2009

First Touch

In 2009, I was vis­it­ing the city of Wuhan in Chi­na for the third time in my life. Our local guide took me to see a 3D mod­el­ing com­pa­ny that had just final­ized a new project for a mas­sive busi­ness park. Right in front of my eyes, I could see a tall build­ing open­ing up floor-by-floor. I was cap­ti­vat­ed. I felt like I had had a chance to see into the future. I also dreamed of build­ing the future. I want­ed to give the same feel­ing of excite­ment to our clients that was giv­en to me when I tried it for the first time.

2010

Founding Zoan

I had been an entre­pre­neur with my broth­er for six years, but was now ready to take a leap of faith and start ZOAN. I was a bit fright­ened, yet I was eager to pur­sue my pas­sion for visu­al media and com­bine that with web tech­nol­o­gy. I wasn’t sure of the out­come, but I knew I had to start somewhere.

The first cou­ple of years were full of web design and cod­ing with only a few 3D projects. It was still far from what I had dreamed of. I worked 100 hours a week just to deliv­er what clients had asked for, but was nev­er able to take the projects to the lev­el I had hoped to. Even though the clients were sat­is­fied, I was not as I was aim­ing for some­thing so much big­ger and more complex.

2012

Goodbye Finland

In order to ful­fill my dreams, I had start­ed a 3D visu­al­iza­tion com­pa­ny with some friends of mine, but we nev­er found a good flow while work­ing togeth­er. At the same time, I was still run­ning ZOAN and work­ing on mobile app projects with a Chi­nese pro­gram­mer and some trainees in Fin­land. The cul­ture and lan­guage bar­ri­er made it almost impos­si­ble to deliv­er projects with the qual­i­ty I want­ed. “There has to be a bet­ter way,” I thought to myself. I was frus­trat­ed. The only thing that made me hap­py was the fact that I had just met a beau­ti­ful, Brazil­ian girl, who would lat­er become my wife. I decid­ed to take a leap of faith and move to Brazil. It was an easy deci­sion to sell all my shares, hop on a plane and start every­thing from scratch.

2013

Olá Brazil

In Brazil, I had an amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn busi­ness from a total­ly dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al per­spec­tive. Even though I had a lot of expe­ri­ence work­ing with dif­fer­ent cul­tures after liv­ing in the USA and deal­ing with ten dif­fer­ent nation­al­i­ties in my pre­vi­ous field, Brazil sur­prised me. After spend­ing half of a year in Belo Hor­i­zonte, my girl­friend and I were enjoy­ing din­ner with a friend and her hus­band. He was a busi­ness­man, who was work­ing on a ambi­tious project of mak­ing the largest and most lux­u­ri­ous vaca­tion island by the only arti­fi­cial lake that had ever been built in Brazil. As I showed him my port­fo­lio, he got very excit­ed and want­ed to intro­duce me to his busi­ness part­ner. In the fol­low­ing meet­ing, we made a deal and start­ed work­ing on a project to visu­al­ize the lux­u­ri­ous island before it was even built. The project was amaz­ing, but hav­ing to return to the stress­ful, out­sourced team from Chi­na, I real­ized that some­thing had to change. We need­ed a bet­ter and eas­i­er way to work.

2014

The ZOAN team

Acquir­ing 3D work from Chi­na and com­mu­ni­cat­ing in por­tuguese, which I now speak flu­ent­ly, felt like danc­ing sam­ba. Luck­i­ly, I worked with two tal­ent­ed Brazil­ian 3D mod­el­ers. After a year, I asked one of them, Matheus, to join ZOAN. At that time, I was already work­ing with him on sev­er­al projects. For the first time in the company’s his­to­ry, I start­ed to feel like we were on the right track, going some­where new. While vis­it­ing Fin­land, I met Mart­ti who intro­duced me to some impor­tant peo­ple from the real estate mar­ket. As we start­ed meet­ing Finnish com­pa­nies, we realised that our prod­uct that had been pol­ished for the Brazil­ian com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, which was years ahead of our com­peti­tors prod­ucts in Finland.

