The Finnish startup 720 Degrees has set out to tackle problems in indoor environmental quality at workplaces, which have a direct impact on the well-being of employees and thus their performance. The objective is to collect and analyze data based on which companies can carry out investments to improve the workspace.
The CEO of 720 Degrees, Tomas Novotny, had a company in his home country, the Czech Republic, which offered various indoor air solutions to people with allergies or asthma. Some of these customers contacted Novotny later to ask if the company could also convince their employers that improving indoor air at workplaces is a win-win situation: it makes employees feel better and company gains productivity.
After starting his studies at Aalto University in Finland, Novotny continued to reflect on the theme with his fellow students: How to convince companies that it pays off to develop the workplace indoor environment.
Eventually, a company named 720 Degrees was established around the idea in 2012.
“We realised along the way that workplaces do not pose challenges only to people with asthma or allergies. A number of factors in the indoor environment impact each and every employee’s well-being and performance,” explains Novotny.
Measurements that provide solutions to real problems
720 Degrees offers indoor environmental quality monitoring services. A measuring device is installed at the workplace with sensors that monitor the environment. The measurement results are transmitted to a system that can be monitored by the company management or the building owners. In addition, the same data is transmitted to tablets found in the communal workplace areas. They allow the employees to monitor the results while also giving feedback based on their own observations, such as fatigue or dry eyes.
“We haven’t come across a similar service that combines continuous indoor space monitoring with psychosocial feedback from employees. There are many companies specialising in indoor air measurementss but traditionally they only focus on chemical problems in the indoor air. Our service helps to exclude these problems if needed and to look at other aspects in order to identify the reasons behind the employees’ well-being issues,” says the company’s Chief Operating Officer Rick Aller.
Aller points out that 720 Degrees always performs its indoor environment measurements according to customers’ needs. Some are interested in indoor air quality, others in, for example, noise levels. In practice, the company thus offers a single tool that can be used to measure a variety of factors.
US markets looming ahead
According to the company, the service has sparked a lot of interest. In addition to Finland, it has customers in the Czech Republic and the first pilot projects are starting up in Sweden.
“We have also carried out market research in China and the United States. The latter seems a highly potential market for us, as it faces similar challenges as Finland does,” says Aller.
720 Degrees sells its services directly to businesses, but sometimes also to building owners. Direct sales to corporate customers is a more logical approach, as companies bear their personnel costs themselves, unlike building owners who do not have a budget for the employees of the companies that occupy their premises. Thanks to 720 Degrees, companies can focus on the right challenges and thus invest in the well-being of their employees, which has a direct impact on performance.
Backed by a startup ecosystem
720 Degrees operates in the GE Health Innovation Village, home to a number of healthcare sector startups, located in Vallila, Helsinki.
“This ecosystem brings us a myriad of advantages. GE Healthcare offers visibility and assistance to the startups that operate in the village. The company was already our customer, which is one reason why we moved here,” says Aller.
Novotny is full of praise for the Finnish startup ecosystem in general:
“That was the reason why I stayed in Finland. When I came here to study, the startup environment was only just beginning to take shape. Back then, I already noticed that people here are very excited about new things. Finns are very future-oriented. This mentality, combined with the help that startups receive from many quarters, has undoubtedly been essential during the first steps of our company as well.”
Text: Anna Korvenojawww.720.fi