Covid-19 has showed the importance of innovation, but how can we handle and manage innovation remotely during a crisis? We interviewed the CEO of Viima, a startup supplying innovation management software. Viima helps to shape the culture and processes required for innovation to succeed in a given organisation, as well as train others on how to get better at it. We spoke to CEO Jesse Nieminen to hear about how Viima has adapted to the Covid-19 and how the crisis might change the demand for this type of digital technology.
NordicBaltic.Tech tracks the technology response to Covid-19 across the Nordic-Baltic region. The platform is made in partnership between the Nordic Council of Ministers and PUBLIC.
What do you do at Viima and why did you embark on this venture?
I’m Jesse, the Co-founder and Chairman at Viima, the most widely used and highest rated innovation management software out there. I’m currently responsible for our growth efforts, which basically means that the majority of my time goes into marketing and business development, but since we’re still a pretty small company in the grand scheme of things, I often end up doing a little bit of everything.
We founded the company 7 years ago together with two of my friends I had studied and worked with before. We really wanted to learn as much as possible and put our skills to test, which led us to apply to an accelerator program organised by our University. After a couple of pivots and some iteration, we realised that innovation was mostly something that some of the biggest companies in the world and startups were doing, but that most medium and large organisations weren’t really doing it, at least very well. We realised that this was a great opportunity for us to help change that by democratising innovation by providing the tools and knowledge needed to make that happen.
What challenges has Covid-19 presented in Finland?
Well, I think our government has done a pretty good job in keeping people safe so far and we’ve managed to keep the number of COVID cases quite low, but the lockdown and social distancing has obviously hurt quite a lot of companies badly just like it has everywhere else.
My dad, for example, is a taxi entrepreneur and he simply doesn’t have any income anymore. It’s really tough, especially for the service sector.
How has Viima adapted to face Covid-19?
Well as soon as this was declared to be a pandemic and we started to hear about the recommendations to do social distancing, the first thing we did was to start working from home. Most of us have done that on a weekly basis already before the pandemic so it hasn’t really had much of an impact for our ways of working. But as soon as we realized how widespread the lockdowns would be, we knew that this was going to have a huge impact on our economy, so we decided to help do our part in lessening the impact.
Now, the most natural way for us to do that was to make the Basic version of our software, which is normally free for 50 users, free for an unlimited number of users for the duration of this crisis. We’ve also worked hard to help our customers get their whole organisation to work together to find ways to combat the current crisis, and hopefully even find ways to make the most out of the opportunities this provides in many industries.
So far the response has been great, we’ve seen the number of companies signing up for our software nearly double in the last two months and know that many of our customers have really been able to use our software to unite their team virtually and come up with plenty of actionable ideas.
Looking forward, how do you think Covid-19 will change demand for this type of technology?
There’s been a meme going around with a multiple-choice questionnaire that asks who the person most responsible for digital transformation in their organisation has been: A) CEO, B) CTO, or C) COVID-19.
While it’s sad that so many companies needed a crisis like this that comes with a huge cost to have the urgency to do that digital transformation, we think that this will help speed up the transition towards more widespread use of digital tools and infrastructure. And this crisis has really shown many companies how direly they need innovation just to stay alive, let alone thrive going forward.
While innovation budgets typically get cut in economic downturns, we think the special nature of this crisis has proven many companies that they really do need to be able to adapt quickly and innovate. So, with those two big tailwinds at our back, we remain cautiously hopeful that this may lead us to put more emphasis on embracing innovation and digital technology, both of which can really have a huge impact for our society going forward.