Multi-award winning Layette maternity app pursues the Japanese and Chinese markets

Layette Oy, the developer of the Layette maternity app, won Kasvu Open’s Future Health and Wellbeing Kasvupolku series in June and now the app is targeting the Asian market. It all began about five years ago with a grey notebook and countless telephone calls. Layette’s founder Sini Havukainen became inspired by entrepreneurship when she was staying in Silicon Valley due to her husband’s work assignment.

I was 100% sure that I would become an entrepreneur, Havukainen says. Then, I started making calls to find out how I can make it happen. In the early stage, I had to keep contact with several different parties varying from a lawyer to the Finnish Enterprise Agencies. In doing so, I started to accumulate information about bookkeeping, applying for funding and international marketing and many other new things. There has not been a single day on which everything has been easy, effortless and familiar.

Layette is a unique databank for expecting parents and parents with young children. The contents have been compiled in collaboration with experts and organisations of different fields, and the app was released in Finland last year. The core idea of the company has been clear from the very beginning: the compilation and exportation of the Finnish maternity and child health clinic expertise.

Finnish education expertise is being exported in the value of 350 million euros annually, but not the maternity and child health clinic operations, founder of Layette Sini Havukainen says. We have the best knowledge of this field in the whole world.

Havukainen is a midwife by training. The education programme of a midwife does not provide any substantial information on entrepreneurship, but the same skills are needed both in the delivery room and as a startup entrepreneur: responsibility, readiness to make independent decisions and ability to react quickly to surprising turns of events. Havukainen was also recently selected to become a member of the advisory committee for the midwifery education at Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK).

Havukainen herself and Layette have both received many awards and recognitions. Havukainen was invited to speak at the UN, and she was also just selected as TAMK’s first alumna of the year. Awards bring along media exposure, which keeps you going forward. They seem to generate a circle of positivity. Now, we are at a point where we get invited to competitions, Havukainen tells.

Layette, previously called Applicado, is a member of the Tays HealthHUB community, which is a meeting place for health and well-being sector operators. In the beginning, there was a greater need for the Hub’s facilities, but Layette’s employees may still drop in at events.

Conquering Japan

During the autumn, Layette will gain a foothold in Japan where maternity and child health clinics are being renewed according to the Finnish model. The app is ideal for the setup. Next, the aim is at China, where Layette will be linked to client relationships at maternity outpatient clinics. The clinics get a competitive edge when their clients have access to expert information. China’s most popular baby app Baby Tree is based on peer support. The Chinese market is huge with approximately 17 million babies born annually. Layette is also about to be exported to the United Arab Emirates. Gaining access to a foreign market, not to mention that of countries that are culturally completely different, takes some serious preparations, travelling and long-term hard work. There are different customs in different countries.

We received very good instructions beforehand for the trip to China organised by Business Finland and Peter Vesterbacka, Havukainen says.

In the end, we are all just people behind different cultures, and local customs need to be observed but there is no point in stressing over them. The contents of the app need to be localised for the needs of different countries, e.g. in view of nutrition. This requires collaboration with local operators, such as midwifery organisations. On the other hand, a large portion of the contents is suitable for all and represents in particular the Finnish expertise on pregnancy and life with young children.

Beyond the startup

Havukainen describes her 5-year-long startup career as a rollercoaster. At times, the coffers have been nearly empty, and work has continued long into the night. Now, all the hard work has started to pay off.

This has been the busiest and most intensive but also the most rewarding period in my life, Havukainen says.

Running a startup is serious work but there is also room for humour and the excitement of doing things together. There is a unicorn on a desk at Layette’s office and a similar baby unicorn, i.e. Lumicorn, is displayed on a roll up banner. Layette’s Israeli consultant came up with the idea that our company is a ‘baby unicorn, Havukainen explains. I was not personally even aware of it before but, in the business world, a unicorn refers to a company valued at one billion dollars.

But for how long is a startup considered a startup? Is it a question of operating years, turnover or number of personnel? I have been thinking about that a lot and I do not know the answer, Havukainen says. Perhaps, Layette is transforming from a startup to a scaleup. The company has just engaged new employees with great new ideas and operating methods. You have to keep going, you have to be prepared to adapt your way of thinking at all times, Havukainen says.

I firmly believe that a mobile platform allows for the implementation of any idea – it is all down to time and money.

Photo: Layette Oy/Juho Aronen


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