The University of Helsinki’s social impact incubator TREMOR has acted as a springboard for a wide array of solutions, even those in the arts and humanities. Continuing our soon-to-be alumni stories, we chatted with Timo Laiho and Helena Kojola, who came to the programme to get support in the developing of their music composition software Composia.
The theory behind Composia is based on Laiho’s doctoral research at the University of Helsinki. Now working as a lecturer, researcher, and composer, he has joined forces with his son Joel Laiho and wife Kojola, who has been an entrepreneur in interior and textile design for eight years already: “Timo’s idea is brilliant, I think everybody should know about it. I'm so glad that I can help him in this!” she says. The computer software aims to provide a way for composers to analyse music as a perceptual experience, and to offer a way to create and explore the nuances of music on a level deeper than previously thought possible: “Composia is the first computer software that allows you to freely manipulate the pitches and durations of music without the limitations set by notation,” Laiho explains. “It also shows the peaks and troughs of the music with a clear diagram, making it significantly easier to compose, produce and perform music. Composia helps to understand why our musical cognition is the way it is and brings a scientific basis to the interpretation and creation of music.”
For Laiho and Kojola, TREMOR felt like the best place to consider the product as something functioning outside of academia. “We had the theoretical base and the research was done—we even had a pilot version of the software. Still, we needed to understand it all from the point of view of our future customers. Now we have a better understanding of how we should go to the market with our idea,” says Kojola, to which Laiho adds: “It is unfortunate how many innovations stay inside the university and never see the light of day. We wanted to put this invention out into the world, to be used by the public."
TREMOR has provided the team with their own mentors, Pete Karumo, Jarno Laine, Janne Neuvonen, and Mirva Nevalainen, whose expertise the team is extremely grateful for. “It’s great to get their perspective on things, because we’ve worked on this for so long by ourselves and been so deeply involved. It’s good to have an outsider look at what we’ve done, no less these extremely experienced and insightful people,” Kojola says, adding: “Just in general, too, they’ve had a way of putting and saying things that strengthen our faith in our idea.”
The duo also names project lead Minttu Ripatti’s guidance in helping them concentrate their idea to serve the markets better. Kojola sees great value in the different tools introduced to the participants over the course of the programme, such as the use of pitch decks to illustrate solutions appealingly and concisely. “We hadn’t realised how important this is nowadays! Back when I started as an entrepreneur, there was no discussion about that kind of thing. It’s been great to learn something like that, because there’s a chance we wouldn’t even succeed without it,” Kojola supposes.
Laiho and Kojola are also grateful for the support of the TREMOR community over the course of the programme, and the positive energy that has kept the two motivated. Coming to the weekly TREMOR workshops has made all the difference to Laiho and Kojola: “It’s a social group—you will never be lonely,” Kojola says. “I wouldn’t want to work alone behind a desk at home. In the workshops, we get to talk to other participants, help each other, and share the experience.”
In the coming months, Kojola and Laiho hope to get Composia’s financing in a good shape for launching the first version of the software, and to get reinforcement for their team. From there, they hope to work their way to becoming established in the music sector, eventually on a global scale. As Kojola remarks succinctly: “There’s no expanding only in Finland or the Nordics—music is global!”
When asked why someone like him should consider applying to TREMOR, Laiho again refers to the importance of getting academics to build something concrete out of their innovations: “I'm an academic. I'm an artist. I didn't have anything to go on to get started in entrepreneurship before this—indeed, we can be very shy about things like money. This has been a very good platform for me to think differently about what I can do with my knowledge. I can recommend TREMOR to anyone!” he concludes.
Applications to the second round of TREMOR are open until 2 June. For more information, see the programme webpage or contact project lead Minttu Ripatti at email@example.com or through LinkedIn.
Consider also joining our open info session on 24 May. Read more & register here to take part!