February 19, 2020
On September 29, 2009, Miika Vähämaa, Valtteri Kaartemo and twelve other talented PhD students received an ASLA-Fulbright Graduate Grant. The purpose of the grant is to enable the awardee to carry out studies or research projects at U.S. universities. Miika and Valtteri knew that they were going for an exciting adventure and study for their PhD in the US. They also knew that they would become members of a Fulbright alumni network in which 86 have received the Pulitzer Prize, 60 have received a Nobel Prize, and 37 have served as head of state or government. What they did not know is that their first encounter in the orientation day a couple of weeks later would end up in cofounding a business ten years later that would claim to be the fastest and the most accurate text analytics solution for strategic insight.
While it is now obvious that their skills and expertise complement each other, this was not always so clear. Miika conducted his research on eudaimonistic foundations of epistemic group beliefs at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Valtteri, in turn, planned to do research on services internationalization at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The grants enabled Miika and Valtteri to start collaborating with the leading experts in their field. Miika met Professor Mark West, whose dissertation, on the role of the media in the formation of public opinion, had earlier won him two international research awards. His primary research interest was in the effect of media consumption on the formation of knowledge and belief. Mark’s research interest matched with Miika and soon became friends, who enjoyed working together. They were not only interested in writing academic papers but developing an algorithm that would help them understanding how group beliefs are formed.
During his Fulbright year, Valtteri was able to work with Professor Stephen Vargo, who greatly influenced Valtteri’s thinking on markets, market practices, and how entrepreneurs, companies and other market actors can shape them. At that time, his 2004 article with Robert Lusch, “Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing,” was the most-cited marketing article published in the past decade, and was later selected among “World's Most Influential Scientific Minds” list in economics and business. Vargo’s then emerging ideas on portraying exchange and markets through service ecosystems, influenced Valtteri’s research topic, and he defended his dissertation on “Network development process of international new ventures in internet-enabled markets: service ecosystems approach” in 2013.
Fastforward ten years from the Fulbright orientation day and we have Miika who has developed a text analytics algorithm with Mark for nearly a decade, and Valtteri who has conducted research and advised startups for raising funds and market shaping. The three decided that it is time to let companies, universities and other organizations to benefit from their expertise. They decided to launch DrAI.