The University of Helsinki's latest batch of 6-month incubator programmes for impactful solutions has been darting full steam ahead for two months already, with an array of motivated and uniquely talented young startups hard at work. In a series of interviews over the coming months, we’ll be getting to know our participating teams a little better and getting the scoop on their progress.
We first had the pleasure of sitting down with cheerful New Zealander Chris Petrie, a PhD student from the University of Helsinki’s faculty of education, studying the design and user experiences of domain-specific programming platforms. Through his research as well as his practical experience working as a teacher, Petrie came to realise the ineffectiveness of many teaching tools of today. This was what drove him to found Kwizie.ai together with Andrei Laperie, acting as the company’s CTO, and Janne Jormalainen, the Chairman of the company’s board in charge of investments.
“Back in the day when I worked as a teacher, I always found that making tests and assessments was frustratingly time-consuming. I could use Kahoot, for example, but it would take me many hours to create the activities I envisioned,” Petrie says. “Now, given the strides that artificial intelligence is taking, we’ve entered a new world where it can be used to take off a lot of the administrative burden of educators and the education system.”
Yet, in addition to offering relief in educators’ daily work, Kwizie also aims to revolutionise the way we learn overall. Petrie goes on to explain that the COVID pandemic brought on a boom in video-based learning, it in fact being the most popular format used today to learn from. Despite this, it has many shortcomings: “We’ve noticed that video learning can be a very passive and linear experience, and it is more than likely that learners forget what they’ve seen and heard within a day, if not within hours. As an alternative, our platform transforms passive video content into fun, multiplayer quiz games,” Petrie explains. “Essentially, we can make any video you watch a meaningful and engaging learning experience, rather than something you idly brush over and easily forget.”
Before Kwizie, the trio had already worked together on an earlier, associated project, the technology of which provided a basis also for the new solution. A fresh start presented itself, but the team felt that they could use a little additional support in getting Kwizie on the map. The University's incubator for solutions in Deep Tech, AI, and sustainability, NEXUS, felt like the perfect bay to steer their ship to: “We had our engines rolling with this already a few months prior," Petrie points out. "We had a team together and even some investment figured out. Regardless, we're still in a very early stage, and we’re sure that taking part in the incubator will help us develop.”
A key role in the teams’ development will be played by the Helsinki Incubators' personally designated mentors, whom the teams have already began closely working with. Kwizie’s mentors Laura Bonomini and Andrés-Leonardo Martínez-Ortiz have helped the team gain perspective on their idea: “We've been very lucky to be assigned two fantastic mentors. They complement each other very well: one has a lot of technical experience, while the other is well-equipped to help more on the investment side. Our mentors have already helped us gain a broader perspective on our possibilities, because we’ve been so deep in the weeds with what we’re working on. It really helps to have someone experienced look at your start-up and bring different opportunities to light. It’s been massively, massively helpful,” a noticeably grateful Petrie explains.
Above all, however, Helsinki Incubators has provided a valuable community for Petrie and his team—something he deeply values as an expat in the country: “Finding a place in a community and finding people to connect with is extremely important for newcomers in the start-up world, especially for myself, as someone who's not from Finland or even this corner of the world. You need to form relationships and build trust with people that aren’t in your company. You need to get outside of your silos; network with people and find communities that can amplify your voice, but that can also join you in your mission."
“Indeed, while we do welcome all kinds of opportunities, our primary goal in the programme is to find a place in the ecosystem and to just have a supportive network to rely on. I find great value and meaning through being part of this, and it’s incredibly beneficial to have the University’s backing throughout it all.”
What drives the team forward is their belief in the transformative power of education: “We want to see more understanding and awareness in our societies, and we have faith in engaging education taking us there,” Petrie underlines. “Think of the Nelson Mandela quote: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ We think that in our modern world, this is especially true!”
We’ll be cheering from the sidelines as Kwizie embarks on their ambitious mission to activate motivation in learning and promote more understanding between people and societies—one video quiz game at a time. To give the team a helping hand in doing this, we urge you to test out the beta version of their software here, for free!
The University of Helsinki's entrepreneurship programmes, the Helsinki Incubators, provides support and opportunities for bold thinkers in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area interested to take their ideas and turning them into impactful ventures. Interested in taking part in our pre-incubators and incubators? Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on when the next calls open.