Companies founded in Stockholm, a global centre of innovation, are rising to the challenge of increased demand for digital services. Stockholm’s creative energy also continues to see the birth of new solutions-focused start-ups.
The city actively fosters new innovations through the Stockholm Innovation Scholarship – which is open for applications until October 12th. The Local spoke with two people at the heart of innovation in the city about what’s happening now, what’s coming next – and why innovation is in Stockholm’s DNA.
Get it done at home – from healthcare to shopping
Our ability to do things remotely has been growing steadily for years. Then came the pandemic. Suddenly, doing as much as possible digitally became a necessity – or at least the obvious first choice – for vast numbers of us. This is true of work, shopping, and even seeing a doctor.
Stockholm-founded Kry is a digital health service provider offering help via their app, as well as at their growing chain of health centres, to ensure the right mix of physical and digital medical assistance. You can use the app to get the expert advice of a health professional from the safety of your own home.
Demand for the service has skyrocketed: it took four years for Kry to reach its first million calls from patients – but just one more year to reach two million. You can rapidly be connected for a primary care consultation for all manner of symptoms, with frequent topics including skin rashes, eye infections and anxiety.
"We’ve proven the need for digital healthcare to ensure patients can receive high quality consultations and treatment without having to physically visit a health centre,” says Anna Fredrixon, VP People at Kry. "Not all issues can be solved in a digital environment, so we make sure they're triaged to the right level. Personally, I have three children and we’re using Kry to avoid going to a physical centre if it's not necessary.”
The company operates in Sweden, Norway, and Germany, as well as in the UK and France under the name Livi. Recruiting more clinicians to keep up with demand has not been difficult, says Fredrixon. “People are really attracted by the idea of working for something with a purpose, that makes an impact on society,” she says.
Kry is one of many major companies founded in Stockholm helping people to adjust to the realities of life today. Skype, co-founded by the Swede Niklas Zennström, has been connecting friends and colleagues online since 2003 and experienced a surge in demand as the pandemic spread.
If you’ve been doing more shopping online, you may be one of the 85 million consumers who use Klarna. The shopping app promises to make online payments simple, safe and smooth – a message that could have been created for 2020.
A city of connections and solutions
Innovators never stand still. That’s why Stockholm constantly looks to the future.
“Stockholmers are extremely connected and trend-aware,” says Donnie SC Lygonis, business development coach and innovation strategist at KTH Innovation. “The design, the fashion and the music here all play into the creative need to be on your toes all the time.”
The City of Stockholm runs the Stockholm Innovation Scholarship to reward creative people with bright ideas – and help them develop their innovations further. If you’re an innovator you can enter across five categories, including ‘simplify everyday life’ and ‘social impact and sustainability’ – for further details click here. The winners of each category get 100,000 Swedish kronor and further support to advance their project.
Lygonis says foreign students and researchers he works with are always impressed with how ingrained sustainability is in the Swedish way of thinking. But building a sustainable business also requires profitability, he cautions. “People forget that when they talk about social entrepreneurship,” he says.
A strong engineering tradition is another essential feature of Stockholm and Sweden. “A systematic approach to solving very big problems is part of the DNA strain of Swedish innovation,” Lygonis says, citing companies such as Ikea, Ericsson and Spotify.
Kry’s Fredrixon agrees that Stockholm is “a great climate to work in”. “We have an ecosystem of start-ups, support for scaling up, and angel investors looking for positive ideas,” she says. “We also have a high level of digital access and knowledge and Swedish people are early adopters who like to try new things.”
Inspiration and acceleration
So, what’s the message for budding entrepreneurs considering making an entry? Lygonis says the best inspiration comes from “the world around you”.
“Today, that means all of them will have a more or less strong tie to the pandemic,” he says. “To address new problems on everything from transport to digital meetings to helping people into work. If social media made us more alone before, I think the pandemic has made us even more alone and we’ll see a lot of things coming up to address that.
“In Stockholm, we’ll always see quick, frugal responses to crisis. We’ve seen breweries producing disinfectants and we bought hand sanitizer that smells distinctively of gin – it’s very weird!”
Lygonis is chair of the judges for the Stockholm Acceleration Scholarship, which is open to finalists of the Innovation Scholarship during the past five years.
“The Innovation Scholarship is designed to help you and find out if something works,” he says. “The Acceleration Scholarship says ‘good job, it worked. Here’s another push in the right direction’.”
That push means a bigger cash prize – 250,000 kronor – and other help including a co-working space at United Spaces for six months. “I meet people with incredible ideas every day," says Lygonis. "But innovation is also about doing – that’s usually the hard part.”
As many businesses and entrepreneurs are already proving, in Stockholm the hard part happens with impressive regularity.