2015

Back to Helsinki

It all hap­pened real­ly fast in the Finnish real-estate mar­ket: sale after sale, project after project. There wasn’t a sin­gle meet­ing with­out pos­i­tive feed­back and pro­pos­al requests. In that moment, I realised it was time to move back to Fin­land and start invest­ing in the mar­ket that was real­ly mov­ing at that point. While we were mod­el­ing entire neigh­bour­hoods, we realised that we could mod­el the entire city of Helsin­ki. It was an ambi­tious idea that start­ed to feel like the right idea. Our team had already expand­ed to sev­en peo­ple, but we need­ed to expand even faster so that we could attend to the mar­ket and at the same time mod­el Helsinki.

2016

Helsinki 2020

With a lot of tri­al and error, we man­aged to get the first ver­sion of a vir­tu­al Helsin­ki to work. This had been my dream ever since we had done our first client project with this new tech­nol­o­gy. Our team had grown to 14 full time employ­ees and ten free­lancers work­ing on more than 15 simul­ta­ne­ous projects. The tech­nol­o­gy event, Slush, in Novem­ber of 2016, was the defin­ing moment in which we came out with years of our work. We released our vir­tu­al Helsin­ki city mod­el, HELSINKI2020. Now, ZOAN has entered a new phase where can final­ly lead the way in the Finnish VR scene. We are excit­ed and want to cre­ate excite­ment with our solu­tions. Our team con­sists of amaz­ing peo­ple and so it’s easy to look the chal­lenge in the eyes and start working.

2017

Year of Growth & New Projects

In 2017, ZOAN would launch into new areas of busi­ness with new projects and clients. We were asked to talk to sev­er­al adver­tis­ing agen­cies and B2C com­pa­nies that opened up new rela­tion­ships and opportunities.

The largest devel­op­ment project was a “liv­ing paint­ing” by the Nation­al Muse­um of Fin­land. The immer­sive expe­ri­ence offers the muse­um vis­i­tor the abil­i­ty “to step into The Diet of Fin­land of 1863.” The paint­ing fea­tured motion cap­ture per­for­mances, voice act­ing as well as high­ly demand­ing ani­ma­tions. The VR project received major cov­er­age includ­ing an arti­cle writ­ten by The New York Times.

2017

Year of Growth & New Projects

In 2017, ZOAN would launch into new areas of busi­ness with new projects and clients. We were asked to talk to sev­er­al adver­tis­ing agen­cies and B2C com­pa­nies that opened up new rela­tion­ships and opportunities.

The largest devel­op­ment project was a “liv­ing paint­ing” by the Nation­al Muse­um of Fin­land. The immer­sive expe­ri­ence offers the muse­um vis­i­tor the abil­i­ty “to step into The Diet of Fin­land of 1863.” The paint­ing fea­tured motion cap­ture per­for­mances, voice act­ing as well as high­ly demand­ing ani­ma­tions. The VR project received major cov­er­age includ­ing an arti­cle writ­ten by The New York Times.

Out sum­mer projects includ­ed: the first VR-pop-up café in Fin­land with Robert’s Cof­fee. We built a K‑Kampus block in Kalasa­ta­ma for Var­ma, and fur­ther devel­oped the con­cept of real estate dig­i­tal build­ings. In the fall we took a few team mem­bers to a Moomin-themed hackathon in Japan, which lat­er led to a con­tract with Moomin Characters.

Last­ly, a few of the new clients are Uni­ver­si­ty of Helsin­ki, Tallink-Sil­ja, YIT, Otava­me­dia, Ari­lyn, and Artek. We also start­ed on a few projects in the USA. Slush was again a suc­cess for both us and our partners.

…and the biggest suc­cess of the year was the news that my wife and I would be expect­ing our first child, a beau­ti­ful baby girl.

Out sum­mer projects includ­ed: the first VR-pop-up café in Fin­land with Robert’s Cof­fee. We built a K‑Kampus block in Kalasa­ta­ma for Var­ma, and fur­ther devel­oped the con­cept of real estate dig­i­tal build­ings. In the fall we took a few team mem­bers to a Moomin-themed hackathon in Japan, which lat­er led to a con­tract with Moomin Characters.

Last­ly, a few of the new clients are Uni­ver­si­ty of Helsin­ki, Tallink-Sil­ja, YIT, Otava­me­dia, Ari­lyn, and Artek. We also start­ed on a few projects in the USA. Slush was again a suc­cess for both us and our partners.

