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Episode #47

Petteri Lahtela is the co-founder and former CEO of Oura, the $2.55 billion startup behind the world’s most accurate smart ring. We discuss the challenges of the early days, the importance of intention, Prince Harry’s endorsement, and more.

3 takeaways from the conversation with Petteri Lahtela

1. Global mindset from day one

Petteri’s extensive experience in international markets before founding Oura was instrumental in shaping the company’s global approach. From the very beginning, Oura aimed to be a global brand, understanding that the market for health optimization products was not confined to one region. This international perspective was crucial in identifying and targeting the right audience globally. Petteri emphasized the importance of understanding different cultural contexts and aspirations to successfully internationalize a product.

2. Commitment to design and accuracy

One of the standout aspects of Oura is its commitment to both aesthetic design and technological accuracy. The decision to create a smart ring instead of a wrist device stemmed from the realization that the finger provides more accurate biometric data. However, the challenge was to make the technology fit into a sleek, wearable design. Kari Kivelä, a co-founder and jewelry designer, played a pivotal role in ensuring that the Oura ring was not only functional but also visually appealing. This focus on design helped differentiate Oura in a market dominated by less aesthetically pleasing wearables.

3. Genuine intent and user-centered development

A recurring theme in our conversation was the genuine intent behind Oura’s development. Petteri and his team were driven by a sincere desire to help people become more aware of their health and make informed lifestyle choices. This intent translated into a product that users find meaningful and beneficial, which in turn has led to high user retention and brand loyalty. The team’s dedication to creating a tool for self-realization and health improvement resonates deeply with users, making Oura more than just a wearable but a trusted companion in their health journey.

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Podcast transcript

47 Petteri Lahtela

[00:00:27] Josua: Welcome Petteri.

[00:00:29] Petteri: Thank you, [00:00:30] Joshua. Oh how do I spell your name?

[00:00:32] Josua: Joshua. Joshua’s fine. It’s perfect. Yeah. Okay. Lots to cover. Let’s start with with the background or before Aura, really, because I think you had quite an interesting background and I’d be interested to hear how maybe some of the [00:00:45] experiences before Aura led you to, to the idea, you and your co founders.

[00:00:50] Yeah. In the first place.

[00:00:51] Petteri: Yeah. They actually, many of the things in my life before Aura made it happen eventually. [00:01:00] I learned a lot in several different companies before founding Aura with my co founders. So first of all, in a company called NetHawk, I joined in 1992. [00:01:15] And we were developing a product for telecom mobile network optimization and testing.

[00:01:26] Of course, it was a global market. So we had to [00:01:30] develop to the international context from the very beginning. And then then we had the certain version of the product ready. We had to start to sell it abroad and I was there in [00:01:45] the development in the first place, but then I was interested in sales and marketing as well.

[00:01:49] Then The founder, CEO asked, okay, would I like to start going abroad and selling the solution? So then I started in [00:02:00] 1995, traveling all over the world in 20, 30 countries, first selling the solution, but also later on establishing a distribution networks. And, uh, [00:02:15] hiring distributors and going to the customers together with them and learning a lot along the way in different kinds of occasions, mostly traveling just by myself.

[00:02:24] And, many things happen when you travel and

[00:02:27] all things they don’t go as you [00:02:30] expect. So you have to be prepared, as prepared as you can be. But at the same time, what I that it was really important to learn that I have to trust the wisdom of [00:02:45] uncertainty. So I cannot be prepared to everything that happens, but in my mind, I can be prepared to, To everything in a sense that I expect the best [00:03:00] and trust the people and enjoy doing what I do.

[00:03:04] So just doing my best and trusting that every situation have the solution inside as well. So that was really transformative. [00:03:15] In a sense that how I see the world, how I I meet the people, new people going to different places in the world and so on. And also during that time I, um, I did [00:03:30] my MBA or executive MBA, so I could use all that practical experience that I gained doing that international work, but at the same time I, I studied the theories [00:03:45] behind the internationalization.

[00:03:47] And then I wrote that kind of thesis and I had a very good, um,

[00:03:53] What is it? Supervisor. from TKK Tapio Pento, who had he was one of the first, [00:04:00] uh, people who have done the, their doctoral thesis on internationalization. So he had good background on their, on that area. So it was really inspirational to, to think that, okay, how you [00:04:15] internationalize the operations of that kind of a company, a small company.

[00:04:19] small company.

[00:04:20] Josua: Do that kind of like international perspective mean that when you first were thinking about Aura and starting Aura, that the idea was this is going to be a international global [00:04:30] brand from the very beginning?

[00:04:30] Petteri: From the very beginning. Yes, definitely. So all that experience helped us to see us in the global context right away.

[00:04:39] And also thinking from the optimal target audiences perspective. Perspective that, [00:04:45] okay, what kind of people are in different places? What are their aspirations? What life, what kind of live lives, lifestyle live and so on. So it gave a lot of perspective that how we need [00:05:00] to approach and also how we start to internationalize the business ourselves from the, from day one, basically.

[00:05:08] Josua: Where did the that kind of explains the global approach and focus from the beginning? Where did the design [00:05:15] aspect come into it? Because I think it’s so interesting when you think about Finland We’re known for being very engineering driven technically focused. Yes, but Aura is Arguably, you’ve been credited for being like one of the most accurate, maybe the most accurate wearing device, but [00:05:30] also I would argue the most good looking that sleekest best design.

