With a journey spanning telecoms, chronic disease prevention and private healthcare, the career of Petteri Lahtela is a near-perfect fit for the co-founder of the company behind the Oura ring. Even so, bringing a hardware and software solution to market is never straightforward. Let’s find out what was learned.
Nordic Business Report: Hi, Petteri. What surprised you when you founded Oura? What was different from your expectations compared to your previous roles and experience?
Petteri Lahtela: When trying to get funding for the company, it was really hard to find investors who were also driven by something else other than money. Our mission from day one has been to create a lasting impact by empowering individuals to learn how their bodies respond to their lifestyles.
However, it was really hard to find investors who understood this driver and also the competences needed to achieve our mission. There were a few individuals in Finland who believed in us, but we ended up doing a lot of footwork in the US to gain traction. In the vast majority of cases, we were turned down.
It became a huge challenge to find the people who both understood where we were going and how we planned to get there. In particular, it was a fight to convince people that we had the competences needed to blend science, technology and design into a beautiful, valuable solution.
NBR: What surprised you during the process of designing, building and delivering the Oura ring?
PL: We have learned plenty of different things. For instance, many online technologies have exponentially developed since the company was founded. I honestly don’t think many people believed we could manage sales solely through our own website. In fact, since we started selling the first generation Oura rings, we have mostly been limited by supply and scaling up manufacturing.
Manufacturability at scale was one of the drivers for developing the new Oura rings, in addition to their smaller size for even better wearing comfort. We are working to refine our manufacturing process to meet our demand.
Another surprising factor has been the volume of interest from high-quality research institutes and universities. We’ve received many, many requests! It’s a positive problem and we’re now building better processes for evaluating cases and discovering opportunities.
NBR: Finally, nobody can be perfect when running a business. What is your advice to founders, entrepreneurs and leader who realise they need to make a change?
PL: Openness, transparency and continuous communication – face-to-face wherever possible – is vital both within the team and between all stakeholders. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you notice a problem, bring it up – there will be people who will help you solve it. There’s no point in keeping information to yourself – trust your team, work together to solve your problems.
About Oura Health
Founded in 2013, Oura Health is a pioneering sleep performance platform, focused on improving sleep that leads to a better life. The Oura Ring and app gives users daily feedback to improve their health, allowing users to better understand their body and reach their goals. Headquartered in Oulu, Finland, with offices in Helsinki, London, and San Francisco, Oura health recently moved past 17.5M€ in funding, attracting investors such as Will Smith, Twitch Co-Founder Kevin Lin, YouTube Co-Founder Steve Chen, MSD Capital (Michael Dell) basketball player Shaquille O´Neill and american celebrity chef David Chang.
Text: John Cozzi