Woodio Develops Wood Material To Replace Ceramics In Our Bathrooms

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Petro Lahtinen is a chemist and research scientist turned serial entrepreneur. In his first company, he built wooden orthopedic casts for bone fractures and he is now on to replacing ceramics in bathrooms. We spoke to the Founder & CEO of Woodio to find out more about his vision.

Woodio develops, manufactures and sells unique products globally. These products are based on a proprietary material – 100% waterproof wood composite that consists of real wood chips. Why did you decide to start the company and when did you discover the need for it?

The idea was born around 2015 when I knew I wanted to move on from my previous company. Since being an entrepreneur is challenging and fun, I also knew that I wanted to start another company. I went through dozens of business ideas but in the end, the idea of making bathroom tiles from wood sounded so crazy and so interesting that I just had to come up with a technical solution for it.

When I initially talked about wood replacing ceramics, people didn’t catch my vision because they couldn’t see what the product would look like and how it would perform on the market. Now, after a few years of hard work, coming up with prototypes and making the first sales, we are getting great feedback from architects and material designers which has really been rewarding. We’ve already launched our series of washbasins and the bathroom tiles are in development.

Petro Lahtinen Founder CEO Woodio

Petro Lahtinen, Founder & CEO Woodio © Svante Gullichsen

The washbasins consist of actual wood chips and are still waterproof. What was the development process of this material like? What were some of your main challenges?

There were so many challenges! The initial idea is based on technologies from my previous company; basically mixing wood chips with an appropriate binding material to create a composite with new properties. Since we wanted to use the material in bathrooms, it had to be 100% waterproof, and we started to mix wood chips with different kinds of resins and that’s how we created the first prototypes.

Another challenge was to find a fully transparent resin as we wanted customers to be able to see the wood as well as to create a molding technique that would work for us. Now, we do have a working solution but are always on the lookout for improvements.

The woodworking industry is still considered quite traditional. As an entrepreneur, how do you deal with working in such a traditional industry?

Being a startup is what makes the real difference. We are our own company and we can do what and how we want, so the tradition of the industry doesn’t affect us too much. On the other hand, having found a common language with large traditional corporates has been quite important for our development as a startup. This way, we get the best of both worlds.

One of the corporates you’ve recently joint forces with is Metsä Group. Their Corporate VC Metsä Spring was part of a €4 million equity investment round for Woodio. Why was this a good fit?

Obviously, financing is a big factor, as we need financial means to develop new kinds of products, set up in-house production facilities and commercialize while entering new markets. The collaboration with Metsä Spring is a strategic match for both sides. On top of this, Metsä Spring is part of the bigger corporation, Metsä Group, which has a lot of experience in setting up and operating factories, dealing with logistics and handling large operations. Metsä Group units could also be a wood chip supplier for us in the future. These are all things we can’t do or have very little experience with; so the main reasons for us are Metsä Spring’s experience and their resources.

How has the experience of working together been so far?

Right from the start, I got the impression that there is a fresh breeze in both organizations: Metsä Group & Metsä Spring. Everybody wanted to talk to us and was eager to help – we’ve been in contact with their marketing & PR department, we have visited one of their pulp mills in a search of a suitable wood chip source, namely a side-stream of the Metsä operations, and we’ve received input from their R&D experts. All of this happened quite fast as well – it’s only been a few months and we already have concrete plans on what we will do together in the coming years. Everybody is excited to work with something new, so I’m happy with how things are progressing.

What’s your future vision for Woodio?

In the short term, we want to make Woodio an international design brand. We will have our own product portfolio and we also want to license out our materials so that other companies can use it as raw material. The next steps here are to roll out new products to expand our portfolio and also to enter the German and Swedish markets.

In the long term, we aim to replace ceramic in the bathroom environment more comprehensively. A lot of people are not aware that the ceramics industry is actually one of the most polluting industries and by switching to an ecological material such as ours, we can actually have a positive impact, for example, on climate change.

 

If you also develop an interesting wood-based solution, get in touch with Metsä Spring‘s team today!

 

 

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