Vesa Perälä is an international serial entrepreneur with nearly 30 years’ experience and success in building up new businesses and companies. During the last 15 years, Mr. Perälä has founded companies in Finland, Denmark, UK, Germany, USA and UAE; and exited successfully from 3 of the ventures so far. He focuses on sales, new business development, business modeling, scaling up, fund raising and strategic partnership creation.
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Mr. Perälä was a senior exec at Nokia, Jabra, and Coloplast for nearly 15 years. As CEO of Web of Trust, he grew the company to over 140 million users, and closed deals with Facebook, Google and Microsoft. He is currently the Founder of Claned Group, an e-learning platform which includes built-in learning design elements that intuitively guide course creators to create better, more engaging, rewarding and valuable online courses.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with Higher Education Digest, Vesa shed light on his entrepreneurial journey, what sets Claned Group apart from other market competitors, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
Vesa, what first got you into entrepreneurship and why did you decide to start your own company, Claned Group?
I had always thought of becoming an entrepreneur even during my corporate career. I started by investing in companies, then joined start-ups as a CEO and finally started founding companies myself. Eventually this led to founding Claned with my co-founder Mervi Palander. Edtech has been a poorly served market and we wanted to make a difference.
The edtech sector has grown by leaps and bounds and digital learning solutions have risen due to the COVID pandemic. What differentiates Claned Group from other online learning platforms?
Claned differentiates from all other platforms for three reasons: all features are backed up by pedagogical understanding and we highlight the importance of pedagogical service design in everything. This ensures highest learner engagement and better learning outcomes. Secondly, the platform is very agnostic in terms of content formats and curricula or use cases. In other words, the platform can be used for any learning or training use case and the best fit is always found. Thirdly, we are the only company in the world which has automated the analysis of learning experience and power it up with in-house developed machine learning algorithms. We can measure the impact of learning and link it with operational or business metrics.
Claned Group was founded in 2016. How have your objectives and goals changed since the company has grown?
Our product vision has not changed since day 1. Focus areas have changed to some extent and we for example see corporate training as a much more important segment than before.
You are based in Helsinki, Uusimaa, Finland. What is your opinion on the environment for creating an edtech company there?
Education comes from Finland. The environment is very good and, for example, the City of Helsinki sponsors office spaces for edtech start-ups. The funding environment is rather good as well.
What are the top qualities and skills you look for when hiring at Claned Group?
On top of skilled developers, we need people who master international business development.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the start of your career, what would it be?
It’s never too early to start the sales.
In your opinion, what qualities constitute a good leader?
Transparency, inter-personal communications skills, consistency and authenticity, vision and capability to engage others behind of it.
How do you define success? What is your take on the ways to achieve long-term success?
Success can be many things: small daily victories in many fronts or achieving longer term goals. I have personally shifted mentally away from the start-up mantra of focusing on exit only. I want to build long-lasting success and healthy business, which then eventually might result in great financial gains for all stakeholders. Societal impact is more important.
What exciting things can we expect from Claned Group in the next 12 months?
Extended use of artificial intelligence to help educators and trainers to do their jobs better and easier. Even more focus on the measurement of impact.
How do you see the future of edtech?
Edtech has a great future. Focus has been too much on the technology alone in the past and many projects only deploy software instead of delivering added value, impact and results. Today, the best companies and products are fusing online pedagogy with technology and results are significantly better than before. The market (and customers) are maturing as well and digitalization is seen as a way to scale up, provide cost-effectiveness and especially measure results.
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring edtech professionals across the globe?
Do not focus on technical features only but on the value, they provide to customers and users. It’s crucial to understand how people learn to be able to build edtech products to enhance learning. Secondly, data is the future of education so try to figure out how you could include data and analytics elements in your offering.