We talked to Veli-Matti Nurkkala of CSE Entertainment on how to provide alternatives to boring cardio training and to inspire people of all ages to exercise and have fun and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Veli-Matti Nurkkala: We have been lucky to stay healthy in this very challenging time. Our company HQ is located in the central part of Finland, and the COVID-19 situation has been more comfortable than in many other places.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded CSE Entertainment.
Veli-Matti Nurkkala: My background has always been in sports. After ending my professional athletic career as a cross-country skier in 2006, I worked in Polar Electro, testing new heart rate monitor models. After Polar, I worked for about ten years as a researcher and project manager at the University of Oulu and Kajaani University of Applied Sciences. The projects usually focused on in-game technology, virtual environments, simulators, and sports.
During my time working at the Universities, I finished my Master of Sport Science and Bachelor of Computer Engineering studies, and I did my Ph.D. studies leading to an academic career.
In 2013 I started working on a sports simulator project at the University. In that project, I found my passion for developing fitness games, making people enjoy exercising by playing games.
How does CSE Entertainment innovate?
Veli-Matti Nurkkala: When we innovate new products or concepts, we concentrate on the combination of value that the idea generates for our customers and the value that it brings to the user. These have to be in line with the company’s core values; provide fun activities, and make fitness fun! After the idea is qualified, the work starts.
We have a strong background in both fitness and gaming. So developing the concept or product from the idea is one of the most vital parts of our team, and the first pilots can be available for review already in months. Soon after this, it is time to test the market response and start marketing and sales.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Veli-Matti Nurkkala: When COVID-19 hit at the end of March, the first two weeks were the most challenging. All the confirmed orders and new projects stopped in a short time. I’m very grateful for our team that they kept working with a great attitude, even there was a lot of uncertainty about the future. Silverlining is a COVID-19 has been that we had time to focus on improving all company processes to be ready for future growth.
Our goal is to reach 100 million euro company in 2025, and the cause of pandemic we have now our growth strategy and processes updated to make it possible. We already start to see the results of implementing new marketing and sales strategy. December 2020 is the best sales month in company history. We believe that 2021 will be a successful year for us despite the COVID-19 still affecting our lives.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Veli-Matti Nurkkala: The most difficult was to lay off some of the staff for a few months because of the COVID-19. The lesson learned was that crisis forces you to review your core business strategy and the everyday processes differently and make them more robust and scalable. We were forced to change the way we worked, and now we are much more robust in many ways.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and CSE Entertainment in the future?
Veli-Matti Nurkkala: Personally, the best way to deal with stress is to walk in the forest or cross-country skiing. And, just being at home after many years of extensive traveling has given back some energy.
It’s a privilege to share this fantastic journey with some great persons and the best team you can imagine. And it’s rewarding to see how different people worldwide are having fun and exercising with our fitness games.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Veli-Matti Nurkkala: We are glad to see a lot of new companies and concepts in the market. Exergaming is still a relatively new and small industry. It seems like every new company brings something new to the table, and I see that there is more cooperation in place than traditionally seeing everybody as a competitor.
We already have strong brands and products with proven values that we need to get into the customer’s consideration when they are validating between the old and established way of doing things and the new and innovative way of making their venue more active and fun.
Your final thoughts?
Veli-Matti Nurkkala: I wish you all the strength to survive these difficult times, and I hope you will have a successful year in 2021.