From a start-up to a winner of an engineering award in just a few years – the story of Sensible 4

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2020-06-09 11:57

It all began in 2016, when Sensible 4’s CEO, Harri Santamala, was running several projects on automated buses at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, bringing these buses to Finland. The City of Espoo was amongst the main project partners, and therefore a bus pilot was arranged in Espoo’s Otaniemi in early autumn 2016. The company’s current CTO, Jari Saarinen, and CBO, Jussi Suomela, learnt about the bus pilot and contacted Santamala. A few years earlier, Saarinen and Suomela had been part of founding the robotics company GIM. They had expertise in bad weather outdoor robotics, and soon, in February 2017, Sensible 4 was born. The final founding member was Tommi Rimpiläinen, who had been previously working for Helsinki Business Hub.

For three years, Sensible 4 grew through internal financing, but a large investment received towards the end of the winter has led to a veritable spurt. Finnish society has also been remarkably positive about the automation of road traffic, which has had a significant impact on its growth and development. The company is aiming to become part of public transport, because reducing the problems caused by the use of private cars is vital.

‘We intend to provide everyone with a smoother daily transport option,’ Santamala says.

The Finnish Engineering Award is a great acknowledgement

TEK’s Finnish Engineering Award is a well-known prize in the Finnish technology sector. Its purpose is to highlight innovative ideas that also have practical applications. Winning this award while still being such a young company has been a real success.

Above all, however, it speaks volumes of the team that created the bus from iron and software. Santamala emphatically points out that without this team the project would have never even existed. But while the award will look good in the recipients’ CVs, it is also doing the company’s brand good.

The Engineering Award will increase the influence and visibility of Sensible 4. Throughout the spring, the company has been hiring new experts at a fast pace, and the award is sure to attract more job applicants. And as the competition finalists included large businesses with solid credentials, it made the victory feel even better.

Networks play a major role in growth

In 2018, Sensible 4 met an investor who later made a large investment at the Knights of #Slush, organised by Espoo Marketing. This has enabled the company to hire more staff, doubling the number of staff members this year. Events like this are key in growth, especially for start-ups.

‘It may sound like a cliché, but businesses need start-up and technology events like this,’ Santamala says.

It is very difficult to expand without networks or ecosystems, where partners help each other push forward. Sensible 4 acquires its new clients from abroad, which makes large networking events that attract a huge number of participants so important.

Currently, the company’s future is looking bright and the company is showing the right kind of ambition. The plan is to increase the number of staff members, and once the travel restrictions are eased, the company’s internal internationalisation project will gain more speed. The development work and other operations do take place in Finland, but the clients are elsewhere. Therefore, the business must have a presence and build a better future abroad. Sensible 4’s growth mission is to make vehicles that are capable of driving themselves a common thing. 

Santamala advises new start-ups and people thinking of starting a business to focus on the development work. It is important to listen to your clients in order to determine the direction of your technological development, and before you try to sell an idea, you must first make it credible and sufficiently developed.

Read more about the company’s operations on their website.

People inside the GACHA-bus.
Aboard GACHA. Sitting in the top row, from the left: Miika Nousiainen, Teemu Korhonen and Marko Lindroos.

Middle row, from the left: Jari Saarinen, Aku Kyyhkynen, Ert Ülle, Tuomas Tiira, Jalmari Matilainen, Tommi Berg, Aleksi Tepponen, Janne Luukka, Bilal Ahmad and Jussi Suomela.

Bottom row, from the left: Fredrik Forssell, Harri Santamala, Maria Santamala, Tommi Rimpiläinen and Umar Hamid.

Photo: Suvi-Tuuli Kankaanpää.

Sensible 4’s GACHA bus can travel 40 km/h and has a range of 100 kilometres. It has the capacity to carry 16 passengers.

Photo: Suvi-Tuuli Kankaanpää.