I should start from the very beginning although I am writing this post much later than everything was initiated. It has been an interesting ride so this post might end up being rather long. Also, I can only write from my own perspective so here goes.
In May 2016 my best friend told me that there is a new project starting in Tartu aimed for ill children and perhaps I would like to work on it. Of course I was interested and contacted Gert Post who had the idea to create a gamified app for ill children. Gert is a software developer who is specialized in gamification and I was familiar with his previous work including an application for mental health so it was an easy decision for me to join the project. I have always wanted to work in a setting that brings research and business together and I wanted to use my background in research and clinical psychology.
Initially we worked on the idea together until it was time to apply for funding. In Autumn 2016 we started working on a funding application for Helsinki Challenge and we needed to form a proper team for that application round. I was able to get well-established academics on board with us including Sakari Lemola and Christopher Niemiec, both are experts in mental health. Moreover, I met Minna Elomaa-Krapu who has background in nursing at Upgraded Life Solution Lab (Kertomalla Paranee). We stayed in touch with her as we were looking for someone with expertise in nursing to join our team and she became part of our Helsinki Challenge team. Gert had already established contacts with pediatric endocrinologist Aleksandr Peet who also agreed to join our team. Last but not least I invited Sven Parkel to join our team as we needed someone to bridge academia and business and with his expertise as a Technology Transfer Officer at the University of Tartu he was the best person for that position.
Unfortunately we did not get this academia-oriented funding and we decided to change our direction. We wanted to step away from academia and more closer into business and startup scene. Our (academic) advisors became silent and we started the hustle of being a pre-startup late in 2016. Now we needed to form a team capable of executing the idea. Riin Vares who had already shown her interest in Spring 2016 joined our team and shortly after that Anna Suarez followed – both started working on content creation together with me. As the team got bigger, Risto Haljas who doubles as my husband, started taking care of our day-to-day business. Sven helped me to write grant applications and Gert was in charge of our tech.
This system worked for a while and then we decided to join Turbiini accelerator program for faster progress and external help. While still being in the pre-startup phase we had the opportunity to take part in Turbiini pre-startup educational program which we (Anna, Kadri, Riin, Risto) proudly completed in April 2017. During this program we had to work on every single issue collectively – we all learned how to formulate the idea, create a prototype, market the product, create lean canvas, pitch and so on. That program was very beneficial for us as we had to progress very quickly and learn a lot in the meanwhile. But it also caused a bit of a trouble with our other team members Sven and Gert who already were familiar with all of those issues and had already formed their own opinions and would have done things slightly differently while I constantly said that we should take every opportunity to learn and do what we are told. Well, you learn more every day and today I would agree with Sven and Gert but back then I wanted to experience everything myself without blindly agreeing.
Our greatest struggle actually started when we had to prepare our prototype. For months we couldn’t do it – we had the content ready but it did not end up in the prototype. Gert had prepared a visual mock-up that didn’t have a content and our advisors from the accelerator wanted to see the gameplay. So one evening we decided with Risto to create a prototype in InVision based on the content we had prepared with Anna and Riin. Once we presented the prototype to the team, we learned something essential – Gert and the rest of the team wants something completely different. We had to decide how to proceed and thought that the best way is to work on our ideas separately so there wouldn’t be constant misunderstandings and disagreements to hold us back.
We have all learned a lot throughout the process and more interesting times are definitely ahead. I am happy to lead the greatest team in the world – thank you Anna, Riin, Risto and Sven for sharing the common goal. Together we are turning ill children into superheroes!