[00:05:35] And it’s I think, unexpected to me that such a brand product comes from Finland and then maybe no offense, but also from like outside of Helsinki. Yeah. So where did that perspective come from [00:05:45] and why did you decide to, put so much focus and effort into the wearable ring because I would assume that it would have been technically easier if you would have done maybe a wristwatch or something like that.

[00:05:55] Yes.

[00:05:55] Petteri: Yes. Yeah. It’s a long story behind that. So when we [00:06:00] started developing Aura we understood that we need to gain access to long term data, physiological data of the user. And a long term data means that the product needs to be. [00:06:15] worn for a long time, months and years, so that we can actually provide the best benefit, most value to the user.

[00:06:25] And of course, when we started, we didn’t know yet that it’s going to be a ring. [00:06:30] But when it became obvious that the finger is the best place to get the most accurate biosignals, and also taking into account the perspective that rings are actually the, [00:06:45] maybe the oldest wearables in the world, in the sense that people have been wearing rings for a long time, so we decided that okay.

[00:06:52] It can be a ring. Of course it was really hard to do and fit the technology inside a ring so that it’s still [00:07:00] wearable and so on. But when we had that idea that it’s going to be a ring. We right away understood that then it needs to be very aesthetically beautiful and very well designed [00:07:15] so that people want to wear it even without any technology.

[00:07:19] So fortunately, Kari, who is the co founder, Kari Kivele, and he’s my cousin. So while he was working for Nokia, he [00:07:30] had started designing jewelry at the same time and rings, especially. So he

[00:07:37] Josua: Was that just coincidental? Like he It was it was

[00:07:40] Petteri: coincidental. Yes. Yes. So he had been doing that for several years already [00:07:45] and with the high ambition level.

[00:07:47] So they were very aesthetically beautiful or maybe beautiful is not the right word but very well designed. Became one of, one of the central drivers for developing the product. So [00:08:00] of course the first generation, we couldn’t fit all the, that all the technology at that time, the battery and all the electricity electronics inside the ring.

[00:08:14] In this [00:08:15] size that it is today. But still the first generation ring, it was a really beautiful design, but it was much bigger. So it required certain kind of commitment from the user to wear it [00:08:30] and had to be brave enough to wear such a design piece. Yeah. But this today, I think it’s still in, in several design museums.

[00:08:40] So it’s well respected as a design object. So [00:08:45] maybe someday it’s going to be pretty expensive to buy.

[00:08:49] Josua: Have you saved any of the first versions? Yes, of course. That’s very good. And is it, was this the first in the world, such a, like a wearable tracking device fitted [00:09:00] into a ring? Was it, was there something else out there?

[00:09:04] Petteri: Actually, there had been some early prototypes, for example, MIT had measured certain things from finger early [00:09:15] on. And there was a kind of research team that had done some basic research there and that they had even some patterns and so on. So we found them. And those patents were expired already and, but they [00:09:30] had some early visions that, okay, finger could be a good place to, to measure as well.

[00:09:34] Josua: Got it. It was very interesting that you, it started from, just the very technological or like the very simple fact that you get the most biofeedback from the finger and then you design. around that to [00:09:45] make something that’s beautiful and very with this very broad appeal. What was the early days of Aura like?

[00:09:50] Because I’m guessing you’re facing all the typical challenges of doing a startup with funding, with recruiting, with trying to figure out the target [00:10:00] audience. And then there’s the saying that hardware is really hard. So that’s added on top of it. So what was, what were the early days like?

[00:10:08] Petteri: Of course, they were really tough because basically no one outside of our team believed in what we [00:10:15] were doing.

[00:10:16] So like when we were meeting investors in us, for example, they said that. Why don’t you d de, why don’t you develop a risk device like all the others, and why don’t you measure activity like all the [00:10:30] others? Measure. . So it was hard to basically disrupt everything in that context. So having a ring phone factor.

[00:10:40] It was completely new for everyone. Then measuring sleep and recovery from [00:10:45] finger. What? It wasn’t straightforward for anyone.

[00:10:51] Josua: Was there any question about, do people even, are people going to want this? Do people care about redness score? Do they care about their sleep stats? Or is this like for the [00:11:00] biohackers that 0.

[00:11:01] 1 percent of people are?

[00:11:03] Petteri: Yeah. They questioned basically everything. And also that are you going to sell it only through your own website? It’s never gonna work.

[00:11:11] Josua: Okay, there was a lot of strikes against you. Yes. Why did you as a team then [00:11:15] decide that this was a good idea despite all these challenges? Why did you believe in this?

[00:11:19] Petteri: I think it just made us stronger to believe in what we are doing. We were anyhow, how we started developing the product was pretty [00:11:30] different from any other companies that, that we have learned after that, that how wearable companies normally start the development. So they take the sensors and put them in the wrist and then they have data and they just show the data.[00:11:45]

[00:11:45] So there’s no kind of ambition to, to really create something that helps the person to become. Let’s say become more aware of themselves to, to learn about themselves and how their body is responding to their [00:12:00] lifestyle, for example. So we started defining the use cases and user stories from the end user perspective.

[00:12:09] Josua: Did you have a specific person in mind, a specific end user when you started? [00:12:15]

[00:12:15] Petteri: Yeah, basically it made it easier that we were developing the product for ourselves. Right. So we were the kind of early adapters that, that That were willing to wear this really big ring. Yes, exactly. Yes. So we thought that if [00:12:30] if the value and the benefits, that we can create are big enough, then it’s not no problem for people who wear the ring.

