INTERVIEW WITH KNOPPI – THE WINNING TEAM OF THE 4UNI COMPETITION
Every once in a while we find ourselves hoping that we could ask help and tips from an expert in a field unknown to us. Whether it is about the initial steps of website development, tips for our university project’s graphic design or the IP rights of our new startup, sometimes Google or Wikipedia just don’t cut it. What you need instead is a person who has the right expertise and experience and could discuss it casually during lunch or a coffee break. Someone, who could quickly answer your stupid questions and get you forward with the task. Someone, who could maybe later join your project team or at least be a cool new friend.
Team Knoppi. From the left: Sudhanshu Nautiyal, Petter Nissinen, Linnea Lehtonen, Jarkko Nissinen, and Tuukka Oikarinen.
First of all, congratulations on winning the 4UNI competition. What are your current feelings?
Crazy excited, wow! We never expected the competition to be this much fun. After semifinals and Slush, winning the whole competition feels like the ultimate ending for the experience, but only a start for Knoppi.
Well, that sounds awesome! You guys come from different academic backgrounds. Can you tell us shortly what are you studying and how do you see the multidisciplinarity affect on the team work?
Multidisciplinarity was one of the coolest things in the competition. We’ve got political scientists, a law student, a philosopher and a computer scientist. We decided to use our different backgrounds as our advantage and divided tasks so that we were able to work on things that we were personally good at, whether it was networking, technical planning, visual design or general project management.
You have also had a great drive and enthusiasm from the very beginning of the 4UNI competition. How do you manage to maintain such a great vibe?
We met with our team a day before the first competition event and immediately found out that our team is awesome. We share a very ambitious way of thinking and motivation to work on ideas that can actually develop our society. Ambition can quickly turn into stress and so we like to go eat and party together every few days and we are continuously joking on each other to make the general vibe lighter. We are friends, not just coworkers.
“We are building on the expertise that the Finnish education is known for and developing a tool that will radically change the way we see student cooperation and peer learning.”
What inspired you to start developing this idea of peer-learning application?
Sitra’s presentation on future education was hugely inspiring and we decided that multidisciplinarity is the theme we want to focus on. Petter pointed out that currently it’s very hard to find help from people in different social circles since popular applications don’t give the possibility to search people based on their skills. Our team quickly built an initial plan to solve this, drafted a mock-up of an application and started to do market research to find out what students’ needs really are.
Can you give us an example of a customer using your product?
Okay, let’s say that you get this hugely cool project idea or start-up. Now, for your next steps you will definitely need advice from experts in different fields, say, IP-rights, graphic design or funding applications. You could always google, but 15 minutes with the right expert would be much more effective – and fun! Knoppi is the easiest way to find the right people with the right skills when you need them.
“Knoppi finds the right people to answer your questions. At the same time, it enables you to pass your knowledge to other people seeking help.”
As in life in general, these kind of processes tend to have their ups and downs. What has been most challenging for you during the 4UNI competition?
We are all very active people so finding time for Knoppi between other projects, work and social life has been quite challenging. Also it wasn’t easy to agree on everything. We worked a lot to work as a team, not only individuals.
…And what has been most rewarding?
Achieving the ambitious goals we set to us from the beginning and meeting all the fantastic people who were ready to help us!
The 4UNI competition has been a really intense two months; what have you learned during this path?
In a two months competition it is essential to build trust inside the team quick. This way, constructive criticism – a hugely important element in team work – becomes easier. Also, this was the most intensive course in start-up ecosystems we can imagine. After this it feels natural to approach just about anyone for comments and tips. But most importantly, we learned that if you just have a strong vision and you are ready to work for it, amazing things can happen.
Now when the competition itself is over… What happens next?
Now the journey begins. We are now building the first version of the app to pilot with our contact groups. At the same time we are preparing for our first funding round. Long but rewarding days ahead and we are ready for the challenge!
You guys got to visit SLUSH too. How was it?
Slush was amazing. What struck us most is how positive the investors and others were towards our idea. No room for pessimism in Slush, although we did get good critique too. And of course the after party was awesome.
Knoppi was one of teams that got to visit SLUSH and pitch their idea at University of Helsinki´s booth
As a winner team you will get to visit Amsterdam, a trip, which we facilitated for you with ACE (Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship). Amsterdam is an innovative city that adapts to new developments and has a very strong startup ecosystem. What do you expect from the visit?
We’ve spent the last two months discussing with education and business experts and students here in Finland in order to develop our product. Amsterdam will offer a huge opportunity to learn about the things we need to take into account in our application and business model when going international.
In your pitch in the 4UNI final, you said you are also aiming to cover the European market. How scalable is your business model?
The problem we are trying to solve is universal. The education system all around the world is waiting for a revamp, there is just too much to learn and understand that the classroom teaching can not provide. We need to make learning personalized and interactive. Every academian we met agreed with it and we believe once Finland embraces it world will follow. From a practical perspective, ours is a digital solution and hence scaling the model to other countries doesn’t require drastic changes in the product.
“With its advanced recommendation system, you are able to build your soft skills in your specific field and to prove them with references that you need in the job market.”
Think Company has been your living room and co-working space during this competition. How important is this community for you? How would you describe the atmosphere at Think Company?
Electrifying, everybody is really motivated and passionate about helping each other. Best part of Think company is it’s people who are really welcoming and encouraging. We are really thankful to Think Company for creating the inspiring environment and venues, where you could work till 1 am in the morning and still feel refreshed due to the amazing energetic surroundings and unlimited coffee.
You are the first 4UNI generation. What tips would you give to the following 4UNI-generations?
4UNI is one of those things that should be at the top of your things to do before you turn 30. Even skydiving can not match the thrill of building awesome products while starting from scratch, with random people and that too within two months. 4UNI is a great way to bring your academic skills to action. You will learn a lot about yourself, get amazing friends and possibly win access to awesome events.
The final question: How do you change the world?
Either with a smile or making Knoppi compulsory in schools ;). Seriously when passionate people come out of their intellectual circles, start talking to each other and sharing ideas, awesome things happen and world will start changing itself.