Moi is Avanto Ventures’ first portfolio startup. Here’s the story of our journey from founding Moi to raising funding, and challenging Finland’s biggest teleoperators.
Launched in May 2016, Moi looks to be the most loved operator in Finland. We got together early 2015, but first, let’s rewind to where it all started.
2014: Petri and Juha want to challenge the status quo
“What if we founded an operator for active forerunners, focus on digital experience, and grab a market share of 10% from the operator giants?”
Petri Lahtinen, the father and CEO of Moi, had worked in the teleoperator business for 25 years. At one point he thought he’d rather set up his own service operator. His colleague Juha Koivuniemi, current COO of Moi, had similar thoughts. The guys also had guts to take the leap of faith and start their quest to challenge DNA, Elisa and Sonera.
“Finland is an anomaly: we’re the only Western country without any service operators in the mobile operator market.” - Petri Lahtinen, CEO and Co-founder of Moi
Having analyzed the market, the founders saw opportunities for disruption:
First, mobile operators are notorious for poor customer service. The whole industry holds quite poor customer satisfaction records. Second, the incumbent operators lack genuine customer focus. They focus on packaging single SIM services instead of offering clear service packages for all needs of household connectivity. Third, there was a specific group of people who were clearly underserved: active forerunners, who use several mobile devices.
Based on these notions, they grounded the cornerstones of the operator that is today called Moi: 1. The most lovable operator, 2. one subscription for multiple SIMs and users 3. Services and brand built by the needs of active forerunners.
“You can think of us as the Norwegian of the mobile operator industry: a modern, digital and modular service provider” - Petri Lahtinen
They also envisioned Moi to be a fully digital service, from sales to customer service to billing. To build an exceptional digital service operator, 3 key competences were needed in the team: solid know-how of operator business; excellence in digital business (this is where we came in); strong IT skills.
Early 2015: Getting together with Avanto, founding Moi
Avanto meets its first portfolio startup. Avanto’s co-founders JP Virtanen and Teemu Mäkitalo fall for Moi.
Petri and Juha were hunting for digital-savvy heads and investors. They came to us early in 2015, right when Avanto Ventures had been founded. Our founders were just returning back in business from their paternity leaves and were ready to take on something big.
“Moi represents the same values and ambitions Avanto Ventures was founded on: disruptive business model, focus on digital sales, cost efficient business structure and passionate founders.”
- JP Virtanen, Co-founder of Moi and Avanto Ventures
Teemu Mäkitalo and JP Virtanen joined Petri and Juha in their quest. JP was nominated as the Chairman of the Board, and Teemu took charge of developing Moi’s digital services.
Going in for the operator market is like David challenging many Goliaths at once. It took some balls to go for it, but since it felt like nobody is really satisfied with their existing operator, we thought David may actually stand a good chance.
Too often startups aim for a niche market that doesn’t even exist yet, whereas Moi wanted to reach out to a 2B€ market with massive demand. We liked the ‘think big’ attitude.
To turn ideas into reality, Moi needed more guns in the team. Soon Ulla Koivula (CMO), Kalle Vuoristo (CTO) and Tore Teir (current Chairman) joined in, and the gang of 7 co-founded Moi.
Spring 2015: Moi woos investors and raises seed funding
At first it seems like a mission impossible, until we reach out to the right investors.
50 potential investors said nay. Moi’s business case was simply too small for many VCs and investors Petri and Juha had already contacted. VCs wanted to get back in touch “once Moi would go international”. Thanks, but we need money now. Once the extended team redirected Moi towards the right investors, interest started rising. Even then some potential investors declined - they weren’t sure we could pull of the tech side of the business. (Oh but we did.)
30 investors and partners said yay. In the very beginning, Moi started building a solid network of partners: Finland’s top ad agencies, successful law firms, world leading billing system… Many of Moi’s partners believe in the business case to the extent that they are now Moi’s shareholders.
“After Saunalahti, Finland hasn’t really had a proper virtual operator. Those, who remember the operator competition from 15 years ago, were especially excited.” - JP Virtanen
Investors were keen to own a share of a mobile operator in a big marketplace full of potential. They believed in the team behind Moi and appreciated the analytical, thought-through business plan and calculations.
From Spring 2015 to Spring 2016: We make it happen
We have 10 months to build the service operator of our dreams.
During the following months we ripped apart every operator convention, and figured out what we could do smarter.
We decided to get rid of invoicing – who wants to pay bills anyway?
We rethought customer service – instead of jumping into the battle of who has the less longest waiting times for call center, we decided to build Mun Moi web account so that people don’t really need to call for support.
We packaged services for the needs of families and individuals with several devices with a sim card.
We didn’t want to build another typical mobile operator experience, so we decided to build our own technology instead of using existing virtual operator business support systems. It was a big project.
Spring 2016: Moi launches!
Many people doubted we’d get Moi off to ground in the first place.
A busy year went by. Moi and Avanto worked side by side in branding, service development, website building, you name it. In May 2016 Moi launched, and the active forerunners could finally get their subscriptions.
“Now is time for the ‘business as usual’ mode. We put our energy to sales, marketing and to making sure our service meets our clients needs.” - Petri Lahtinen
Once big operators have built massive tele networks, they end up with massive, stiff IT systems. Because of the stiff systems, operators can’t make bold, quick moves even when their clients ask for it. They need to have generic enough offering to please most of the population, which, in the end, isn’t very pleasant.
As service operator, if Moi needs to change its direction or add features to its service, it can and will be done.
Why we like Moi so much is because Moi sets a new standard to mobile operating. We, as Avanto, wanted to be a part of building a truly customer centric operator – an operator worth falling in love with.
Sails up, Moi! Let’s show Finland how mobile operating should be done.