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.