Sari and Jukka Vuoristo have been aiming for the international markets since the first day of Volframi Ltd. Their solution for coating glass surfaces makes use of the principles familiar from the semiconductor industry, but their implementation is innovative and remarkably cost-effective. How did the entrepreneurial couple end up pursuing international success right in Masku?
- About the company: Volframi has created a patented method and equipment usable in the coating processes of glass surfaces. Different functions, such as switches and sensors, can be coated on the glass surface in a significantly more cost and resource efficient manner than before.
- Founded: in 2019
- Team: 2 entrepreneurs and 2 other team members; both of them will soon become partners, too.
- Location of the office: Masku business center, 15 minutes from the center of Turku.
- Latest achievement: Completion of a prototype device, suitable for industrial operation
- Random fact: “No one should create obstacles in front of your dreams”; one can move from the clothing industry to an online retailer and from there to become a nanotechnology entrepreneur, as Sari has done.
On a sunny summer morning, I head towards Masku to meet Volframi’s CEO Sari Vuoristo and Technology Director Jukka Vuoristo. I start my journey in Turku, drive along Highway 8, and after 15 minutes arrive at the Masku business center, next to the Ratatie Industrial Area. This is not a traditional place for a business center, as the popular Kankainen golf course sits next to it and on the other side of the highway there are the sand pits of Riviera with jogging paths and other recreational facilities. I wonder how does a workday look like in this leisurely area.
The parking lot is surrounded by several furniture stores – including ‘the well-known Masku’ – as well as a gym, a couple of cafes and other shops. There are also offices for rent, and one of the doors leads to Volframi’s office and production facilities, where Volframi’s entrepreneurs are already waiting. Let’s go inside to meet them!
Why did you choose Masku for our meeting place?
For many Finns, when they hear the name Masku, the first thing that comes to mind is the well-known furniture store. The municipality of Masku, which might be lesser known, is one part of the Turku Region and has a little less than 10,000 inhabitants. Yet it is very vibrant for its size. Sari and Jukka enjoy Masku both as entrepreneurs and as residents.
“Masku has excellent transport connections, the highway really improved the situation. Also, the adjacent airport and the port are important for international companies. There are cheaper premises here than in Turku and the level of service is high.”
“Turku airport is really important for the international companies in this region! Hopefully, the number of routes would increase, at least to the pre-pandemic level.”
The office environment, i.e. the Masku Business Center, and the surrounding nature, receive unreserved praises from both entrepreneurs.
“The location of our office is optimal, because there are several lunch places next to it. If necessary, we can go for a walk on the paths of the Riviera or visit the gym. You can move swiftly into any direction, which means it’s easy to combine work life and free-time.”
What does the Turku Region offer for growth-oriented companies and experts?
Masku is one part of the wider Turku Region, which provides municipality’s own services, but also regional support services for businesses in all sizes. In 2021, Volframi participated in the Level Up growth program, organized by the regional development company Turku Science Park Ltd. In the program, different areas of the company were developed together with mentors. According to the entrepreneurs, particularly useful were the sections related to sales and the one-to-one discussions with their own mentors.
When listening to them, it becomes clear that they do consider the Turku Region as an excellent place to do business. The capital city region acts as a point of comparison. It is easy to organize one’s life here, the price level is reasonable, and the office space is easily available. When expansion becomes relevant, they believe they can find bigger premises and, if necessary, even sites for construction in Masku. After all, the municipality is known for its positive attitude towards entrepreneurship. Sari and Jukka appreciate the entire region, both in terms of its culture, history, nature and culinary offerings.
“The Turku Region has a lot to give to international guests. They will gladly come here again to negotiate and build cooperation.”
As Sari and Jukka also live in Masku, they give compliments to their hometown also from a residents’ point of view. A clear advantage of a smaller municipality is the convenience of taking care of things, such as construction permits. Also, the closeness to nature and a genuine sense of community are important to the couple. In addition, they consider the whole region safe for children and young people.
“We built our own home in Masku in 2015 and everything went smoothly. The landscape opening from the terrace nicely balances our hectic work life. Jukka also acts as a volunteer at Masku VPK (Voluntary Fire Brigade), which has been a great way to get involved in the local community.”
What kind of work does Volframi do?
Volframi is based on Jukka’s professional career in the semiconductor and display industry. Working in a glass factory ignited an idea that many things could be done to the glass surface with the methods from the semiconductor industry. Things that enable different functions.
“For example, switches can be added to the glass to make the glass opaque, and lights or blinds can be adjusted. The method can also be used to install sensors on the windows of self-driving cars”.
Obviously, glass surfaces have been coated before, but traditionally they require huge equipment, even dozens of meters in size, to process the entire glass surface and remove the unnecessary coating. Volframi has developed a patented method and tools to make it more efficient. These tools are used to coat only the needed area of the glass. At its smallest, the device is the size of a stove, it does not require clean rooms, and it greatly improves the use of both the factory’s floor area and resources. For example, silver does not need to be used on the entire glass surface. Also, another patent is pending for a solution that allows the same area to be coated with several materials.
Volframi does not intend to produce its own consumer products for anything other than demo purposes. Since the company sells its solution to industry, almost all potential customers are international companies. The supply chain is global, all the way to Japan. Consequently, the company is a so-called ‘born global’ actor. Even though the pandemic and the component shortage have delayed progress, the intense development phase is coming to an end. Next, it is time to get down to business.
”The first customer negotiations for prototype devices for international factories are underway. We are also starting to look for investors to support to scale up the company.”
The division of labor between the entrepreneurial couple is clear; Sari takes care of the business administration, financing and marketing, Jukka is responsible for the technology. Both are involved in customer negotiations. Besides the two, the team also includes a mechanical engineer and a part-time lawyer.
“The existing networks have been valuable so that we have been able to present our solution to different companies. We have also received requests from various universities regarding research and development activities. So, the interest is there, now is our time to show what we are made of!”
What do the entrepreneurs, doing international business, think about their current location?
”The question could rather be, why we would do business and live anywhere else than in Masku?”
Text and photos: Susanna Lahtinen / CYF Digital