The Story of Sofokus

From coincidence to the one of Europe’s fastest growing companies

Sofokus was founded 2000 on one man’s dream. During its history, Sofokus has worked with hundreds of aspiring brands ranging from multinational corporations to small startups. The backbone of Sofokus’ modern business concepts are innovative cloud based digital solutions.

It all began in 1994 at the University of Turku, when Sofokus founder and multi-entrepreneur of digital business Teemu Malinen used the Internet for the first time.

I stared at the black screen and realized that those white characters were flowing in from abroads. I felt hypnotized.

In the beginning of 2000, Malinen founded digital consulting company Sofokus Inc. and also set up Nowire Inc. with his friends. Early 2000 companies around the world wanted to develop mobile internet services and Finland was the place to be because of the Nokia. The very first customer resided in the US and the business was international by the nature.

The first Finnish startup community

One of the Nowire co-founders, Antti Hemminki, introduced the team with Hewlett-Packard’s new global mobile innovation center called eBazaar led by Peter Vesterbacka later knows as the Might Eagle in Rovio. One of the original team members, Karri Hautanen, characterizes the tribe-like atmosphere:

eBazaar’s sense of community was unheard of in Finland. Around the world, hundreds of companies collaborated with each other, creating things that were ahead of their time.

The eBazaar had headquarters in Vantaa and is considered the first modern startup community in Finland – 9 years before Slush. The legendary “Bazaar experience” set the tone for Sofokus from the get-go. Malinen summarizes the feelings:

Without eBazaar we wouldn’t have had the courage to set the bar so high.

HP eBazaar lead to the birth of the several inventions ahead of their time such as a platform economy solution for birdwatching using the world’s first GPS-mobile phone featured in Wall Street Journal and RFID-based locationing system used around the world.

Wall Street Journal - Bird Observation System
World’s 1st bird watching solution using GPS-enabled mobile phone in 2002

Things start to fall apart

Around 2003 the market hit the rock bottom as the dotcom-bubble broke. Malinen had to lay off the entire Sofokus staff temporarily and recalls how it felt:

It was one of my hardest tasks ever as an entrepreneur.

Before the bubble broke companies bought anything digital – even PowerPoint concepts. After the bubble, it felt like companies just stopped investing in digital and mobile solutions for a while. Tons of companies went bankrupt and people started to talk that maybe the whole idea of internet business was a fluke. In just few years, everything had turned on its head and future didn’t look so clear as before. Malinen admits that

For the first time in my life as an entrepreneur, I seriously entertained with the idea of quitting and getting a real job.

Around 2006 Nowire slowly just vanished, other founders moved on, but Malinen made a decision to fight back.

Embracing the grind

During 2007, Malinen began systematically growing Sofokus by focusing more on tailor-made solutions that built competitive advantage for businesses.

Back in 2001, we didn’t know that we were already making platform economy solutions. Today, I am proud to say that we were pioneers on a global scale. One lucky chance can change everything”, Malinen concludes.

The story continues

Many things have changed since 2000, but one thing remains. A creation of defensible competitive advantage is a process, not a project. Instead of looking for small immediate wins, Sofokus is dedicated to take the longer and harder road towards creating something meaningful and lasting. True business value has always been sexy.

“Our customers value the relentless search for ‘one step further’. Today they demand even more from a strategic digital business partner.” says Malinen.

Sofokus helps organizations to identify their digital assets and turn them into a defensible competitive edge. In order to create a competition advantage, you need to leverage a tailor-made digital solution. Using only off-the-shelf solution does not cut it.

“I believe that we are on the verge of the next digital business revolution. Monolithic product solutions and traditional tailor-made solutions have come their end. Businesses today requires core digital systems that can be pivoted along their customers. This is a seriously hard challenge for digital and IT solutions.” proposes Malinen.