[00:12:41] And so,

[00:12:42] And the [00:12:45] intention behind it’s really important. I learned it along the way, and especially after going through all this journey I understood that how important it [00:13:00] is that you have a, genuine intention to do something really transformative. Transformative from the perspective of the optimal target audience.

[00:13:12] So that they you ensure in [00:13:15] every level of the product and the product or the user experience, you make sure that it, everything is true. And also that it’s really, beneficial, the value is there. And [00:13:30] in case of Aura, it was a really bit, little bit difficult in a sense that, all the kind of all the things that, that we want to achieve require kind of [00:13:45] some level of behavioral change.

[00:13:47] So if we wanted to have

[00:13:52] The situation that the end user actually gets the best out of the product. He or she needs to [00:14:00] commit to him or herself, to the process of kind of self realization. But that what kind of things I need to change in my life to improve the quality of my life. So what kind of things are affecting [00:14:15] my product?

[00:14:15] Daily choices or how my body is responding to my daily choices. So we were seeing it from the perspective that we can help people become more aware of themselves and self reflect with the [00:14:30] product that what are good choices for me and what are not so good. So we turned the body and the Signals of the body that are pretty ivis invisible, [00:14:45] otherwise we turned them visible in a way that, that people can understand and even in written texts that you can find in a product in readiness and sleep and activity.

[00:14:59] So we [00:15:00] wanted to give this kind of forward looking guidance. To the user so that they can start becoming understand their body more thoroughly and, and it proved to be very transformative [00:15:15] as a product or user experience eventually. And there this.

[00:15:20] intention that I was talking it plays an important role in a sense that when you have this genuine intention to create something very highly [00:15:30] valuable to the end user, then It becomes the core of motivation for the team as well. And also that what kind of team members become intrigued about the vision [00:15:45] and the intention and then they find it eventually very meaningful to create something like this.

[00:15:52] So then let’s say from the leader’s perspective it’s, it becomes pretty easy because people are self motivated [00:16:00] from inside. To create something very beautiful. So this intention becomes the DNA of the team, but also it transforms to the DNA of the product and the user experience as, as well.

[00:16:14] So [00:16:15] then you can really you can make those end users feel and experience that intention that we were. Willing to create something very useful and they find it. through their self [00:16:30] reflection process. They find out something about themselves that they couldn’t find out without the product.

[00:16:38] And that is the reason that, or actually that’s something that [00:16:45] creates. The high retention rates like aura today, there’s something like four times higher retention than any other variable. Wow. And it has been the same for all the time. Actually, it’s just growing all the

[00:16:57] Josua: time. Yes. That’s pretty incredible.

[00:16:58] Petteri: Yes. It’s [00:17:00] really high retention rates. But the reason is that people commit to themselves and they use the product as a tool for kind of a companion for their self reliance. Yeah. Realization process.

[00:17:14] Josua: I think it’s so interesting [00:17:15] because I think, like you said, there’s no substitute for that genuine.

[00:17:18] desire, intention to create something because it’s going to bleed through or like into all the decisions, into all the interactions, whether it’s recruiting or talking to a customer, like you can’t fake it. Maybe you can, but very short [00:17:30] period of time.

[00:17:30] Petteri: Yeah. And people

[00:17:31] Josua: feel it. They sense it.

[00:17:32] Exactly. Yeah.

[00:17:33] Petteri: You cannot fake it actually. Yes. So it becomes the team’s DNA and every person’s DNA. So wherever they are telling about Aura, it comes true. [00:17:45] So it’s a compassion it’s really something that they are so inspired that the inspiration is the thing that kind of spreads to the audience or the people, whoever we are talking to.

[00:17:59] So [00:18:00] you cannot fake it. It’s something that you live through yourself. So then. That is something that resonates. Yes. So this in original intention, genuine intention becomes the kind of resonance that then [00:18:15] you, you you’re traveling or something, you meet people, there is always this resonance present.

[00:18:21] And then you find the kind of people you are looking for and you can expand your team and they easily find the same [00:18:30] meaningfulness and inspiration. Actually, many of the, many of Aura’s, let’s say, majority of Aura’s employees are really inspired to work for the company because they find it very [00:18:45] meaningful to create.

[00:18:46] be there let’s say creating this kind of product.

[00:18:50] Josua: And that I think also probably then there’s the downstream effect is it’s a lot easier, still difficult, but a lot easier to create a really strong brand.

[00:18:57] Petteri: Yes, exactly. Yeah. [00:19:00] Brand is something that it’s not created somewhere in the background or some in the agency.

[00:19:07] Yes. It’s something that it’s, It comes from the DNA of the team. And there is this intention all the [00:19:15] time. And then the product, when it represents all those benefits and the intention behind then the feeling what the end users get. That’s the thing that we, [00:19:30] that the brand starts to live.

[00:19:33] So otherwise, if there’s no, this kind of a resonance in the end user then it’s really hard to otherwise create such a brand. So it’s [00:19:45] something that is, is created along the way, doing the journey in every step. Yeah. Uh, and all the kind of values or, Whatever it kind of [00:20:00] presents, they need to be true in the product as well.

