Despite the travel restrictions in place, Takeoff Partners portfolio company Videoly has taken on the task of seeking growth in North America. It is working, and now the startup is opening an office in Toronto to take things to the next level.
Evon Blomstedt, CEO of HUONE.
After expanding to two new countries in just a span of two years, Evon Blomstedt, CEO of HUONE, talks about the differences between Nordic and Asian ways to do business and her thoughts on the future of work.
“When we expanded to Singapore in 2017, people called us suicidal, crossing the continents like that. After we had been there for a while, people came asking how we managed to succeed in Singapore when so many Nordic businesses have failed,” Evon Blomstedt, CEO of HUONE, remembers.
“I think it was because we hired a local Singaporean to run the local office,” she concludes and continues to talk in length about the differences in how Asians and Nordics do business and how that impacts market entry in the event and meeting venue business.
For example, Asians tend to be spontaneous and go on impromptu lunches and dinners with business contacts, while the Nordics use a calendar and plan everything, including meetings, far ahead.
Adjusting to these cultural differences is on top of her mind again as the Finnish startup has just opened a new venue in Copenhagen in August 2019.
“Any company going international has to buffer up for something unexpected. In our case, after Singapore we didn’t appreciate early enough that Danes are more like Finns when it comes to timelines. Right now, they are planning for 2020 while we are looking to get the next two months booked,” Evon Blomstedt says, laughing.
As far as the venue itself goes, she believes it is the best piece of work HUONE has made so far.
“We gathered all the know-how we have accumulated over seven years on what makes meetings work and put it all into Copenhagen,” Evon Blomstedt says.
Prior to entering Denmark, the company spent an entire year researching the market.
“We conducted focus groups to have people discussing things like how they book meetings, how much they are willing to pay and how they find out about different locations. We also hired a local interior designer to help us arrive with a design that would have the HUONE creativity and quirkiness while still being suitable for the Danish subtleness and get the concept of hygge right.”
Flow Room in HUONE Copenhagen.
The loneliness of uncrowded niches
HUONE is an award-winning event venue concept that operates full-service meeting and event venues. In addition to its inspiring spaces that stand out drastically from the conventional meeting space scheme, HUONE adds value to customers by consulting on the success factors of the event throughout the planning and execution. At HUONE, every meeting is handled individually by Event Coordinators, which puts the organizers’ mind at ease. When necessary, they can help create an agenda as well as provide customers with program ideas and facilitation tips.
HUONE’s niche is to focus on any business meetings or events for less than 200 people. At the moment there are no other global players. HUONE’s closest competitors are hotels, but meeting spaces are a secondary business to them.
“We are lonely in a way – there is not a lot of know-how in the industry to benchmark against,” Evon Blomstedt says.
The story of HUONE is unusual among Finnish startups and well-known in the local startup scene.
Evon Blomstedt moved from her native Malaysia to Finland at the age of 19, and co-founded HUONE with her then-husband just after graduating from Haaga-Helia UAS in 2012. Initially rejected by investors and banks, she had to sell her apartment to start the company and was almost declared bankrupt at the early stages of the business.
Her determination paid off, however: in 2015 the company was making profit and in 2017 it expanded to Singapore. Today, it also boasts a second location in Helsinki and the newly opened venue in Copenhagen.
Takeoff Partners’ Markko Vaarnas has been HUONE’s Chairman of the Board since 2017.
Offices are becoming meeting spaces
In today’s world, technology is transforming the way we work on many levels. For instance, almost any work done on a computer can nowadays be done from anywhere.
This new freedom has, in turn, initiated many new businesses competing to birth the ideal working solution, with WeWork perhaps serving as the most famous and most controversial example.
Evon Blomstedt believes in a future where the freedom to work from anywhere will drive a new approach to office spaces. They will be increasingly used for high-value teamwork and other meetings while solitary work will be done from where it is most convenient to each individual.
“A meeting is about networking and creating new insight. People are starting to understand that offices need to be redesigned so that meeting spaces will take more space in terms of ratio in office buildings,” she describes.
For HUONE, this represents a growing opportunity.
“You are traveling somewhere like Brussels and you need to organize a meeting. What is the provider that comes to your mind when you think about where to book a meeting room? Probably nothing. My vision is that in the future, it would be HUONE, for everyone, everywhere.”
If you want to organize a meeting or an event in Helsinki, Copenhagen, or Singapore, please check out huone.events
For further details on HUONE, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.