service called Last FM and its taste-based music channels. The four of us that ended up founding Digital Foodie had previously all worked together so we had a strong group that already knew each other and worked well as a team.
How did you develop your key partnerships? How did you make your first sale?
We decided to pitch our idea directly to the market leaders in Finland and ended up with multiple pilot agreements. From the very beginning our ideologies clicked very well with S Group. We soon dropped other pilots and did a successful project with them. This lead to a close strategic partnership that has been expanding ever since. In the beginning we didn’t know that much about the grocery retail but we did know a lot about software and consumer services. Our and S Group’s expertise complement each other very well.
You should be very humble, but not afraid of anything. And I mean nothing: one day you might be washing dishes at the office and the next, meeting the CEO of a 10B+ company.
How did you get funded or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow? Initial seed funding always requires some creativity. Not much salary was paid to anyone during the first year. At the beginning, we did mobile development subcontracting until we got the first MVP (minimum viable product) together for the pilot and the seed investment. We also leveraged Tekes, which is a great resource in Finland. We put in some seed money of our own as well. At the same time, we kept pitching our business idea to investors. Eventually we took part in a Vigo acceleration program and did a full seed financing round with Veraventure, Tekes, Veturi Growth Partners, our board member angels, and ourselves.
What have been the biggest milestones of Digital Foodie so far?
The first one was naturally our partnership with S Group where it all started, followed by the seed investment. The next one was turning Digital Foodie into a ‘real’ company with multiple customers. Another great moment was when our product, that had started as a shopping list assistant, evolved into a full eCommerce platform. We were able to provide actual online shopping experiences with full blown fulfillment (picking and delivery) features. The latest milestone is our Black Dragon/EnterWorks partnership which really opened the gate for us to the North American market. Finding industry-leading entrepreneurs in the States that believe in us is something that makes me very proud of the team, even though I feel that the story is just beginning.
What habits or mindsets do you think helped make you successful?
Well we’re still working our way to the top and there’s a lot to do, but there are a couple of things that can help you go a long way, especially when dealing with a growth company. Most importantly: you have to know how to manage chaos. When growing, there will always be chaos. You have to be okay with the fact that it’s an ongoing state, not something that will pass. Secondly, it’s all about people. You need to find the right people to make it all work. Hire and fire fast if needed. And last but not least, you should be very humble, but not afraid of anything. And I mean nothing: one day you might be washing dishes at the office and the next, meeting the CEO of a 10B+ company.
Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Well, certainly the biggest decision was taking the leap of faith and turning our idea into a company. Once you take that step, resign or jump from one company to another and get started, you don’t really have options. When you submit the incorporation papers, you’re in it. You just have to learn how to swim.