18.12. 2015 Kuukauden kasvo

High goals – but realistic ones

Developed in Turku, the Vaadin technology based on open source code is used by 150,000 developers around the world. Jurka Rahikkala is one of the founders of the rapidly growing Vaadin Oy.

Software company Vaadin Oy operates in the Old Mill and intends to keep its headquarters in Turku, although almost all of its turnover comes from outside Finland. The number of the multinational personnel in Turku is nearly 90, and there will be over 10 employees outside Finland by the next summer. Turnover for 2015 is expected to total around 9 million euros, up by some 30 per cent.

Vaadin was established in 2000 in Turku Science Park’s business incubator under the name IT Mill. Chief Operating Officer Jurka Rahikkala is one of the five founders of the company; the other two still with the company are CEO Joonas Lehtinen and Project Manager Jani Laakso.

Vaadin Oy has been quite a success story which discarded the traditional way to act in the IT business. Operations based on open source code mean distributing the product free of charge, and the money will not start coming in until the software is good enough, preferably the best in the world, and is distributed widely enough. The five entrepreneurs set that as their goal, and it worked.

A strong vision

”Our success is a real win on points, for which most of the credit must be given to Joonas’ perseverance. He had such a firm faith in us. We’ve had the same vision from the beginning, and our mission is to make building amazing web applications easy”, Jurka Rahikkala says.

The most important marketing channel is the Internet. In addition, the company focuses on serving the Java user community and developing their own products. Today, the turnover mainly accrues from services, but increasingly also from commercial products with which the Vaadin technology can be used more efficiently compared to free modules. The company’s list of users includes international giants, such as NASA and Google.

Internationalisation paid off

”The great breakthrough happened in 2012. We decided to put all stakes on the international markets, and it paid off, we played it very well. The share of our international turnover rose very quickly from zero to 90 per cent. The biggest number of users is in the United States and Germany, and we set up offices in both countries. Joonas went to the Silicon Valley, and one third of our turnover comes from Palo Alto. The biggest growth potential is also in the United States”, Mr Rahikkala says.

Getting started in Germany was slower due to the language barrier. The staff in the Silicon Valley comes originally from Finland, but it did not work in Germany. Last autumn, Vaadin opened a new office in Berlin with just German employees. There is great user potential, but Germany accounts for just 10–15 per cent of the turnover.

No limit for growth

Mr Rahikkala can see no limit for growth. At the moment, just one per cent of the Vaadin users are buying products with a charge, and new commercial offering is being developed continuously.

”The value of the development tools market is dozens of billions and the number of users is huge. Our turnover target for the next year is 12 million euros, but the goal for 2020 is at least five times that. We are talking about a hundred million goal in-house, and I can’t see any reason why we couldn’t reach that. It’s just a fraction of the markets”, Jurka Rahikkala says.

The business will be boosted by the new Vaadin Elements software which can be used by other than Java programmers, too.

Meaningful work

Jurka Rahikkala considers his work extremely interesting in a growing and internationalising company and does not find it stressful despite the challenges. The personnel comprises many nationalities, and he encourages team spirit through various joint activities. Mr Rahikkala returned to Vaadin at the beginning of 2012 after having worked elsewhere for a few years and started at the same time research for his doctoral dissertation in the University of Turku. The subject is cost impacts of IT investments from the point of view of management.

”The subject is directly linked to my work, and I believe that it will benefit our customers, too. The dissertation is expected to be completed by the end of next year”, Mr Rahikkala says.

Dancing with the family

At leisure, Mr Rahikkala gets his mind off work at competitive dancing which is a common hobby of the whole stepfamily; wife and three sons.

”It’s a nice hobby, although it takes up a lot of time. The competition is fierce is you want to succeed, although there is wonderful spirit among the dancers and a successful performance makes you feel good. We adults only participate in standard dances, but the kids do all ten dances. It’s also fun to watch together the Tanssii tähtien kanssa (Strictly Come Dancing) TV show which gives a good idea of the hobby”, Jurka Rahikkala says.

He thinks that dancing does not however require as much physical fitness as his previous hobbies long-distance running, skiing, and cycling.

Text and photos: Anne Kortela

Jurka Rahikkala

Born in 1974 in Ikaalinen, lives in Turku
COO, Vaadin Oy, Turku

1/2012– Doctoral student, University of Turku, subject: Top Management Participation in Software Project Cost Estimation, expected completion in 2016
1994–1998 M.Sc., Computer Science, University of Turku, thesis: Mining data from large databases

1/2012– COO, Vaadin Oy, Turku
2007–2/2012 Member of the Board, Nipsoft Ab, Sweden
2007–2012 Product Line Director, Lindorff Group
2000–9/2008 Shareholder, Chairman of the Board, Vaadin Oy (formerly IT Mill)
3/2005–3/2007 Business Development Manager, Lindorff Oy
5/2003–3/2005 System Architect, Gredi Oy (formerly Grafimedia Oy)
2000–2003 Project Manager, founder, Vaadin Oy (formerly IT Mill)
1999–2000 Senior Software Architect, Atuline Ltd.
1999–2000 Leading software development team, development of software development processes, software design and implementation.
5/1998–11/1999 Consultant Fujitsu Service Oy
1996–1998 Software Architect, Suomen Keltaiset Sivut Oy

Family and free time
Family: Stepfamily; wife and 3 sons
Hobbies: Competitive dancing