"If you have a web camera, switch it on so that I can help you with your asanas," Poon says and thanks the class for comments since the last class.
Heidi Poon is one of the yoga instructor with the Finnish startup Yoogaia. The company offers dozens of live, personally guided online classes, from fifteen-minute yoga sessions to pilates, core and meditation. For a monthly fee you can follow lessons in real time, or recorded classes later.
"During a Yoogaia class, the experience is different, grittier and more authentic than in a carefully edited yoga classes, where each scene and take is polished to perfection," says Piia Maaranen, COO of Yoogaia.
"With us, anyone can experiment with different instructors and types of yoga. The threshold to taking up yoga is lower."
Maaranen joined Yoogaia a year and a half ago. Back then, the startup had only a few yoga instructors and a team of four.
"We aimed for international growth from the outset. Finland was our test laboratory. As soon as we were able, we opened a studio in London and then in Hong Kong."
Today, Yoogaia has around 50,000 users in 50 countries: "We have 20 yoga instructors in Finland and 30 in England. Our network is crucial to spreading awareness of Yoogaia."
Tekes provided Yoogaia with early-stage funding to plan its growth and internationalisation. The company was also recently chosen for the Tekes Young Innovative Companies programme, which offers funding for startups under 5 years old seeking rapid international growth. At around the same time, CEO Mikko Petäjä moved with his family to London.
"To grow outside of Finland, you also have to move physically from Finland," Maaranen points out.
"It is important to us to be able to bring our agile, all-hands-on-deck working culture to London. We could not do this from Finland. In addition, London is home to major international partners and investors."
In August Nokia Growth Partners, Inventure, Sanoma Ventures and Point Nine Capital announced they would invest a total of EUR 2.7 million in Yoogaia. Company’s next focus is Germany: Yoogaia has just begun to offer live lessons in German in addition to Finnish and English.
CCO Piia Maaranen
Text: Eeva Landowski