Kari Aho, founder of Secapp tells us how they built a platform aimed especially for critical communications, alerting, collecting, and sharing critical data.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kari Aho: Thank you for asking. We are doing good. We have managed to stay safe and healthy. Of course, this pandemic has put us and everyone else in a different situation which means working remotely and avoiding human contacts in large numbers.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Secapp?
Kari Aho: My background is in mobile technologies and telecommunications in general. I did my Ph.D. when I was 26-year-old, and it was related to future mobile communication technologies. I wanted to take that experience to build something meaningful which has a true impact on society.
The story of Secapp started when we launched a project around the concept of emergencies, disasters, and basically any unexpected situation. We took fire and rescue organizations, police, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, schools, and food production companies into the project. We went through the key challenges in the context of crises. Based on the feedback focusing on communications, we aimed to make a platform with which you can actually coordinate activities effectively and save lives. We started to tackle those things with Secapp to build a platform aimed especially for critical communications, alerting, collecting, and sharing critical data.
How does Secapp innovate?
Kari Aho: We innovate at various different levels. The main thing is that we involve heavily our customers in the innovation processes. We take the customer into the process from day one, meaning that first, we start to understand the challenges, i.e. where should we take Secapp to meet the customers’ needs.
We try to keep the process as agile as possible rather than building huge blocks without involving the end-users and customers. It is very important to understand that the customers know best their challenges and what kind of solutions they are expecting.
When the involvement is done with a large set of customers you will get a lot of valuable feedback which is then combined and prioritized. Based on the information, our technical and design teams start to put received feedback into their own context: what we need to do, change or update.
Step by step we build the technical part, then involve the customer again to get more feedback about the developed features. We take as many rounds as needed to get the features ready for actual production.
Additionally, we welcome a very open environment within Secapp to provide and test new ideas. For that purpose, we have actually created a special internal event called the Jack Bauer Day which is held a few times a year. In that event, our whole team has 24 hours and free hands to innovate and try different ideas and technologies – in teams or individually.
At the end of the 24 hours, we have – of course, not only saved the world – but other than that, a lot of brilliant ideas that we can take step by step to our production environment to finalize. This has been an important way to develop the products also internally and build our own innovation process.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Kari Aho: COVID-19 has brought various effects on our business. The most visible is that we have to do everything remotely. Fortunately, we had built a basis for that as we have been working remotely already before this pandemic. Of course, working with a communications platform has given us an advantage in terms of using our own products to improve our efficiency and ways of working.
Naturally, this situation has forced us to build stronger processes related to how we for example arrange internal meetings, how we share information, and how we recruit and train new employees. In general, I think we have done these things very well.
On the business side, COVID-19 has actually helped us and sped up our growth as we are indeed developing a platform that is specially designed to manage various crises. For example, we have been able to help hospitals in their communications when they need to coordinate lots of different activities and make sure that people are safe and informed. That has increased our opportunities in health care but also in other verticals because every single organization is now working more or less remotely and in different ways than before this pandemic. And they need proper communications tools. Last year Secapp grew over 100 % which is one of the indicators that we have been doing the right things and most importantly, being able to help our customers in this different world.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Kari Aho: As said, we are in a fortunate position being a technology company and building a crisis-related platform. There has not been a need to make drastic decisions in terms of a negative impact. Of course, on the other hand, growing the company quite rapidly has put us in a situation where we need to make decisions on hiring new employees and training them well. A lot of things are actually related to the positive and, fortunately, not to the negative side.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Kari Aho: Secapp. That is definitely our key tool. If we provide something to our customers, it’s very important that we use it ourselves as well. It has been a benefit for us that we have had a platform that we know completely and use daily, so we knew it’s a good tool for our customers’ use cases too.
Secapp also provides a secure chat, video connection, and ways to send messages and alerts which need reacting in urgent situations. Using these features, we can reach the right people at any time, also within our own company. In addition, we have used digital document sharing environments, contract, and financial management software, and CRM for managing our customer relationships.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kari Aho: Our competitors range from a large scope. In the lower end, we are competing against consumer communications applications. However, those are built for consumer-related topics. When dealing with industries, authorities, and the public sector, there is very critical data that you should not share in communications tools that are not built from the perspective of security, owning the data, and not sharing information with third parties.
We have been dealing very well in that context and have been able to compete with the consumer domains. On the professional side, we are competing with companies that are building mass notification systems and crisis management platforms.
Our competitors are for example PagerDuty and Everbridge. We have also done very well against them in terms of competing with customers because our core idea is to provide a platform that is not just for crises, emergencies, or disasters but it actually supports your day-to-day activities. That means Secapp is easy to use, you can take it into even wide use in just a few hours and you can use it to coordinate any daily operation.
When looking at crises and emergencies, Secapp provides an additional layer that is then already known by the people using it in daily use cases. It is easier to tackle the crises with a platform that is already familiar to your organization and, of course, the key features like bypassing silent settings at the end user’s device make sure the correct individuals are reached when needed. To our knowledge, other platforms are competing for the users’ attention by very regular means and are not able to bypass the devices’ silent settings.
Your final thoughts?
Kari Aho: Thank you for the interest in Secapp and the invitation for this interview. We are humbly grateful for this opportunity. Please visit our website or customer testimonials for further information about us. We are, of course, more than happy to tell you more about our platform and its features.