Most everyone has likely been told some variation of the same thing during this pandemic: “the only thing you can do is stay inside, stay sanitary, and take care of yourself.” While this is true for the majority of people, there is a certain type of entrepreneur that thrives under conditions of uncertainty. After studying entrepreneurship at Cal as part of the Berkeley Startup Semester, two Finnish entrepreneurs from Aalto University recently embodied this virtue to the fullest extent.
Henrik Helenius and Johannes Salmisaari, “stuck” in Hawaii and unable to return due to travel restrictions, coordinated with 8 other inspired minds to create Droppe.fi, a Finnish start-up that uses efficient supply-chain interactions to reallocate health and hygiene resources to those who need it most.
Working entirely remotely, the team “helps hospital organizations and manufacturers as well as general and medical wholesalers to find an efficient supply chain or temporary manufacturer for their hygiene products.”
Amidst the demands of running and maintaining this startup, the team still found time to answer some questions I had about how they made this all possible.
1) COVID-19 is moving fast. How do you plan to expand this operation?
“We have secured partnerships with small manufacturers in Finland and larger manufacturers in Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, United States, and China. We have the means to distribute substantial amounts of hand sanitizer, sanitary wet wipes, and personal protective equipment for those who need it most. We are building automated supply pipelines and logistic systems that are agile by design. Through this model we can then quickly replicate and deploy the infrastructure to countries that might face the aftermaths of the crisis later on—one could mention Africa as an example. This is also what differentiates us the most from the more traditional and established players in the field, our technology allows us to move much faster. ”
2) What is the story of how you came up with Droppe?
“The story of Droppe began a month ago when two visiting UC Berkeley students from Finland wanted to help in the midst of the current crisis. After the announced shelter-at-home order, we started to conceptualize a solution that would allow quick reactions to the changing situation. Founding Droppe gave us the chance to be at the front lines of putting in an effort to battle the crisis and making an impact.
“Droppe was made possible by implementing and leveraging modern technology as a tool for helping the organizations affected by the shortage of supplies. The core innovation is to load-balance supplies from areas that are recovering to the ones where the crisis is still ramping up. The crisis hits different areas at different times like a shockwave. The shortage of supplies cripples the healthcare system and other essential industries in a matter of weeks.
“So far, our business has helped many organizations secure their workplace safety. Supporting organizations responsible for upholding the key functions of society has been one of our main priorities from the start.
“We have strengthened the supply chains for officials and health care organizations. Our support has primarily been focused on everyday heroes: like health care workers and essential manufacturers. The ones who keep the Nordic welfare states going.”
3) Who is the target market that can benefit from this service?
“We help healthcare services, product manufacturers, as well as general and medical wholesalers by finding an efficient supply chain or a temporary manufacturer.
“We make sure the supply chain is trustworthy, check quality standards and certificates, and organize quality-testing of the products before they are shipped to the customer. In order to offer an efficient solution for our customers, we have automated a large portion of the process by utilising advanced technology.”
4) How do you ensure quality products? What organizations have you worked with thus far?
“The high-quality of our products is guaranteed through quality-control by our suppliers as well as certificates and test-reports related to the production process. The products are FDA and CE-marked and meet the European Union requirements for import and product quality.
“We find company customers in need of hygiene products and connect them with the worldwide flow of resources. The professional expertise of our sales agents as well as the specialist consultants in the countries of acquisition, is what makes this possible.
“Steady family-owned businesses and private investors make our larger deliveries financially possible. The investors act as the importers of the products. We assist the investment companies in acquiring the products, coordinating distribution, and organizing logistics and fulfillment.
“Thanks to the support from our investors, Droppe can focus on strengthening agile flows of materials, finding supplies, and improving the quality control process.”
5) Is this a non-profit or for-profit venture?
“Droppe works as a for-profit social venture that measures its success as impact. Our primary focus is to help people in need and make our model to support that with the best possible manners.”
6) Will you shut down operations once COVID-19 has passed?
“During the process of building Droppe we have started to see how old-fashioned the global distribution industry really is and how we can help in redefinining it in terms of a longer time perspective, focusing on being highly dynamic and data-driven. We believe that the solution that we have built is not limited only to allocation of hygienic supplies and it can be used for also other supplies and products that are in demand and are extremely volatile under different kinds of economic shocks.”
7) Anything else you’d like to share?
“We are currently looking for new impact-driven individuals in the Bay Area that can help us in launching the US operations. The medical system in the states is broken. The situation is getting increasingly worse due to the crisis and even well-functioning parts of the system are under immense stress. Supplies are inadequate and the supply chains are broken. We have the capability to solve a part of that puzzle. We’re looking for ambitious tech-oriented people that have the will to make an impact in the current crisis on a worldwide scale. Join us. “