Kiuas Startups - Holda

Kiuas Startups is a series of stories about our current & alumni startups. This is an interview with Vesa, CEO of Holda.

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Aaro Isosaari

March 15, 2018

The application period for Kiuas Accelerator 2018 is just about to open, and we got a chance to interview the winner team of last year’s program, holda.io!

Holda is a startup that makes a service for the rental market that sticks with both — the landlord and the tenant throughout the rental cycle from seeking the apartment to moving out of it. The idea is that the tenant needs just one interface for all the matters related to his/her lease. Holda is digitizing and automating the process removing as much manual work as possible.

Holda won the Kiuas Accelerator 2017 only three weeks after making a complete u-turn in their business idea. They were also at Slush sponsored by Nordea Startup Growth and got to the top 50 in the Slush 100 -pitching competition.

How’s it going with Holda? What are you up to right now?

Thanks for asking, we are enjoying ourselves. We recently moved to a new office at A Grid and we like it here. Startup Sauna was a good place to start but now that we need more space and workstations it is wonderful to have the own office.

Workwise we’ve done thousands and thousands of lines of code and right now we are making some final tweaks to the first version of our product before starting the sales this month. We have also made a lot of partnerships for example with Pop-vakuutus, Visma PPG, Visma Sign, JJT Rakennus Oy, LokiTime and many others in the pipeline. We also got our first customer pilots.

Tell us a little about the accelerator program. What made you apply and what were the best things you got out of it?

We ended up applying to the accelerator by a lucky accident. We were having our first working day at Startup Sauna and I asked a stranger for a lunch place. The stranger happened to be Anttoni Aniebonam, the former president at Aalto Entrepreneurship Society and he told us about Kiuas. We first applied for the Incubator. We were in Stockholm with another accelerator when we got an email that it is the last day to apply for the Kiuas Accelerator. It wasn’t easy to write the application after sleepless boat trip and trying to listen a workshop about making business in Sweden (not to mention the +28C weather) but it was totally worth it.

The accelerator program made last summer an unforgettable experience. It was like the best summer job you could ever dream of — in your own company! Yeah, it was intense but I wouldn’t have skipped it for anything. We gained so many useful contacts that have helped us or that can help us in the future. We are literally in contact with some of the contacts weekly. The Workshops and 1-on-1’s on the accelerator taught us a lot of critical and useful skills on everyday life of a startup.

Has there been major mistakes made yet? Something you could have done better?

If it is a startup, mistakes often cannot be avoided. Our biggest mistake so far has been that since we made a complete pivot, (during the Kiuas Accelerator we decided to take a completely new direction to our business idea) we should have had take a timeout and do the basics much more detailed instead of trying to make it on the run. We got the problem right from the day one after the pivot but it took us a couple of months to get the process right. Since the real estate business is so complex it’s very hard to do services that solve only one problem. The services need to cover various different aspects. We just should have interviewed even more people on the industry.

How’s the future looking? What’s up next?

The future looks good even though right now this is the most challenging period in the life of any startup, the first valley of death between the first funding and the revenue. I still feel confident that we will make it. Next we’re starting a sales round for more customer pilots. Our goal is to get Holda up and running widely before the students move in in August. We have a lot of partnership negotiations going on. In general the response has been very positive and interested.

We applied for R&D funding from Business Finland and now we waiting for results on that. It would make our strategy of keeping the investors out as long as possible possible.

Personally I just can’t wait for the upcoming spring and summer in terms of Holda. And once more, thanks for Kiuas for having us!

Looking to boost you startup and spend the summer like Holda did? Check out accelerator.kiuas.us!