[00:20:04] So what kind of brand it is, so it becomes true as a product experience, user experience. And then you don’t need to tell the brand story [00:20:15] anymore. It’s the users that start to tell the story of the product. And actually they start to tell. the findings about themselves that they found with the product.

[00:20:29] So then it’s [00:20:30] much, much stronger. Yeah. So it becomes part of their personal brand or their story.

[00:20:36] Josua: They’re much more effective at telling the brand story through their own experiences to their group of people. Yes. Because I felt like one thing, mistake that you do is if you think of [00:20:45] brand as like this top down approach that we define the brand message.

[00:20:48] And then the only thing we need to do is repeat it, and then make sure everyone repeats these lines to their friends. But actually it’s very difficult to get people to understand and understand exactly what you’re trying to say, but they don’t have to. [00:21:00] Because if they get the overall idea and then they pick up on oh, this helps me sleep better or this helps me perform better, whatever it is, like they put their own spin on it.

[00:21:08] Exactly.

[00:21:09] Petteri: Yes.

[00:21:09] Josua: But like you said, I think it’s. It’s so interesting when you look at a brand like Aura, we talked off [00:21:15] or you said off air that Before you were at Amazon you were the most searched for product on Amazon in the United States. That’s not on Amazon. Exactly. Yes, which is when you think about like a Finnish consumer product doing so incredibly well at scale in the United States [00:21:30] a premium product, nonetheless, so brand is very important.

[00:21:32] And so if you look at that from the outside, you’re like, wow, how did they build this brand? They must’ve had this great agency or something like that. But it’s No, it was all those, it was that genuine commitment from the team and then probably [00:21:45] five, seven, eight, 10 years of work.

[00:21:47] Petteri: Yes, exactly.

[00:21:48] Of course we had good partners as well. So proxy ventures is one of the early investors and they do the branding work for their portfolio companies. So they were helping us. to create that, [00:22:00] but still it, they cannot do it if there’s no this, everything that we discussed about. So it needs to come from the team and from the product and it needs to be true.

[00:22:12] It’s then it’s just how we [00:22:15] express it in words and visuals. So it’s kind of art to to be able to do that. present it in a way that it really expresses all this behind.

[00:22:26] Josua: Was there if you take a step back, you mentioned beginning was really tough. [00:22:30] No one believes in the vision except you.

[00:22:32] Was there a point like an inflection point where you were like, wow, this is actually going to work? Was there a clear moment where you had like your first sale or first partnership or something like that, that you think back and was like. That was a defining moment. [00:22:45]

[00:22:45] Petteri: Yeah, along the way there was all the time this kind of highlights.

[00:22:51] And so we went a lot to talk to people in different occasions. After we launched first time in, in San Francisco in [00:23:00] launch festival in 2015. We launched from stealth the first generation ring and right the next day we were invited to the Woodside. Woodside is a place where we, Steve Jobs and [00:23:15] those people who have made fortunes they lived there and and they were people who got inspired about what we are doing.

[00:23:25] And one of, one of the early ones was Linda Ay, who’s the co-founder of [00:23:30] 23. And me and she of course had plenty of contacts since he invited us to Woodside. There’s a restaurant there to meet. few investors. So we right away started discussions [00:23:45] about investment with people from there and they had interesting backgrounds and so on.

[00:23:49] So along the way, we have met so many people and heard so many stories and their success stories and many kind of [00:24:00] stories and people from very different backgrounds and so on. So, and whenever we told our story and how we ended up to develop the product and how they convinced about [00:24:15] us as people telling the story.

[00:24:18] So they may necessarily they didn’t always see right away that, okay, this is going to be a successful product, but they started to believe in [00:24:30] us and and what we told them and they found it inspiring. Based on their own entrepreneurial journeys and so on. So all those meetings they were something that I still remember very well that meeting [00:24:45] all those people.

[00:24:45] They even invited us to their houses and had really wonderful discussions. And somehow we we got to, to very, let’s say into very close relationships with many of them. So it was not only in the [00:25:00] business context, but also in the personal level that then we get to experience many kinds of new things.

[00:25:07] But yeah, in general, meeting all those people and having those discussions and then them [00:25:15] starting to believe in us, that has been very transformative. And then those were the highlights that, that helped us after let’s say meeting lots of VCs and they all said no we don’t, [00:25:30] we cannot invest in this kind of but also after the, Even in those meetings where we were very much, let’s say, um, or how to express.

[00:25:39] Yeah, they basically didn’t believe in any part of the solution [00:25:45] sometimes. And in some occasions, if they were more, let’s say, science oriented, they may believe in the science part, but then they didn’t believe the technology, or if they were technology driven, they started thinking that, okay, there’s [00:26:00] some possibility that this technology works, but other parts, no, you cannot do it.

[00:26:05] Josua: There were so many parts in technology, science, consumer, channels, distribution. Yes, exactly. So yeah,

[00:26:10] Petteri: it’s consumer it’s hardware. Yeah. Yeah. Variables, [00:26:15] they are already 13 and a dozen. And why do you do it so different? So there were many aspects that, that they didn’t believe. Yeah. And so after we could convince some of those successful entrepreneurs [00:26:30] and they joined us and investors or advisors or something, and so they were the highlights that helped us to, Yeah. Yeah. really focus on our story, how we better tell the story so that others [00:26:45] can understand as well.

[00:26:47] Josua: Interesting.

[00:26:47] Petteri: Yeah.

