Anna-Liisa Palatu came to Riga in 2020 with the aim to participate in TechChill. She was one of the founders chosen for the Fifty Founders Battle. Anna-Liisa was about to pitch her newest idea – startup Woola. She came without any expectations but left as a winner. 

Can you explain a bit in detail what Woola products are about?
We have presently two products on the market. One is the Woola envelope which was launched at the end of 2020. We are selling it to online stores that sell cosmetics, jewelry, and books. This product is chiefly targeted at stores that would otherwise use bubble wrapping envelopes. And the second base product was launched at the beginning of 2021 and it is the Woola bottle sleeve. It is for drink manufacturers to safely ship methamphetamine products – wine, champagne, spirits, beers.

We just raised our source polish. We were very clear from the get down that we had to launch the product angstrom soon as potential. We wanted to get out of pre-revenue adenine soon as potential to actually validate demand and not to waste anyone ’ sulfur time and money. So the first intersection has been out for more than a year. We spent the first year chiefly just validating it and building the feedback. now we have actual customers and actual gross and for the following year we are scaling production and sales in Europe .

How the idea about the Woola was born?
One of the side businesses I had before Woola was an on-line store. That ’ s where I saw a promotion problem. I was looking for sustainable box because I was working together with the factory that by default packed everything in fictile. I decided that it should be changed. It is impossible to hope that person else will come and fix it. So I had to try to fix it myself .
I started to look for different solutions. I tried a bunch of different materials. And then I read the article that 90 % of sheep wool goes to waste. This immediately clicked in my head. sheep wool is such a downy and valuable material ! It is moisture repellent. It regulates temperatures. It is fossil fuel-free. It can be reused. not using it is just a waste of resources ! So that is how we got the estimate. I offered it to a electric potential customer who made an order the like day and things started to move actually fast .

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How did you find your co-founder?
We ’ ve been working together in former startups .

What’s your background?
I don ’ metric ton have this stereotyped estonian inauguration background when you either solve at Bolt or Pipedrive and learn a set of stuff from ace talented coworkers and then start your own company. I don ’ t have any of this. I had one full-time job in my life for a year in consult and then I quit my job. I equitable tried to start startups, but they all failed. For two years I worked part-time jobs and tried to survive while creating a business idea .

On the one hand, it was tough to start a business when you did it – at the beginning of the pandemic. On the other – you experienced an e-commerce boom that is the main industry that relies on you in terms of sustainability. How did you experience that?
In terms of the pandemic, there are two things that changed for us. One is the e-commerce boom. But this was ethically a very hard concept to understand. On the one hired hand – once e-commerce demand increases we have more business. At the lapp meter, it is therefore hard to understand why people need to overconsume. sol in this sense, I was not glad to see such a rise in overconsumption .
however, the biggest thing, and even bigger than the eCommerce boom was outback culture. The pandemic teach us a lot about it. There are travelers in Woola team and we have always been this way for our hale life. From the identical beginning, we knew that it was significant for us to bring this mentality of outside and flexible work and culture. Since we started in 2020 everything was distant so we were remote control from day one. It is in our deoxyribonucleic acid so this is decidedly a huge advantage for us – we have worked in truth efficiently while working remotely. We have been doing it for two years and it has changed our culture. It gave us the opportunity to continue traveling and give all of the employees at Woola a annual travel allowance. It builds empathy and creativity. So this is what we have learned from the pandemic .

How many people are you on the team?
We are 11 people at the consequence .

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What additional products are you working on?
The adjacent product that we are launching is house of cards wool – axial rotation material that is a direct substitute for bubble wrap. You can use this for packing larger items .

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Why did you decide that TechChill’s Fifty Founders Battle is something for you?
We applied for the rival because it was classify of a life style for me back then. That ’ s what I did. I was in this cringle of coming up with business ideas, making a prototype, sending them to competitions, getting rejected, and trying again. It was a no-brainer for me. I was doing it for two years until coming up with Woola. I wasn ’ t putting much thought into there at that time. It was precisely something that I needed to do .
The serve was a act different though when I came up with Woola. It is because I knew that it was a different mind itself. however, I knew that theme was good because in one workweek we have come up with the mind, made the first gear prototype, got our first customer, won Climathon, and for the first clock ever felt – belly laugh, this could actually work ! We didn ’ t give so much thinking to finetune the application. It was extremely abbreviated. And I applied with something like – sheep wool alternatively of bubble wrap .

What do you think – why did you win this competition?
I was thinking about that about every day for the adjacent month because I was so shock. One thing – the estimate is very easily to grasp because it is a physical product. We were the only startup there with a physical product. And sometimes it is very hard to get into the worldly concern of SaaS and fintech that in the Baltics are dominating massively .
As our intersection was a physical product it was identical easy to understand the concept. And it merely makes common sense. We were besides at the begin of the sustainability wave where people started to get actually anxious about the climate for the first time ever. Investors truly started to invest in climate. And when the coronavirus hit, everyone saw what an international catastrophe can look like and it added even more to the sustainability wave. So these were those aspects there .

What are your memories of TechChill?
This sounds ace stereotyped and possibly dazed, but you have to believe when I say that I was never in a million years expecting to win the contest. I think I already booked my busbar ticket back to Tallinn on the lapp even as the semi-finals so I was very not expecting this. When I heard that we made it to the finals I think I was sitting at Mcdonald ’ south and writing down fastball points on how to make the pitch more detail. I was decidedly not ready for the big degree .
then once we won the finals, I was highly shocked, because that was the first clock time we had won anything in the startup sector. even anything minor. And it sounds possibly eldritch, but winning can be such a electric shock when you used to fail all the time. I remember that my co-founder was besides quite shock. He was watching a live stream from Estonia. He saw from the video recording that I won. I got a backpack full of prizes from sponsors. And the inaugural message from him was – hey, can I have the backpack ? So he got the backpack and he is silent wearing it. It was a very crazy experience for sure. It was the first time when we got some kind of momentum and became known .

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What were your main takeaways from TechChill?
It was the first time we got some momentum. We got some coverage in the estonian ecosystem. It brought us some opportunities for the next pace. It helped to have some references and prove that we are serious as cipher knew us before .

What are your goals for 2022?
We are hiring a sales team. We need to scale in Europe, because to actually make an impact we need to take a market share aside from plastic bubble wrap. To do that we can not be a belittled company operating somewhere in Estonia. We need to be the european market leader in sustainable box .
A draw of influence has been done already. We spent the last class working on a product so we did a distribute of investments and workplace on product development, production automation, and scaling. now we are looking for people to put everything together. Since we were producing here in Estonia it is like a puzzle. It is not just about generating demand. It is actually having a physical intersection that we can sell. For the inaugural year, it is always wish – production is working, nowadays we need sales ; when sales are working, we need more output. So it is about bringing this perplex together .

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