Petri Kalske leads his troops to the barricades
Petri Kalske, Managing Director of Axel Technologies, talks like a leader of revolution in South America and says that Fuugo is the result of a very simple groundbreaking idea.
"We decided to swim against the current and forget for a moment everything the customers requested. They were always asking whether we support this or that standard and whether our application works on a certain platform. No-one ever asked whether we have an easy-to-use TV application or how it will solve the users' problems."
"We decided not to think about what the equipment manufacturers want us to think about. The customers shouldn't be forced to figure out which application or technology should be used to reach the TV programme they want to watch," Mr Kalske states.
Mr Kalske's words are worth to be taken seriously. He and his troops have visited the US, the cradle of TV culture, numerous times to spread the word. In December Fuugo participated in the TV Innovation Awards in Los Angeles in the Mobile TV category and won the first prize.
The jury awarded Fuugo for its level of innovation, commercial potential and likelihood of consumer adoption. In other words, Fuugo was so easy to use that the jury thought that consumers would love it.
"We are especially proud of winning the awards on foreign soil in the US where we are unknown. We believe that if we can make it in the US, we will make it everywhere, because the competition is toughest there," Mr Kalske points out.
All the channels in one application
Axel Technologies produces TV and video software for portable devices and went on to develop Fuugo, an innovative TV and video application, two years ago. What makes it new is that according to Mr Kalske, Fuugo is the first software entering the market which will solve the problems of use caused by the variety of applications for mobile TV and mobile video.
"For example, Nokia's and Apple's flagships use many different TV applications and a separate Media Player for videos. For those used to an easy-to-use television in the living room this is hard to understand and accept. Fuugo is a single easy-to-use application through which you can get all the essential TV and video services," Mr Kalske sums up.
If the problem so far has been the large number of applications and services, the single application model offered by Fuugo created another problem: if all the TV channels and services are combined in one application, how will anyone make sense of the abundance of channels? Europe alone has over 700 online video and TV service providers.
Axel Technologies solved the problem by integrating Fuugo into social media. In other words, Fuugo can be used to send recommendations via e.g. Twitter or Facebook.
"Whose opinion do you trust in deciding what to watch? Your best friends, of course, who know what you like. Fuugo can show you a Playlist of the programmes your friends have recommended to you on Facebook or Twitter," Mr Kalske explains.
Using Fuugo is childishly easy
This is the idea behind Fuugo's slogan, "always something good to watch". It offers a single application which contains all (the most essential) TV channels and is easy to use and control. The slogan even applies when the Internet cannot be accessed, as you can download the shows you want to watch on Fuugo in advance and watch them later, for example on a plane.
According to Mr Kalske, one should learn how to use Fuugo in five seconds, and he certainly makes it look easy. Changing the channel can be done by moving the finger to the right or left on the screen. The channel menu can be shown by wiping a finger up the screen, the Play list by wiping down.
"In Fuugo the technological jargon has been completely hidden from the users. I claim that my four-year-old daughter would learn how to use Fuugo in a minute. There are few devices or applications about which you can say the same," Mr Kalske says, laughing.
The world will not be conquered from Finland
As the Managing Director puts it, Axel Technologies is standing on the edge. The first versions of Fuugo are completed: the around forty people working for the company and for subcontractors involved in producing Fuugo are going through exciting times.
"One could exaggerate a little and say that this will either get air under its wings or we will quit. Of course, we strongly believe that this will get air under its wings. Our product is interesting and good. There is already some international buzz around it. We are in contact with large equipment manufacturers almost on a daily basis," Mr Kalske assures.
At the same time the Managing Director himself runs from one equity investor to another, hat in hand. He has come across the biggest problem facing Finnish companies, namely, a chronic lack of capital.
"Now that we have done the hardest product development work and it should be time to reap the harvest, the Finnish system no longer stretches. It is much easier to get funding for product development than for marketing and distribution. This is the stage where many Finnish companies have given up," Mr Kalske criticises.
Axel Technologies is not going to give up at such an early stage. According to Mr Kalske, the company already has found financing for Fuugo's marketing campaign, and more is needed to launch Fuugo properly.
"We don't want to barely make a living. We want Fuugo to become a global product. Our goal is to have at least dozens of millions of users," Mr Kalske outlines.
The revolution has started: the first Fuugo was sent to a customer on Friday 28 January 2011. Mr Kalske predicts a short but fierce battle.
"I'd consider it very likely that within five years someone will have bought Axel Technologies off the market. It isn't easy to conquer the world from Finland with this capital," Mr Kalske thinks. "On the other hand, this shouldn't be seen merely as a threat but as an opportunity, as we obviously need investments here."
- Born in Pori in 1973
- Came to the University of Turku to study social sciences in 1995; didn't graduate as the working life absorbed him
- Work history: after a couple of years in advertising agencies, he ended up as a Concept Designer for AdCore in 2000-2001; Project Manager and Head of Unit at Axel Digital in 2001-2003; Axel Technologies 2003-2011, Managing Director since 2005
- Hobbies: football, floorball, badminton, music, records
- Married with two children