[00:26:48] Josua: Another highlight, this was probably many years later, but I remember reading about it, I think it was very significant, was when Prince Harry wore the ring.

[00:26:56] Yes. That generated tons of free publicity for you [00:27:00] and probably lots of orders as well. Yes. So how did that come about? Did you pay him under the table a lot of money to put it on or what?

[00:27:08] Petteri: Yeah, actually, yeah, this is really good question and it’s actually a good example [00:27:15] of how this genuine intention can transform to something very meaningful user experience because Prince Harry is a person that you cannot influence in a way, in any way.

[00:27:29] We didn’t [00:27:30] even have a chance to meet him in person. So, you cannot affect him and his decisions. So it was his. conscious decision to start wearing the ring during the day against the [00:27:45] Royal Protocol. And he had only one message in his mind doing that. And he delivered that message to us through his doctor who was actually, I had met her a couple of years [00:28:00] back.

[00:28:00] I can tell about that later on, but anyhow, he delivered us a message that don’t talk about. my ring, but talk about this product as a product that can help young adults like himself [00:28:15] to stay healthy and well performing. And that was his message that he wanted to he knew that it’s going to be a buzz around it, especially because they were going [00:28:30] abroad for global tour.

[00:28:32] So we got in five days, we got 486 million global media hits. So the marketing equivalent by an external marketing office, they [00:28:45] estimated that it was 10. 5 million euros worth of kind of marketing money. If we had tried to do it, just by ourselves in marketing. But it was even more [00:29:00] transformative than that, because after that, it was Prince Harry’s ring.

[00:29:05] So it wasn’t just an unknown variable from Finland, but it was Prince Harry’s ring after that. So everyone who was seeing something about Aura, oh, is that [00:29:15] Prince Harry’s ring? So it was globally validated right away. Yeah, it was a huge thing.

[00:29:21] Josua: It’s hard to imagine some more credible.

[00:29:23] Not, he’s not a science expert, but like you said they have to be very careful about endorsements and it’s [00:29:30] not like an athlete that can be sponsored or something like that. It’s, it has to come from a genuine desire to

[00:29:36] Petteri: believe in the product. Exactly. And so it’s a great expression of how this intention really can Transform to something [00:29:45] that the user can experience in a product and kind of get into the level of there needs to be this kind of genuine intention in this product inside [00:30:00] this product that it has been carefully designed to help me to really self reflect and understand more about myself.

[00:30:10] So it’s really valuable. So through this kind of. [00:30:15] Self reflection moments. They are the biggest kind of moments where all this, what we had created and the brand and everything come together. And it’s a self [00:30:30] realization. And it’s an experience that you want to share with everyone because it’s so big thing.

[00:30:36] So therefore it’s a really good example That how important it is that what kind of intention you have [00:30:45] when you’re doing your thing.

[00:30:47] Josua: Absolutely. I want to take a very quick break to talk to you about something that we at Gennar have just launched and that we are incredibly excited about. We call it the e commerce growth method.

[00:30:59] [00:31:00] It’s a way to grow your e commerce business with higher profitability, And more predictability e commerce and direct consumer. It used to be about growth at all costs, right? And that’s obviously no longer the case. Now entrepreneurs and [00:31:15] investors, they want to see first order profitability, positive cashflow, and they care just as much, or maybe even more about gross margin as they do about top line revenue growth.

[00:31:27] And we built this collection of tools, [00:31:30] processes, and strategies. That will help you achieve all of those things by allowing you to first measure and understand what’s actually going on with your marketing, and then allow you to focus on the things that are driving real results for your business. So if you want to learn [00:31:45] more about this and book a free demo, check out the link in the show notes.

[00:31:50] When, um, when things were starting to take off a little bit and you had every, the product was ready you had distribution in place, manufacturing in place. Did you then start at some point [00:32:00] just putting a lot of effort and investment into marketing, customer acquisition, or did it just happen more or less organically?

[00:32:07] You had 10 million worth of media coming from Prince Harry, or how did the customer, the growth, how did you fuel the growth? Yeah, [00:32:15] actually,

[00:32:15] Petteri: actually. In the very beginning we had launched the first generation ring in March, 2015. So we started to prepare for the Kickstarter campaign that we had in, in August, September, the same [00:32:30] year.

[00:32:30] Josua: This was after the, yeah. The Launch Festival. Yes. . Yes.

[00:32:32] Petteri: So we started to meet people. And we started to try to find those people who are influential in certain target audiences that who we would [00:32:45] like to reach. And so we created a plan that, that to be able to successfully in the Kickstarter campaign, we need to close the 100, 000 target.

[00:32:59] in as soon [00:33:00] as possible because in kickstarter they told that this is the kind of boost that after that you will be boosted because you yeah you will become visible in the context and in their platform and so on so so we knew that [00:33:15] okay we need to be able to create those people who help us to reach that target so so This kind of, um, biohackers or this biohacking it was in the very, very early steps, but [00:33:30] it was more like

[00:33:30] it was different terms that they used at that time. But there was a person called Gary Wolf who was heading this kind of movement of not biohacking yet, but it was quantified self [00:33:45] movement that had started. And they were enthusiastic people going to their they had an exhibition in June or July in San Francisco and there were plenty of those very [00:34:00] enthusiastic people who were about self measurement and this kind of self reflection stuff and plenty of different kind of offerings and different kind of aspects into the same theme.

