Out of the approximately three million dwellings located in Finland, around one million are rental homes. Since times of old, the buzzing rental market has been handled manually. At Kodia, however, they reckon you can automate anything, and so they have set out to bring housing solutions to mobile devices.

It sounds like an obvious example when Joonas Tahvanainen, CEO at Kodia Oy, compares an online bank application and the normal rental process for an apartment. Logging in to the bank’s app, strong identification, diverse management of even the finest details of one’s finances; this is all part of everyday routines. At the same time, renting an apartment is still carried out manually; sending documents here and there, waiting for the mail to arrive, wading through emails, waiting for credit information – and in all this wasting the time of both the tenant and the landlord.

A significant proportion of Finnish rental housing is owned by public administration organisations, student foundations and listed companies. Private housing investments have also been on the increase.

– Private housing investors have managed their housing portfolio in traditional ways, such as with the use of Excel. This is because the costs of purchasing a dedicated system for this have been so high. An digitalised rental process can make the service package more efficient both from a commercial perspective and by offering better customer experiences, Tahvanainen explains.

The software company

Established in 2019, Kodia Oy is a Saas cloud computing service producer. Saas stands for ‘Software as a Service’. For Kodia, this means offering software in the cloud as an application for use by its customers.

– The software we have ourselves developed is also a full-blooded app for which the customer purchases access rights. So we do not carry out software projects nor offer enterprise resource planning projects. Kodia is a software product that we maintain through ongoing development, updates and information security measures.

Pivoting

In 2014, Joonas Tahvanainen was busy setting up the company Area-koti. As co-owner and CEO of the Kontiolahti-based building company, Tahvanainen raised Area up from nothing to a company with a annual turnover of EUR 8 million. While at Area, the desire was born to use digitalisation to revamp the construction industry and rental housing sector.

– I turned to a relative of mine, Juha Kiiala, and asked if he could provide some consultation. We found that we were thinking along the same lines – and that there could be cause for closer cooperation. So in the end we decided to set up a company.

Kiiala, who had worked for ten years for Futunion bringing automation to the unemployment benefit societies of trade union federations, is now co-owner and Application Architect at Kodia.

The plans laid out by Tahvanainen and Kiiala won over both the ELY Centre and three private funding providers. They then started out with an extensive offering. The idea was to implement digitalisation right through from construction and the establishment of a housing company to the life cycle management of housing and occupancy.

– We boldly went round potential customers presenting our half-finished product. We discussed our plans and gathered information about what interests people and what doesn’t.

It is typical for a startup to pivot, meaning that it changes its business plans where needed. This was also the case for Kodia, as the company decided to focus on one of the top issues highlighted: housing rental.

– As a startup, you need to have a sharp entry point that can then expand later on,’ Joonas Tahvanainen summarises.

Getting familiar with the investment world

Kodia’s innovation and competence were quickly noted within their market. Among others, the municipality of Kontiolahti and the company Masters Yhtiöt Oy have taken the Kodia software into use in all their rental housing units.

Soon enough, Kodia and Business Joensuu’s business accelerator found each other. Kodia is now part of Business Joensuu’s ACCELERATE programme, a one-year programme that opens up the road towards growth and international markets.

– At the business accelerator, they have seen many different startups and companies in different stages of development. For us, the cooperation has opened up new perspectives on how to operate in the investment world and how to approach investment matters. In this collaboration, all energies go into funding the company’s growth; we need to get access to the right groups.

Although internationalisation is one of the key goals of the ACCELERATE programme, Kodia is taking things at a steady pace.

– There are countries in Europe where 80% of people live in rental housing, so there are certainly opportunities for international growth. However, we start with the assumption that we must first obtain a sufficient customer base here in the domestic market. The time for internationalisation will come later, Tahvanainen explains.

Kodia is currently focusing on sales and marketing, and the regional focus is on the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Heading this up is the company’s recently recruited Sales Manager Nico Lumiaho.

– The target turnover for this year is EUR 110,000. Next year, the plan is to exceed EUR 500,000, Tahvanainen adds.

‘A digitalised rental process can make the service package more efficient’

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy
Pictures: Jarno Artika