Interview with Sauli Törmälä.
Focal Spec’s story goes back to 2006 when the basic research was done in VTT in Oulu. The idea of the research to find breakthrough 3D measurement technology. The result was impressive and it was decided to spin off the company from the VTT. FocalSpec provides the optical method to measure very precisely forms and shapes of products in a factory environment online. Our technology allows measuring shiny, transparent, matt and the thinnest surfaces which are very challenging for traditional technologies. Since the magnitude of the measurements is higher than the other existing technologies, it allowed us to enter the consumer electronics market extremely fast. All the big international mobile phone companies have found us. Because of their interest, there is proof that technology is extremely valuable.
Honestly, it was harder than we initially thought to build this company. In the beginning, it was obvious that everybody needs 3D measurement but there already existed methods which were good enough for different kinds of production quality measurement. So, to find those customers who needed us and our special capability was not that easy. We have tried our technology in the metal industry, medical industry, paper industry, plastic industry and we had some success but it did not really scale up until 2015.
Then, one of the biggest mobile companies saw us at one of the exhibitions and the first scalable mass production came as a result. We ended up using our technology to their whole production line. Through that, we continued working with other mobile consumer product manufacturers and integrators. So, it took us appx 5 years for us to get into the first scalable solution. As a result, last year we had 100% growth compared to 2017.
There are two ways of starting a company. One is when there is a clear need from the customer and then you just need an idea to solve that need. Second, is to start to form the technology. Like us and other colleagues from VTT Ventures. It is much more expensive and time-consuming to go around the world and find the need for the technology your team has invented. Also, there is a psychological aspect. If your company is the market leader and even if your technology would not be perfect, you won’t get fired by the customer. But if you apply the best technology as a completely new company or a startup, and it does not work for any reason, well you can lose your job or the whole business. So, we have had things to consider while growing the company.
We are 35 in Oulu and 15 in China. We have a pretty typical startup story. We started the company with our friends. This helped us a lot inside the core team. You have to respect the capabilities and understand that people are different. So, do not expect everybody to behave the same way.
My personal interest was that I do like working with the technology and since I am a serial entrepreneur and built a few companies. Additionally, I wanted to help the founders and investors to grow such an idea. Plus, I am originally from Oulu and I wanted companies to get started in Oulu.
About my leadership principles. I always try to go in front and do not push the team to fight. We are together in this. I show that I am challenging myself as well. Hence, I travel a lot and I am there where the team is struggling.
You can follow them on:
LinkedIn: FocalSpec Oy