…and the biggest suc­cess of the year was the news that my wife and I would be expect­ing our first child, a beau­ti­ful baby girl.

2018

Top Companies and a Million VR Tourists

I wouldn’t have guessed that this year would be the most event­ful of my life. In just 1,5 years our team had grown from ten peo­ple to 32, and I real­ized the famil­iar start-up log­ic didn’t any­more fit our com­pa­ny cul­ture. Zoan had become a scale-up. While busi­ness was grow­ing at full speed, me and my wife had an amaz­ing baby girl who changed our lives for­ev­er. This meant that I spent the spring bal­anc­ing between the new fam­i­ly life and the grow­ing business.

Dur­ing the year we got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work with the top com­pa­nies in Fin­land, such as KONE and Finnair, and col­lab­o­rat­ed with Var­jo, the VR head­set com­pa­ny whose eye-res­o­lu­tion qual­i­ty require­ments helped us keep our qual­i­ty stan­dards high.

Dur­ing the sum­mer one of our dreams came true when we start­ed to devel­op vir­tu­al Helsin­ki fur­ther togeth­er with the city of Helsin­ki. The first ver­sion of VR Helsin­ki was released in Sep­tem­ber in Slush Singapore.

2018

Top Companies and a Million VR Tourists

I wouldn’t have guessed that this year would be the most event­ful of my life. In just 1,5 years our team had grown from ten peo­ple to 32, and I real­ized the famil­iar start-up log­ic didn’t any­more fit our com­pa­ny cul­ture. Zoan had become a scale-up. While busi­ness was grow­ing at full speed, me and my wife had an amaz­ing baby girl who changed our lives for­ev­er. This meant that I spent the spring bal­anc­ing between the new fam­i­ly life and the grow­ing business.

Dur­ing the year we got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work with the top com­pa­nies in Fin­land, such as KONE and Finnair, and col­lab­o­rat­ed with Var­jo, the VR head­set com­pa­ny whose eye-res­o­lu­tion qual­i­ty require­ments helped us keep our qual­i­ty stan­dards high.

Dur­ing the sum­mer one of our dreams came true when we start­ed to devel­op vir­tu­al Helsin­ki fur­ther togeth­er with the city of Helsin­ki. The first ver­sion of VR Helsin­ki was released in Sep­tem­ber in Slush Singapore.

After that we invit­ed a dozen of inter­na­tion­al 3D artists for a VR Sprint — dur­ing one week they helped us pol­ish the VR Helsin­ki to be ready for Slush Helsin­ki. The VR Sprint with the boat rides and the first snow­fall of the year was quite an expe­ri­ence both for the par­tic­i­pants and for us. Last year in Slush the May­or of Helsin­ki, Jan Vapaavuori, got to know the idea of the vir­tu­al cap­i­tal — this year he is total­ly onboard with the idea, and for next year Helsin­ki has set the goal of reach­ing one mil­lion VR tourists!

In the mean­time the busi­ness keeps grow­ing. Edu­ca­tion is a new field we have been work­ing with this year, and in the enter­tain­ment and mar­ket­ing sec­tors the demand for VR is high. We are also devel­op­ing new auto­mat­ics for the real estate sec­tor. It seems that right when we’ve learned to live in the scale-up world, we need to start prepar­ing for the next phase of growth.

After that we invit­ed a dozen of inter­na­tion­al 3D artists for a VR Sprint — dur­ing one week they helped us pol­ish the VR Helsin­ki to be ready for Slush Helsin­ki. The VR Sprint with the boat rides and the first snow­fall of the year was quite an expe­ri­ence both for the par­tic­i­pants and for us. Last year in Slush the May­or of Helsin­ki, Jan Vapaavuori, got to know the idea of the vir­tu­al cap­i­tal — this year he is total­ly onboard with the idea, and for next year Helsin­ki has set the goal of reach­ing one mil­lion VR tourists!

In the mean­time the busi­ness keeps grow­ing. Edu­ca­tion is a new field we have been work­ing with this year, and in the enter­tain­ment and mar­ket­ing sec­tors the demand for VR is high. We are also devel­op­ing new auto­mat­ics for the real estate sec­tor. It seems that right when we’ve learned to live in the scale-up world, we need to start prepar­ing for the next phase of growth.