OptoFidelity found a new home in Shenzhen, China

Tekes’ Fudan iLab program boosted OptoFidelity, a company testing solutions for user interface technologies, to enter the Chinese market. The company was sold in August 2017 to the CYG Group listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

Supported by Tekes, the testing solutions of OptoFidelity, founded in 2005, are used especially in the product development and production of smart devices, that is, tablets, mobile phones and smart glasses. Top expertise in a specialised industry made the company founded in Tampere look for customers outside Finland at an early stage.

The first time OptoFidelity made contact with the Chinese market was through one of its early customers, Nokia. They began operations in China by operating through a distributor in Taiwan. In 2016, the company took part in the Fudan iLab program funded by Tekes.

Once the program was over, OptoFidelity decided to establish a subsidiary in China. The latest step taken by OptoFidelity in China was taken in August 2017, when the company was sold to the CYG Group listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

"The new owner will enable faster growth, offer a significant manufacturing and support network for our global customers, and create a connection to Chinese smart device manufacturers. We are part of a group of businesses in the CYG Group creating smart production technologies with a range of testing automation options available to all of us that is quite unique," says OptoFidelity's CEO Pertti Aimonen.

Despite the sale, OptoFidelity remains an independent company and the founding members continue in their positions. The reason for the sale was that the company needed more resources to continue on a growth path.

OptoFidelity's Chinese operations now employ their own seven employees and another 20 through a subcontractor. The Chinese operations bring plenty of product development into Finland where OptoFidelity has a staff of about 100.

Fudan iLab program helps become more international

The journey from Finland to abroad, especially China, is not only physically long, but the foreign culture makes is also mentally hard. Tekes recognises the problems in working internationally and therefore supports Finnish companies with Market Access programs.

Fudan iLab, arranged at Fudan University, is one such Market Access program. The program involves experts who create market entry plans to help the companies enter the Chinese market.

"Although we already had several years' experience of running a business in China, participation in the Fudan iLab program was very useful. Our own networks were supplemented by those of Tekes, and we also received support from the FinChi Innovation Center," says Ilmo Lounasmaa, OptoFidelity's Vice President.

Prompted by the Fudan iLab program, OptoFidelity founded a company in Hong Kong where it had the necessary contacts to set up the business. Following background work and a market survey, OptoFidelity founded another company in Shenzhen.

"The greatest challenges were the bureaucracy and language. However, we have gradually learned the local practices, and can operate more easily from day to day. Another example of a difference with Finland is the leadership culture. Work is closely supervised and plenty of reports are required," says Lounasmaa.

Customer service and quality as sales assets

The Fudan iLab program has enabled the business to snowball. Now OptoFidelity is offering its products without any middlemen to customers that had been acquired already earlier.

"Thanks to our active measures, OptoFidelity's net sales for testing system deliveries in China increase in the early part of 2017 already to several million euros. Success was also reflected in the interest showed by buyer candidates, as in the end there were many companies that wanted to buy us," says Lounasmaa.

Sales efforts are supported by marketing in accordance with the local rules. OptoFidelity markets its products by means of roadshows and local social media channels, such as WeChat and Youku. OptoFidelity considers its greatest sales asset to be its customer service attitude and the high technical quality of its products.

OptoFidelity has found that the Chinese market situation has changed a lot in less than a decade. In 2017, Chinese companies' marketing were better at marketing than the Americans and making better products than the Germans. There is more and more demand for Market Access programs and other support networks that help Finnish companies.

"The Fudan iLab program had a key role in setting up our operations in China: we founded the company in China and hired employees. It would have been much more difficult without help from Tekes," says Aimonen.

Text: Kaiku Helsinki

Pia Mörk