In the beginning there was yoga, or jooga in Finland. Mikko Petäjä, busy father of three, was going to ad agency to work after morning yoga class and got increasingly stressed, thinking of three hours he had spent in total. Not only the class, but also getting there and getting back.
“When I got home I started to google for an online yoga service. I could not fine one. I asked my wife whether it would not be worth launching and she said it’s a great idea, but please don’t do anything about it. Our life is too busy,” Petäjä told ArcticStartup in an interview.
Half a million attended classes later Petäjä is happy he did not really listen.
“We started to think, test and validate the idea that such thing could work. Soon we did the first demo classes over Skype and we found first clients really fast,” Petäjä said.
As the demand was there it was time to launch Yoogaia in October 2013. The name merges yoga with gaia, which means the world in Greek.
“It was the only name we thought,” says Petäjä.
However, as jooga is written with two Os in Finland it has raised many questions when the team has been taking the brand around the world. On Tuesday it started to use the new name – in domain and in applications – desktop, iOS, Android and Apple TV.
Yogaia employs now around 20 people, with product development mostly in Finland and commercial team in London. The service is available in English, German and Finnish. More than 1 percent of Finns have signed up for the service which last year won award for the best mobile app in the country.
While the uptake in the home market is impressive, Finland is a tiny market globally with its 5 million population.
“We are seriously focusing now on Britain and Germany,” said Petäjä.
In the United States there are 20 million people saying they do yoga exercises, and additional 100 million are interested, offering massive potential for the solutions which would lower the starting barrier.
“That’s our mission, to make it possible to exercise during everyday activities, to lower the barrier,” said Petäjä.
To tap into the massive opportunity fast enough Petäjä and his team have raised money twice – meeting investors at our Arctic15 conferences in 2014 and 2015. I have to ask whether next investment, the A round, is coming in June? “It might come already before,” he said.
For the family man the stress is still there: since launch the firm has run out of money three times and a few times its the technology which has failed, with no-one knowing why. “It’s part of the startup life – there is constant risk and uncertainty,” said Petäjä.
To manage it, he will join the next yoga class.