Tekes is the most important publicly funded expert organisation for financing research, development and innovation in Finland. They boost wide-ranging innovation activities in research communities, industry and service sectors. In its February publication, Tekes highlights the work Ecolane is doing to grow its market, expand its customer base and develop an industry-leading product.
An English translation is below (edited for clarity):
Everybody ride on
Traffic service provider Ecolane grew fast to be an international player. Today the company’s main target market is the USA with [a growing client base].
With Espoo-based Ecolane’s transit software solution e.g. elderly citizens and disabled have access to fully automated personal transit services. Automated and real-time data collection make route, dispatch and ride management and reporting more efficient.
”This is especially important in real life where passengers may be late and conditions change dramatically during the ride,” says Ecolane’s head of R&D in Finland, Douglas Spears.
Ecolane Finland Oy was established in 2002 with the idea to create software specifically for dynamic ride sharing. After that, the company started to provide easy-to-use transit services for disabled. First in Finland and Europe, then the United States. In 2008, Ecolane won its first American contract to provide scheduling and dispatching software for the city of Arlington, Texas. The contract contained a performance target for Ecolane to increase the efficiency of the service within one year.
“Within three months of using Ecolane the target was surpassed. During the first month of operation with the new system, rides per hour increased from 1.87 to 2.29. After 30 months of operations, rides per hour had increased to 2.7. Like with many companies entering a new market the first reference was pivotal for growth. Now we have clients all over the USA from Philadelphia to Phoenix and more”.
As the US market is big and highly regulated, it makes a more lucrative market than Europe, which is divided into numerous language regions that have a totally different legislation.
Core competence in Finland, but the market is global
The Espoo HQ is responsible for European market and R&D. One critical success factor is the technology developed in Finland and the massive data amount collected from the US clients’ needs and behaviour. Spears sees that Finland has a lot of talent also in the future. Staff turnover rates have historically been low in the company, evident from the large number of our original development team.
Like many growing software companies, an increasing client base and evolution of technology has required an expansion of the product and the complexities that come with it. It’s important that the product continues to grow, but new requirements and features need to be added carefully to ensure that the software doesn’t become bloated and difficult to use.
“Although it may sound like a bit like a cliché, we know this industry. We know what our customers want and what their pain points are. Our product and our services are built around alleviating that pain,” Spears says.
Tekes helps to renew and grow global
Traffic business is traditionally very conservative. It constantly seeks new ways to make operations more efficient and to create new customer service concepts. This reflects on the companies serving the transportation industry as they need to evolve.
The support from Tekes has enabled Ecolane to expand both the software platform and the geographical reach. From a technical perspective, Ecolane was able to shift focus from the carpool offering to the demand response market. The Global Access Program provided Ecolane with the strategical support to successfully enter the US market. Ecolane’s product development effort will also take advantage of the Tekes offering by enabling more user-centric design planning, a key piece and strategy for growth.
“In the future we continue to develop American markets aggressively. We will is also look at new vertical and geographical markets to develop the business further”.