Startups, Stockholm & Sun: Digital Masterclass Study Tour 2020
June 26, 2020
A number of other blogs will analyse the findings, but the target market of this blog is the reader keen to hear of the daily events of the Digital Masterclass Study Tour 2020 to Stockholm. Those who wish to read about the after hour fun, however, will be disappointed. As the saying goes: What goes on tour, stays on tour.
In the weeks before departure, the most frequently asked question about the Digital Masterclass Study Tour 2020 was not “Which businesses will we visit?”, “What shall I pack?*” or even “Do they have good beer in Sweden?**”
No, the most basic question of all was: “Will the tour take place???“.
Overshadowed by news of the exponential Corona curve in Sweden, Manuel Nappo spent days and nights studying news reports and government bulletins (in Swedish!), hoping that a lock down would not be announced. Meanwhile, the tour organiser, Oliver Flückiger, contacted at least 100 companies, with the aim of convincing at least some of them to come out of home office hibernation to meet the participants. For their part, each participant hoped that there would not be an email in their Inbox with the subject “Stockholm is cancelled”.
The email did not arrive. An excellent selection of companies said “yes”. And so the adventure began.
Outside the meeting room, Stockholm presented itself from its best side: sunshine, blue sky, sparkling waterways. Unlike previous non-Corona affected courses, the study tour marked the beginning of the CAS and it was the first time the participants met. Introductions were made, including an interesting comparison of phone apps in use. Two camps were identifed: the “app-folder-organisers” vs. “apps-all-over-the-screens-users”.
Manuel then lead us through a day so full of information and fascinating facts, that 6 pm arrived in no time. The sun still high in the Nordic sky did not help with time orientation either! Some unusual facts to emerge:
The first day “in the field” started with a visit to one of several Stockholm startup hubs, aptly named the “Epicenter“. During the next days, we learnt that all of these selective co-working spaces share a similar vibe: filter coffee, Ikea-style furniture and enthusiastic young movers, all of whom are very proud of their work, of Stockholm and of Sweden. We were told many times that Stockholm has the highest number of unicorns per capita after Silicon Valley. No doubt most of those we met dreamed of being the next.
During the morning, Oliver took us on a theoretical tour of startup culture, including Lean Startup, Minimal Viable Product and the undeniable fact that failure is a large part of this culture. The honesty with which he later presented the journey he had taken with his own first startup impressed all of us.
We then met Markus Wolf, Innovation Manager @ Eurapco Innovation Lab. This multinational cooperation of eight insurance companies aims to find innovative solutions to problems they share. This seemed a little altruistic at first, until Markus described their first success: a gadget capable of detecting water leaks in households and therefore avoiding water damage, which is a huge cost to the insurance industry. Such a small gadget yet such a significant first step for this organisation.
We moved on to Paradox Interactive, a leading global publisher of strategy games, for both the PC and consoles. Paradox is a million dollar established business, in terms of the number of players involved and the revenue generated. No longer really in the startup category, we were presented with their plans for growth on several dimensions (voted by Manuel as the best diagram of the week).
The day commenced with a walk in the rain to SUP46. Not Standup Paddling but Start-up People of Sweden (country code = 46 ). Similar to the first presentation at the Epicenter, we heard of the key factors contributing to the rise of Sweden on the digital front. Inex One was one such example, presenting their “Marketplace for Experts”, where those seeking professional advice pay to be brought together with those offering advice.
We then met another inspiration: Öjje Holt, the founder of Acamp. Soon to be launched, this platform aims to bring campers and campgrounds (or potential campgrounds) together, similiar to AirBnB. Öjje was enthusiastic and experienced, yet very grounded.
A little later, at ClimateView, we met a startup with a completely different purpose: to be “the blueprint for every city’s climate mission”. Emissions statistics are used to create measurable goals for change within a specific area or city. A basis for a plan of action. The motivation for the startup, according to Einar Bodström:
“Nothing else matters if everything goes to waste”.
The day closed with a visit to “HyperHuman“, at the Swedish Museum of Technology. This exhibition explores the relationship between humans and technology – now, in the past and future. Another unusual fact: the first pacemaker was developed in Sweden.
By this time, we were in full startup swing. If someone had come up with THE idea, we may have stayed and launched it immediately. But first we met Gustav Henriksson, employed by the EDA as trade liaison officer. An excellent presenter, who succinctly linked the modern history of the Swedish ecosystem with that of traditional Swedish manufacturing (ABB, Scania, Husqvarna, Volvo … to name a few).
The presentation took place in the H2 HealthHub, home to startups devoted to health. Unusual fact #5: Stockholm has recently issued its first health bond, the money from which will be used to develop preventative measures against diabetes.
Next up … a Zoom link to Tian Ren, who presented the Mavenoid platform, a system which automates technical support. You have a problem with your robotic lawnmower? Just ask the app … she is not a chatbot but a virtual expert that learns via AI.
Tian presented us with unusual fact #6 …
The last meeting of the day was at the startup hub “Sting“. Beforehand, though, we visited the offices of Voi. The meeting room filled with graffiti on the walls, the ever present beeping of a fire detector with low battery … none of it mattered. The Voi vision of mobility, partnerships with cities, continuous improvements to their scooters … I was hooked, as were a number of others in the group.
The final day presented a morning of pure contrast between Kry and Memmo.
Kry: This organisation offers online consultations by doctors, psychologists and other health professionals, and is now expanding to include doctors’ surgeries. The keywords used to describe the service is “democratization and empowerment” for patients, where the doctor moves from being “God to guide”. A simple mantra, behind which there are hundreds of rules, regulations and other facets of the medical profession to consider.
Memmo: A happy birthday video message to grandma from the biggest Swedish hockey star … this is just one example of the service offered. Memmo is a platform where stars and starlets record messages for clients at a fee. Simple. The concept may not live forever, but life moves fast in the startup world.
A final lunch, the first goodbyes and time to start digesting and processing all of the information and impressions of the Digital Masterclass Study Tour 2020. It was also time to look forward to seeing each other again at the next course day, which will also be the first course day at the HWZ in Zurich.
Tack så mycket to all the organisers: it was förstklassigt!
* The clothes were not important, the good walking shoes were!
** We researched this question on several evenings. No further comments.
A final footnote: thank you to the photographers!
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