We’re on a journey to build better tools for people and organizations so that they can take care of their well-being at work better. This is our story so far.
The very beginning
The beginning of Emooter and our bottom-up approach to well-being at work goes way back before we, Emooter’s founders Dani and Teemu, had even met. Dani and a couple of his friends had started prototyping new and innovative ways to improve well-being at work while they were studying computer science and software business at Aalto University. The idea was to give people an opportunity to better manage their own well-being regardless of the organization, management or leadership style.
The spark for innovating around work well-being came from bad leadership experiences and a profound understanding of the potential of digital technologies. But, life has its own way of organizing things. Although prototyping offered excellent learning opportunities, the first versions of Emooter never grew into a business. Eventually the project was put on hold when Dani and his friends finished their Master’s degrees and headed for full-time jobs in the IT industry. But Emooter’s story didn’t end there.
Breaking the ice
Already in 2016, Dani had come back to the idea of Emooter as the market still didn’t offer proven digital solutions for improving well-being of employees. As he was searching for new opportunities, he came across scientific research on work engagement, led by the distinguished researchers Wilmar Schaufeli, Arnold Bakker, Evangelia Demerouti, and Jari Hakanen, a fellow Finn, among others.
Dani started discussing with Wilmar Schaufeli and they quickly found a common interest in putting the valuable findings and insights from scientific research into use through a global digital service, Emooter. Wilmar and Dani signed a global commercialization agreement, which opened the possibility for the next chapter of Emooter.
In the meantime, a new venture capital fund called Icebreaker.vc was launched. They organize “pre-founder” community projects for people looking to start a company or join an early-stage team. It was the very first pre-founder project where we, Dani and Teemu, met in the Spring of 2017.
The first steps for us becoming co-founders started when we started sparring during the pre-founder sessions. We also met several domain experts and HR directors from our networks to get feedback on our ideas and insights about the well-being challenges companies were facing.
At this point, we focused on HR and management teams. We wanted to provide them with better and more reliable tools for understanding work well-being than what their existing ones could offer. We also wanted to wake up the customers in this market where close to 80 % of the leading tools were not based on scientific research. At this point we felt that something was missing, but did not yet realize what. As it turns out, we were missing Emooter’s secret sauce.
Finding the secret sauce
During the time with Icebreaker and especially after that we started spending more and more time working on Emooter. At this point in our journey towards entrepreneurship, we both still had bills to pay and had to take on other gigs outside of this project.
Soon it became obvious that we enjoyed working together, had complementary skills and personalities, and a shared passion for well-being at work. Teemu had experience from leading large organizations and complex transformations from M&A to restructuring and nearshoring. Dani had built a number of online services as a consultant for businesses in various industries. We both had our share of challenges and experiences of poor leadership and were driven to help people, teams and organizations.
What we share is the belief that we can help organizations in developing better leadership and improving employees’ well-being as individuals. We also believe that organizations are willing but not necessarily capable of supporting every individual employee’s well-being at work. This is why we think new kinds of digital tools are needed. Managing well-being shouldn’t be done with “one size fits all” measures. People are different. Their situations are different and they change over time. That is why we need highly personalized and adaptive well-being tools and services.
Understanding this led us to finding our secret sauce — we would soon start crafting Emooter to become a personal well-being guide for work and a tool for supporting the well-being of teams and whole organizations.
Our recipe for success
In the summer of 2018 we were having a cup of coffee and redefining the strategy for Emooter. It was at this point that we had the revelation that became the vision for our company.
Work engagement research, the basis of our service, has focused on individuals and aimed at helping people and their teams. We also noticed that the market is filled with top-down management dashboards that claim the benefits identified in peer-reviewed scientific research but that are actually not properly based on that science. A lot of buzz-words are used, but where is the evidence?
We didn’t want to create another top-down management or HR tool with fancy looking dashboards, KPIs and graphs. Sure, HR and management will also get lots of benefits from our service, but our focus is and will be on employees and empowering them to make better choices on a daily basis. The question is, which would you rather have? Nice looking graphs that might not reflect anything meaningful? Or perhaps tools that help people prevent well-being related issues and improve things like productivity, collaboration and innovativeness through improved mental well-being?
Based on this revelation we clarified our vision of helping the individual and those teams they work closely with. We would empower people to track their well-being effortlessly, receive instant feedback, and provide them with job crafting ideas, challenges and nudges for improving their own and the whole team’s mental well-being.
The late 2018 was our warming up period. We had lots of discussions with different organizations and influencers around our ideas and vision for Emooter. We continued developing the service and introduced a novel conversational user interface to our pilot customers. This “chat bot” would later form the heart of our Virtual Well-being Guide.
Once we had found this pleasant way to have weekly interviews with our users for tracking their well-being, we started building the second half of our core service: the job crafting nudges. They would be tangible and impactful ideas, insights and challenges for our users to improve their mental work well-being.
For the first half of 2019, we have continued on this path and found that there is a need in SMEs and enterprises for Emooter’s bottom-up approach to well-being at work. Our core team has also grown as Kiia Ruokonen joined us. She is a social psychologist specializing in mindfulness at work. For the second half of 2019, we aim to grow and develop our service to become even more impactful.
An exciting future awaits
We aim to have a positive impact on as many people and organizations as possible. The only way to do this is to build a sustainable business on the foundations of the scientific research we believe in Today. We want to both build a sustainable business and contribute to the future development of work engagement and job crafting practices and academic research. We are open to research collaboration in the near future and we’ll take our first steps in this direction as a postdoc researcher joins us in the beginning of 2020. Furthermore, to remain trustworthy as well as impactful, our service will only draw from scientific research. Hence, the heart of our service will not be sacrificed under growth or revenue pressures.
As we continue developing our service, we’ll start widening our partner network to enable new digital and also hybrid services with local partners. We will have the tools, means and partners to support you on your well-being journey and in different situations you and your organization might face along the way. Should you wish to partner with us or know an organization or team with whom we could partner with, please let us know.
We also dream of helping the rapidly growing freelancer community with our service because they usually lack the well-being tools and support from the organization they work for. If you are a freelancer or otherwise work independently join our waiting list to be the first to hear when we launch the Solo version of Emooter.
We hope you enjoyed our story so far! For us, this is hopefully just the beginning. We welcome you to join a well-being journey with like minded individuals and teams!