[00:34:13] But we were there [00:34:15] with our small pools and even our daughters were with us. They were I think seven and 10 at that time, something like that. And so they were with us there and we were standing there and giving talks and also joining the [00:34:30] panel discussions and so on. So making us visible in, in that audience and really had.

[00:34:37] Inspiring discussions with plenty of individuals and, and they got inspired, okay this kind of new product is coming [00:34:45] and we agreed with this Gary Wolf and his team that, okay, they will spread the word inside their community. So that when the Kickstarter starts, then they start placing orders right away.

[00:34:57] So we reached this a hundred thousand dollars. [00:35:00] target in 15 hours. Not bad. And then it got really nice boost in the platform and so on. So what was

[00:35:08] Josua: the total Kickstarter that you raised? 650,

[00:35:11] Petteri: 000. So something like 2, [00:35:15] 300 products or so.

[00:35:17] Josua: And that was to fund the launch of the first generation.

[00:35:20] Petteri: Yeah, exactly. And during that time you were talking about this, that how we started to scale the visibility. So basically the Kickstarter wasn’t [00:35:30] for raising the money. Of course, we needed money as well. We wanted to show that there, there are people who need this kind of product, but also we had met many marketing offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles [00:35:45] and many places, but we found out that they cannot understand deep enough what we are bringing about, what we are creating and why we are doing what we are doing and so on.

[00:35:58] So that we [00:36:00] didn’t find the same tune with them. So we thought that it’s going to be expensive and we are not going to get good results Creating visibility through a marketing office. So we thought that, okay, through Kickstarter, we can reach at least certain [00:36:15] target audience effectively.

[00:36:17] And basically without cost, we get visibility. So that was the main reason to go there. Um, and also that, those [00:36:30] early influencers found us from there, like Ben Greenfield. He was already a very well known, this kind of quantified self guy and highly respected guy. So he got [00:36:45] inspired about what we are doing.

[00:36:46] And he contacted me and suggested that let’s make a podcast. It was the first podcast that was done about Aura. And it was during that Kickstarter campaign. And right. Right away, [00:37:00] when it was released, it started selling, and I think it’s still selling. Yeah.

[00:37:04] Josua: To his audience, he’s a, he’s an expert in authority and they trust his judgment.

[00:37:08] Exactly. Yes.

[00:37:10] Petteri: And and also he’s very science oriented and very thorough [00:37:15] in his kind of analysis and everything. ever since he has been wearing. They all ring all the time in every place. Speaking

[00:37:23] Josua: of retention.

[00:37:24] Petteri: Exactly. Yes. It’s a really long retention there. So and then we [00:37:30] got some others, uh, in different places, in different countries in the world.

[00:37:36] And so in the first place they came in a way that they were inspired what we are doing and they contacted us. So it wasn’t [00:37:45] us driving that those influencers came. And for example, Alex Ferkus from, he was then living in Australia, but now he’s in New Zealand. He came after, after Ben and he was [00:38:00] early in his own career as a broadcaster and he was really enthusiastic as well and started gaining lots of visibility for our product.

[00:38:09] And so we were growing together. Yeah. Yeah. In a way. And so this influencer marketing [00:38:15] wasn’t that let’s say like today, there’s a lot of talks about influencer marketing. So it was, it started a little bit different for us. And it was in a sense that we didn’t need to pay for them, but they got some small commission from the sales.[00:38:30]

[00:38:30] Yeah. So it was really. good for us because those people, they have their audience who are listening and they are convinced about what they talk about. So we started getting very good traction from those.

[00:38:44] Josua: And those kind [00:38:45] of, that kind of influencer marketing is obviously very different than I think much more effective than the type where you’re essential, just renting the audience like you’re.

[00:38:53] Petteri: Exactly.

[00:38:53] Josua: Paying someone to post something on Instagram versus actually talking about what they’re genuinely very excited about. Yes, [00:39:00]

[00:39:00] Petteri: yes, exactly. And also that we were in, in tune with them in the same, completely in the same level. So whatever we talked about science, technology or design or whatever aspect of the product, and especially from the end user perspective, that what benefits [00:39:15] we create and how we can help people.

[00:39:17] Increase the quality of their life from different aspects. So we were in tune with them in every level. So it was easy to talk to them and easy to deliver the message to their audience, because they were. [00:39:30] Those were exactly the things that they were talking about. So it was the way for us to build the visibility.

[00:39:37] Yeah. And also the kind of this kind of brand image also that what this brand [00:39:45] presents what it actually means, what it delivers, what are the values of the brand and so on. So it was kinda step by step journey. And it just started to spread and spread. And it was interesting that when we were talking to [00:40:00] investors and so on, they were always questioning that, okay it’s so small group of people, those quantified self and self optimizers.

[00:40:10] And, but actually it was growing much faster Than [00:40:15] anyone could expect. And today we talk about health optimizers. So there are plenty of people who are, who want to optimize their life. They come from all walks of life and They just want to [00:40:30] improve the quality of their life in certain areas of their life.

[00:40:33] Yeah. Maybe they already are active enough, they may have taken care of their nutrition, but then they want to improve their sleep as well. Also this concentration on sleep and [00:40:45] recovery. And the story behind that, what, how important it is, then it started to get really good traction in those people.

