Ecocity – We create smart and sustainable cities
Our service evaluates climate and cost impacts of urban plans with only fraction of the time and cost that the consult analysis would require. Plans created by the user community form a global databank of sustainable city solutions.
Theory and practice
In 1975 Eero Paloheimo left his engineering company in the hands of his colleagues and took his family on a round the world trip. From this trip he wrote the first one of his 9 works on the society. Paloheimo has been a researcher, designer, entrepreneur, MP, professor and an opinion leader. Since the 1975 trip all his doings have been somehow connected to saving the world. The core message of the two time PhD in Technology is clear: The globe will be saved by utilising technology, not by deserting it.
In 1975 Eero’s son Pekka was 8 years old. Later on, Pekka has worked as a teacher and in different kinds of sales jobs and for the last 10 years before his current position as a management consultant. As Eero has been studying and discussing the state of the globe in his books, Pekka has chosen a more practical approach. He has cycled from Tallin to Odessa, from Nordkapp to Gibraltar and from Los Angeles to New York. Additionally he has crossed the Australian continent by walking. Hundreds of lonely kilometers have taught at least two things: our planet is worth saving and a man can do anything, if he wants it enough.
Ecocity as a starting point
Our company was founded in 2009 to design ecocities to China. Eero’s main work “The way towards a new Europe” was published in China in 2005 and was widely noticed. It looked like the Chinese would be the first ones in the world to build ecocities that would maximize the use of modern clean technology. Eero had the expertise and Pekka saw a business opportunity. The first assignment was given to the company by the city of Mentougou in 2010. First the company made a so called conseptual plan which was then followed by the actual masterplan project. The project gave the company a huge amount of experience and created a fine reference. The Chinese customer is still looking for funding to realize the actual construction process.
Ecocity Evaluator 1.0
As a professor in the Helsinki University of Technology Eero carried out a wide research program about the emissions of the Finnish forestry sector. That research and the game “Simcity” gave Pekka an idea. A scientifically reliable software that would simultaneously evaluate the climate impacts and costs of urban plans with sufficient accuracy could probably have a real demand in the global market. A company that designs ecocities knows where the emissions come from and can give advice to others as well.
The first version of the Ecocity Evaluator tool was ready in 2011. It wasn’t really a software but a collection of excel files with brilliant calculations. Additionally it was complex and challenging to use and naturally could not be sold as such. The climate impact analysis the Finnish cities and municipalities desperately needed could still be done by this tool. These analyses became the major source of income for the company and dozens of such analyses were done for many major cities in Finland including the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Turku, Tampere, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Lahti, Mikkeli, Kotka, Lohja etc.
Expensive product orientation
Along with the analysis projects the product has been further developed with own resources. The target has always been that the tool would work on the global market. It would be fast and easy to use, even game-like and slightly addictive. In the beginning of 2014 it was decided that the company would aim directly in creating a SaaS so that there would be no production costs and a global user community could be established. The development was funded by consultancy work and the progress was slow. In the spring of 2014 the founders decided to invest 140 000 more of their own money to the project and also an investment company called Vision+ joined as an outside funder. Involvement of Vision+ was a major step ahead and gave the company a strong IT and SaaS background.
In the fall of 2014 the company was in financial difficulties due to too small income and too big expenses. The worst mistake had been (maybe quite typical for an expert company) certain self- and product-centered thinking. It was thought that only 100 % finalized product with all features could be sold and the customers did not have to be heard as their needs were known well enough. Time and money had been wasted to some technically demanding and fine details that after all were not important businesswise. It was decided that a demo version that could be sold had to be finalized as soon as possible and the sales had to start. At the same time as the expenses of the company were brought down by for example making changes in the personnel, Pekka Paloheimo took the lead in the production process as well and the board of the company was renewed.
Improved finances and the strength of crowds
The sales of test licences started in May 2015 and soon showed to be the right decision. The demand has been steady and during 2015 there were 17 customers that made the purchase agreement. The client list is impressive including cities, design companies and other companies as well.
The customer feedback has given the company some important ideas to the product development and the whole process. First came an idea which expands significantly the customer potential. The calculations can be done with real materials, products and solutions instead of theoretical ones. Additionally to its basic purpose the service as such works as a marketing channel for cleantech companies offering solutions to urban structure. Getting the companies involved multiplies the amount of potential users and advertising clients.
The second idea that came from the clients was to include a land use economy calculation to the service. This increases the usability of the service significantly. The third new idea arised during the recent year is a business model with which the service can be spread to new markets and global use. Fourth new insight was realizing the services’ importance as a data bank.
Mr. Petri Kotro was nominated as a second board member from the beginning of 2015. He has strong experience in user interface development and from agile and customer oriented software development methods. After Pekka took over the lead of the product development and Petri joined the team, the development work changed rapidly to be more straightforward and business oriented. Now the financial situation is fixed and the development path to the first commercial version of the SaaS is ready and all the development work done by the company itself (the calculation algorithm the service uses, the specs for programmers and the UI –plan) is ready. The programming work still has to be done. By the end of 2015 the company decided to open a crowdfunding round to fund this final development stage. As the service ultimately helps the whole mankind, it is justifiable to expand the shareholder base by crowdfunding.