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Tuukka Ylälahti, March 14 2023

Meet Tuukka, father, husband and CEO

Katariina: Tuukka, I think we all need a moment to know you better before taking a deep dive into what’s Mesensei. SO, who are you?

Tuukka: haha, well I am Tuukka, I’m 45 — a fairly extensively travelled adventurer turned into a family guy with two boys and a lovely wife —who just so happens to be also my co-founder partner!

I am also a 1x exit founder and been around in the Helsinki start-up scene since 2000s — so one might say I am just seasoned, but thoroughly marinated in all things tech & startup.

Katariina: GREAT! Love it. You said your wife is a co-founder of Mesensei. I got to ask you, how has that experience been?

Tuukka: Well it has carried on just as it started. We actually hooked up during my first startup while we worked together on our project. I was a tech guy and she was the creative director at a design agency doing work for us.

As a professional, I had always loved her design —and then I eventually fell in love with the designer.

During the journey we won a major award together and realised that we make a great team not just in business but in life.

Katariina: isn’t it hard to combine work and marriage?

Tuukka: I feel that for me and Claudia it is the opposite. We share the passion for what we do professionally and our life goals are aligned.

It is not her career vs my career vs home building —or about who makes the compromise to take care of the family and home.

We are on the same page about what needs to be done both at home and at work. Then we pick who does what — and just get things done.

Katariina: That's great to hear! So how come you became co-founding partners?

Tuukka: Well, as I said we enjoy working together and we make a great team. Claudia came up with an idea around the time we were approaching exit from the first startup. We knew we wanted to set-up a venture together and that's what we did. Eventually the idea evolved into Mesensei, as more brilliant co-founders joined in and made it into what it is today.

Katariina: I see, and what was the idea?

Tuukka: Claudia would actually be the better person to tell this story as the prime mover. She did a fair bit of pro-bono work for NGO’s and knew there was a growing need for NGOs to go digital. Being a great designer, she envisioned a mobile platform with features to match the typical needs of NGOs providing all kinds of support services.

There was also the aspect of data protection and confidentiality. NGOs often process highly sensitive personal data, so GDPR compliance was not just optional, but critically important — a field which I knew a lot about.

Fusing these together, we conceptualised a platform designed for the needs of NGOs and public institutions from ground up.

One key aspect why we launched the venture was the idea that digital technology is not all about media, entertainment, advertisements, and big-tech corporates.

We had a firm belief that education and all kinds of support networks need dedicated platforms which operate differently from entertainment and advertisement driven systems.

Katariina:  That is interesting! I share the same view and believe your product philosophy taps into the very center of the future of humanity and technology especially in the field of communication.

That being said, I gotta ask you, what’s your biggest issue right now —and let’s be real here, it not an easy space where you are for a startup during the exploratory phase.

Tuukka: This is correct. Decision making cycles in institutions like Universities, NGO’s, and public institutions are excruciatingly long. It takes time to get projects moving forward. It is well known that in some fast moving SaaS industries exit can happen in just three years from founding. While in education sector where we have primarily been that takes on average about 10 years.

Katariina: So how are you tackling this? 

Tuukka: Diversification and product development. We were born as a simple mobile directory to connect people digitally to support physical connectivity.

Covid changed the game as the digital became the only available channel for people to meet and interact. That gave us a push invest in development of a fully fledged community platform complete with browser version in addition to iOS and Android applications. This was a right decision, as the new product opened up new markets for us in the health care sector.

Building on that track, we just won our first global corporate customer and validated the product market fit for our technology in the enterprise league. Our technological and business maturity has now reached the level where we are ready to start delivering integrated enterprise solutions around MS Teams and Azure.

Acceptance to Microsoft Startup Program speeds up this work.  We are getting great support from mentors and technical experts of the Founders Hub and expect to have offerings in the Azure marketplace this year.

Katariina: Amazing, well done! So what next?

Tuukka: The usual. Complete the tech, deliver successful customer cases, build up distribution partnerships with system integrators and demonstrate growth capability in the enterprise market —and then raise series A to scale up.

Katariina: Makes sense! And when would this be?

Tuukka: If all goes according to the plan, around the end of this year.

Katariina: Fantastic, looking forward to more news on how the entry to the enterprise solutions goes. Thank you for taking the time

Tuukka: No worries, thank you. Great talking to you.

Written by

Tuukka Ylälahti


Previous Growth at Mesensei: Mesensei was accepted to the Microsoft for Startups program