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EUREKA's innovation heroes: Vesa Perälä

Vesa Perälä - copyright Claned

From disgruntled student to an Education Technology pioneer, Vesa Perälä tells us how he came to found Claned; a digital learning environment looking to overhaul the very fundamentals of how we learn.

“People learn in different ways, at different speeds and are motivated by different things. But the traditional Education System is a one-size-fits-all model. Claned monitors a user’s interaction with educational content and simply ‘learns how they learn’. This means we can personalise each user’s learning experience to suit their abilities, interests and preferences,” says Perälä.

The idea of understanding how people learn is not revolutionary. In fact, researchers have been studying this area for decades. But what is yet to really happen is the conversion of this theoretical knowledge into practical digital application.

“What we’re doing, is taking the metrics from academic research and applying algorithms that mirror their findings through the solution. For example, Claned allows users to highlight, comment and ask questions on content. So as you study, Claned will analyse your learning interactions,” he says.

Based on its analysis, Claned can make many assumptions about what topics are causing you difficulty, what your interest areas are, how quickly you learn and whether you’re an independent learner or someone who prefers interaction. Then it can recommend other personally relevant material to you and link you with others anywhere in the world who could help you.

An Entrepreneurial Upbringing

Given his current venture, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Vesa was left uninspired by his own experiences in education.

“I didn’t have the patience in school to sit and listen to someone talking for 4 hours, explaining things in ways that didn’t make sense to me. I craved debate and practical work but for the most part, this wasn’t available,” he says. “Even at university, the assignments didn’t prepare me for the realities of an actual professional working environment.”

Vesa’s advice to other innovators:

- Be relentlessly persistent.

- Fail fast. If something isn’t working, move on quickly

- Surround yourself with smart people!

All of us can empathise with this experience and yet we don’t all become pioneers like Vesa. So what was different about him?

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs so from an early age, I was thinking like one. I remember in primary school running a little store and later in university, I founded my first consulting company.”

A 10-year stint at Nokia during its boom years helped shape Vesa’s understanding of the possibilities in technology and in 2008, he began investing in companies himself.

“This was a steep learning curve because when your own money is at stake, you really pay attention to the consequences of your actions and you’ll perish if you don’t learn from your mistakes.”

The Technophobic Industry

His entrepreneurial eye guided him to the possibilities in Education Technology and eventually, the founding of Claned in 2013.

However, the Education Industry is an anomaly in the current high-tech climate in that it has been slow to adapt to digitalisation. In a world where internet-users are accustomed to finding accurate and concise information quickly, it’s only a matter of time before the Education Industry will be forced into mass reform.

“We don’t know precisely when it will happen but the Education Industry, like so many others, will undergo huge disruption through digitilisation. This is something that no expert or authority can prevent. And when people discover a better way of learning, it’ll become global almost overnight and from that point on, there’s no turning back.”

In a market worth 6 trillion dollars annually, it’s hardly surprising that competition to gain a foothold in the industry is fierce. So to stand out, one must remain innovative.

“When education’s gatekeepers see you coming, they’re automatically skeptical because you’re just one of thousands who have approached them with ideas to replace the current systems. So what we’re doing is focusing on R&D and working with other partners who we know are interested in improving the product before we move forward.”

Logically, a refined product with a proven track record is more likely to succeed than one which is not and the Eurostars-funded TRIBA project allowed Claned the time to test their ideas.

“The nature of startups is that you don’t know whether or not your idea will work or if it’s even possible. So it’s important to have the time and finance to test and build the product. TRIBA confirmed that what we’re trying to do was possible and that it had commercial potential,” he says.

Claned’s Bright Future

All this work is paying off and Claned boasts the likes of The United Nations and Microsoft among its clients. Meanwhile 2018 is expected to be even more fruitful.

“Most of our customers today are organisations whose content is closed to the public. But this year, we’ll launch cooperations with multiple partners. This is very exciting because the more content that’s fed into Claned and the more people that interact with it, the more information the system can gather about learning patterns which will ultimately benefit the users.”

So don’t be surprised to see Claned nestled between Whatsapp and Halo on your phone in the near future!

Read more:

Eurostars TRIBA project

Claned website