[00:40:53] Josua: Yeah. And just, anecdotally, I used to have an aura that I dropped it somewhere in the Kotka Harbor. But my brother has an aura, my [00:41:00] sister has an aura, my dad has an aura. And that’s demographically and also if you think about use cases and how they think about it very broad. Yes. So I think maybe I’ve influenced all three of them to get the to get Dora speaking of like intention and just really appreciating the [00:41:15] product.

[00:41:15] So obviously now there’s no reason probably why you couldn’t tell millions and millions every year to people from all walks of life. Yes. Do you think that there’s a downside to the fact that we’re starting to quantify? I’m thinking specifically, let’s say you wake up in the [00:41:30] morning and you’re like, I’m feeling pretty good.

[00:41:31] And then you open up the or app and you’re like, Oh, my readiness score is actually fairly bad. And then I start feeling bad about myself. Do you think there’s a, is there a risk that we’re becoming too quantified? And we’re for, we’re paying too much [00:41:45] attention to all these different biometrics.

[00:41:47] What do you think?

[00:41:50] Petteri: I would say that we are all individuals, we are all unique and we are in some phase of our journey. And I would [00:42:00] say that whatever level of self reflection you start to do it’s going to be beneficial for you. So even though in, in certain phase you may be. too concerned about certain things but then you start to learn that, okay, how [00:42:15] what decisions actually lead to certain body responses.

[00:42:19] And those are the transformative moments for you to grow as a human being and to grow, to know yourself better. And [00:42:30] behind the, original intention to create this solution we had an idea that we want to, with this product, we want to help people become more aware of themselves and [00:42:45] more to be able to do more conscious choices on daily basis.

[00:42:49] And therefore we developed the product in a way that it’s not demanding. kind of interaction. And it’s always forward looking. So [00:43:00] whatever choices you do, if you select to celebrate something and you maybe drink some champagne and you really enjoy your life, it’s not nagging you about it, but it’s, it gives you forward looking statements [00:43:15] that, okay, this way you can recover back to your optimal level.

[00:43:19] So I think people quickly learn with Aura that, okay, what is my capacity to live my life [00:43:30] and what I can do to improve and stay in a good level so that I can be at my best. So it’s a journey that you start and to, to what you commit Thank you.

[00:43:41] Yeah. And that’s the reason for the high retention [00:43:45] as well, that it becomes a companion to you and, um, thinking behind that help people become more aware of themselves. There was this thinking that, that. this [00:44:00] way we can help people also become more aware of the people around them, their loved ones, other people.

[00:44:09] And this way we can create more respect and this kind of a [00:44:15] more respectful culture and also more respect towards nature and animals and everything. So there was a bigger thought behind so that. Because there is this anecdote from also my [00:44:30] earlier journey I was working in a company where we developed solution for chronic diseases management and self care.

[00:44:37] It was the self care product was let’s say 15 years too early in the market, right? But still we [00:44:45] learned a lot about the market that, that how. How ready people are to do things that would help improve their situation but let’s say most of all I learned that the existing health care system is [00:45:00] incapable of doing anything to prevent people develop this chronic disease, or let’s say diabetes or COPD, whatever, chronic disease.

[00:45:12] And there are so many people with pre [00:45:15] diabetes. And so I got, let’s say, intrigued about the idea that, okay, why we cannot do anything to this problem? There must be a solution. And I had a chance to talk to many. [00:45:30] specialists in the area like in all London healthcare trusts, like in St.

[00:45:35] Mary’s hospital, for example, doctors who are helping people all around the world. And they’re really specialists. And they were [00:45:45] saying that, yeah, this healthcare system, we cannot do any kind of preventive work really. So I started thinking that a lot and decided that there must be a solution.

[00:45:59] And [00:46:00] eventually that led to the thinking that, okay, we need to create this kind of a product that help people understand that how their body is responding to their lifestyle and what they can do.

[00:46:12] Josua: Yeah. I think that’s it resonates a lot with me philosophically [00:46:15] that this about giving consumers or people freedom.

[00:46:18] And the tools empower them essentially exactly to make choices and then they can make the choices like you said sometimes you’ll ignore yes what you know is to be good for your sleep because life is more than [00:46:30] yes more than sleep yes i think that’s that sounds makes it makes a lot of sense i think unfortunately we’re running out of time i could continue for a long time but one final question i’d be interested just to get your perspective on Maybe not necessarily the future of Aura, because I [00:46:45] know how much you can talk about that but the future of wearables, because my understanding or sense would be that we’re we’re tapping out.

[00:46:53] All the, just the tracking, like we’re getting all the data that we can, but now it’s maybe more so the biggest next [00:47:00] frontier is like, what do we do with it? So what are your thoughts on how this is going to evolve? Am I going to have an AI assistant that’s going to be able to take all this feedback and then give me like, as I’m trying to reach for something that I, maybe I shouldn’t have, they can tell me like, Hey, do you want to do that?

[00:47:14] [00:47:15] Because remember last time it affected your sleep, but this and this match, like, where do you say, like from a five, 10 year perspective, where do you think we’re going to be with? with all these wearables?

[00:47:23] Petteri: Yeah, even though we are getting lots of data, it comes, most of the data comes without context. [00:47:30] And that’s the huge problem.

[00:47:32] So there are plenty of wearables providing data, but it’s out of the context. So people cannot do anything with it. So I see that there’s still a lot of [00:47:45] opportunities to, to improve. The overall user experience in a way that, that we get deeper understanding in the data in a way that we put it in the certain [00:48:00] context we, uh, develop better understanding on the personal level of this person.

