Finnish Startup Solu Takes On Entire PC Industry

Solu Machines launched late on Thursday a small device and web-based software platform promising to change personal computing for good. 

Solu Social Computer
Solu. Photo: Company website

The computing industry likes to name bigger changes ‘revolutions’, but while another tablet can be called a revolution or a software update could be revolutionary, Solu gives revolution back its original meaning - promising an $400 billion industry the biggest change since Macintosh launch back in 1984.

Solu has been in stealth-mode, not saying anything about what it is about to do, creating additional interest towards the launch of its products and Kickstarter campaign for pre-sales.

So, what has the team been working on?

Solu Social Computer
Solu social computer. Photo: Company website

First, meet the personal computer ‘Solu' - it’s a square device with a touchscreen, roughly twice as big as an iPhone. Under the touchscreen, which is used as a mouse or a control-pad, there is the computing power of Solu. Leaving the home, you take it with you to the office and plug it into a screen.

Hybe Interview with Kristoffer Lawson, founder and CEO of Solu

Second, meet the Solu software platform. The device does not run Google or Microsoft software, but the company’s own web-based operating system that is built on connections and links, using the logic of the human brain, not the folder boxes logic of software developers.

How does founder Kristoffer Lawson and his team feel about the challenge?

“We get excited about it. It’s about making a change in the world, making a difference."

The idea of Solu was born some 15 years ago in the head of Lawson. “Back then it would have been impossible to do, it would have been expensive and complex, but it was always there, in the back of my mind,” Lawson said.

The serial entrepreneur, who started coding when he was 7, focused on Solu last year. “It was the moment when I understood it can be done, and if I will not do it, someone else will,” he said.

The competition facing Solu, a startup based in a basement in downtown Helsinki, is enormous - basically it’s Google, Microsoft, Apple and all the other PC makers. "It can be a game-changer, but it is easy to copy, both the product and the business model,” said John Strand, head of Danish research firm Strand Consult.

So far the startup has raised early funding of more than $1.4 million from mostly regional investors. 

Aleksander Tõnnisson, head of BuildIT hardware accelerator, said it was the team that convinced to make the investment decision, but the further success will depend on how well the team can get its message across to early customers and developers, who can create software for the system.

"This projects relies a lot on the community behind the Solu and building a community is one of the most challenging tasks,” Tõnnisson said.

With developers at least basics are in place, being a web-based platform means Solu can tap in to millions and millions web developers easily. And an interesting business model is in place - users pay a monthly fee for software, which then is distributed to developers based on usage of their software. The beauty for consumers is simple - they can access all software available, not only the apps he has specifically bought.

"Solu is intended for people who think in different terms about their work. Solu user is someone who wants to get shit done and is agnostic about the tools. Educating it's customer to think differently about projects will be the key to get "normal" people using the platform,” Tõnnisson said.

Late on Thursday Solu launched a Kickstarter campaign for the device with prices starting from 299 euros, saying the device's expected retail price would be 449 euros. In less than 24 hours the company reached half of its 200,000 euros goal, with more than 300 supporters signing up to be among the first Solu users.

Solu Social Computer
Solu social computer. Photo: Company website