Imagine that you could see available parking spaces from your phone and wouldn’t have to worry about paying at the spot. This can soon be reality, thanks to Witrafi.
Atmosphere at Witrafi’s office in Lauttasaari is concentrated. One is coding something on his computer and two are working on assembling white, hand-sized devices into an old Fanta cardboard box. They are talking in Finnish about the programming, but to an outsider it sounds like they are building a spaceship.
”Sometimes it’s difficult to concretely understand what the engineers do, because I’m a business guy”, says the Executive Officer of Witrafi Sampsa Siitonen.
Sampsa Siitonen and his partners founded Witrafi in 2013. The company provides a system for parking operators that shows parking availability and makes it easier for the customers to pay for the parking.
What makes Witrafi so unique in the parking field is the network they provide. It works in areas where other systems like mobile networks are unable to operate and also it collects a lot of information from many different data sources. This information can be used not only for parking but for other applications, too.
The business idea came originally from the partners of Sampsa Siitonen, but soon he was the one working on it the most. Now they have a team of nine people working on the product, all of them with their own specialties. Everyone is needed which makes the employees really committed.
“They all can do their own thing and have responsibility at that. Then they come together and make something cool. It makes them feel like they own a lot of the product.”
Siitonen is still studying business at Haaga-Helia, but now the company is taking the most of his time. In the beginning it was difficult to shift the state of mind from being a student to being an entrepreneur. He also feels that it made the paperwork a little bit harder.
“If you go to ELY and say in an application that your main occupation is being a student, you’re not taken seriously. They would be like ‘why are you here?’”
However, combining school and entrepreneurship isn’t impossible to do. Especially at a University of Applied Sciences learning is really practical. With StartUp School you also get a lot of support.
“You think that you can do everything, but you really can’t. And then you don’t ask as much advice as you should”, Sampsa Siitonen says.
Communication, he thinks, is the key thing when you have your own startup company. Be open about your business idea to others and welcome all the advice you can get.
Then there are things that nobody knows until you try them out. Yes, it is important to have the knowledge and big funding, but you can’t count on that too much. You learn as you go.
“You always think that ‘If I had more money, and time or if I had known better…’ But you’re never going to know everything.”
Sampsa Siitonen admits that working at a startup company can be exhausting sometimes. You have to be extra motivated and committed to the job. That really shows at Witrafi: At 4:30 pm everybody is still glued to their desktops, and the Fanta box is filling up one device at a time.
In the future Witrafi will continue working on its parking system. Now the service is targeted only for parking operators, but the plan is to make it available to anyone. The company will also span the business model from parking to other uses of this big network they have built.
Text: Maija Vaara
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