[00:48:05] And like our approach was that We create long term baselines in certain biosignals and certain aspects, and then all those [00:48:15] changes compared to that baseline are something that we need to take into account. Something is happening, like your temperature is raising or something. Even small change is a change.

[00:48:26] Or your body your resting heart [00:48:30] rates. heart rate is going up or going down. So they are all telling about something. So we need to get deeper into the interpretation that what’s happening in your body and what those signals and [00:48:45] data points are telling about those things that are happening in your body.

[00:48:50] Like having more holistic understanding on cardiovascular dynamics and for example this blood pressure measurement. It’s, it, the whole paradigm [00:49:00] is completely broken in a sense that if you go to the doctor and measure your blood pressure once there and You have climbed the stairs and drink some coffee, so of course your blood pressure is high.[00:49:15]

[00:49:15] And then you get the recipe for drugs for the rest of your life.

[00:49:20] Josua: Based on one measurement at one time. Exactly,

[00:49:22] Petteri: yes. There’s a huge opportunity to get into the understanding of for example, continuous blood pressure variation. [00:49:30]

[00:49:30] Josua: Would you be able to get all of this what you’re talking about from a, for instance, aura?

[00:49:34] Like

[00:49:35] Petteri: Yeah, I think Aura is one of the best platforms in the world to be able to do that because it sits snuggly on your finger It gets [00:49:45] access, very highly accurate access, to such signals that you cannot get from the wrist Definitely Apple Watch is one of the best devices to measure from the wrist.

[00:49:57] They have lots of resources to invest in that, [00:50:00] but still, they cannot change the biology or physiology. The veins are here, and they are measuring from this side. And, in each finger we have two, two veins. So we can access very [00:50:15] snuggly and get much better signal. And then we have this long term view to the data as well.

[00:50:22] And from this periphery, uh, not from the EKG signal, but from this peripheral pulse waveform, [00:50:30] it’s possible to interpret lots of, Information about this cardiovascular dynamics and that tells in the long term about how your blood pressure variation is changing and what is affecting that.

[00:50:44] And [00:50:45] is there a dip during the night as it should be and so on. So there’s lots of this kind of information that is still invisible for people, but it’s highly doable. But it requires lots of very talented people. AI [00:51:00] doesn’t solve it because AI It’s still in a level, even though GPT for whatever number it comes it, it’s it looks intelligent, but it isn’t actually.

[00:51:11] It has all, only all that information that is, [00:51:15] exists in the internet, but AI wouldn’t have been able to create this product. So We need people to work on those and to be able to read the data like Hannu Kinnunen is one of the smartest [00:51:30] person I know in this context. He was the principal scientist at Polar for 18 years before he joined OURA.

[00:51:38] It was, it took one year for me to convince him to join ORA because he was a principal scientist at Polar, [00:51:45] in a good company, in a good place and so on. But eventually I succeeded and it was good for him as well to join us because then he could concentrate. After all his experience at Polar, then he started to get deep into [00:52:00] this sleep and recovery context and readiness context.

[00:52:04] And I think he’s one of the, one of the, let’s say five most intelligent people in that context, what you can derive from this kind of data that you measure [00:52:15] continuously.

[00:52:15] Speaker 4: Yeah.

[00:52:16] Petteri: So the, one of the problems in healthcare is that there are always one shot measurements, only one shot. And you don’t take into context.

[00:52:26] The what happened before that, how did you sleep, [00:52:30] how you’ve been sleeping lately, and how you’ve been moving and what you’ve been eating and that kind of stuff. So it’s just one short measurement and then you do the diagnosis based on that and no, let’s say guidance that, okay, what you should [00:52:45] change or something like that.

[00:52:46] So when you have this kind of years of data. of yourself very highly accurately measured. Then you can start really seeing this kind of long term trends [00:53:00] and what affects what things. And eventually we are this kind of hormonal message. And I like that. cortisol spikes in the morning, it starts to wake up us.

[00:53:11] Melatonin starts to affect in the evening to, [00:53:15] to take us to sleep and so on. So there are plenty of things that we can affect our hormonal balance in a way. And that’s another level that we could go deeper into that understanding as well. To really transform [00:53:30] our health and even our perspective to the health.

[00:53:34] Josua: So there’s tons of, the opportunity is massive and I’m guessing Aura has the most number of rings of any what company in the world out there tracking like a million plus rings or so. Yes.

[00:53:44] Petteri: Yes.

[00:53:44] Josua: So you’re [00:53:45] getting this data that Apple great product, lots of users, lots of scientists and data scientists and all that, but they don’t get the same data that you do.

[00:53:54] So I’m guessing Aura is incredibly well positioned for.

[00:53:57] Petteri: Yes.

[00:53:57] Josua: for the future. Yes. That’s really exciting. [00:54:00] As I am, just as a Finn to see

[00:54:02] Petteri: Finnish

[00:54:02] Josua: company from Oulu do so well. Thank you so much Petter for coming in and sharing the story. It’s been a true pleasure and yeah, wish you all the best with everything you’ve got going on at the moment.

[00:54:14] Petteri: Thank you. This [00:54:15] was really a pleasure. Thank you.

[00:54:19] Intro: Thank you for listening. You can find all episodes of the growth pod on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple [00:54:30] podcasts.

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