Finnish startup Huoleti Oy is developing a smart phone application that makes it simpler for cancer patients to get help and peer support. The company aims to build its solution in Finland, brand it in the United States and then take it to the European market and around the world.
In the summer of 2016, the Helsinki University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center started a crowdsourcing project to find groundbreaking solutions and technological expertise to improve patient care. When the Kertomalla paranee project collaborated with Professional Summer School, a joint program of three Finnish universities of applied sciences, one Summer School student group came up with the idea for Huoleti, a new kind of cancer support network.
“Digital solutions enable great services but the challenge often lies in combining ICT expertise with service design and bringing digital solutions to everyday use.”
The idea was selected among the top three Professional Summer School innovations as well as one of the best proposals for Cancer Center co-development. Helsinki Business Hub sat in both juries, acted as a Professional Summer School business advisor, and has also advised Huoleti directly in new situations.
Carita Savin, a member of the student group that came up with Huoleti, decided to continue developing the idea. She joined forces with Maria Lipsonen, who like Savin herself has a long work history at Nokia. But what was even more important, both women had experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to get help and support when struggling with illness.
“When my child was diagnosed with diabetes, it was surprisingly difficult to get peer support. There are some organizations and associations but that kind of support is not necessarily for everyone. Social media, on the other hand, is teeming with peer groups but individual needs easily disappear in the mass. The need for targeted support and services is huge,” says Lipsonen, Co-founder and CMO of Huoleti.
“I have very similar personal experiences. On the professional front, we both have a strong background in ICT, and I am now specializing in service design. Digital solutions enable great services but the challenge often lies in combining ICT expertise with service design and bringing digital solutions to everyday use. Our professional history and our personal experiences form a strong driver that boosts our work. Our first and foremost motivation is to do good. If we can combine that with making a living and creating a successful business, we will be very happy,” says Savin, Co-founder and CEO of Huoleti.
Developed in Finland, branded in the US
What kind of a solution has the professional expertise and personal experiences of Savin and Lipsonen inspired? Huoleti is a smart phone application that allows cancer patients and their families to build a support network – a circle of friends, volunteers, peers, hospitals, and organizations.
The Huoleti network offers patients and their families everyday help in a distressing and confusing situation. Help can be simple things like grocery shopping, babysitting or walking a cancer patient’s dog. The network also provides peer support: seeing that there are others nearby struggling with the same illness and hearing stories of healing can bring great relief. Huoleti also facilitates asking for help and getting it, as this often turns out to be more difficult than one has expected. For friends, family members and volunteers, Huoleti offers a way to know when and what kind of help to offer.
“We are now developing the Huoleti solution in collaboration with users, one piece at a time. At the same time, we are exploring and testing different business and revenue models. We will start piloting the solution in a few weeks’ time together with several cancer societies. We are also negotiating collaboration with the City of Tampere as well as many organizations. We plan to launch the product in September or October,” says Savin.
Huoleti is currently in the middle of a pre-seed funding round and expects to grow its team as well as the number of its partners once the round is completed. The company has also received funding from the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes and the Tampere Region Economic Development Agency Tredea, and hopes to receive further growth capital in the future.
Huoleti was recently picked to Vertical Accelerator’s health technology and wellness accelerator program as one of 12 participants chosen from among 260 applicants from 50 countries.
“Vertical Accelerator offers excellent and concrete coaching in startup business development, network-building, and market access. We also look forward to getting support and finding partners to help us take the solution to the global market,” says Lipsonen.
“We have ambitious growth goals. Once we have a substantial user base in Finland, we plan to access the US market next year and brand the solution there. After that, we will take the solution to the European and global market. Finland really is an excellent place to start when you are developing digital solutions. It has digital databases, lots of accelerators, public funding and an open culture of experimentation,” says Savin.
Text: Anu Jussila