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Insights February 22, 2022

Meet Syncc: the future of music discovery

Would you rather discover music from people instead of algorithms? Thankfully, music obsessive Josephine Norvell came up with the idea for Syncc, an exclusive social music app for shared listening experiences. Here, she tells us more.

Would you rather discover music from people instead of algorithms? Thankfully, music obsessive Josephine Norvell came up with the idea for Syncc, an exclusive social music app for shared listening experiences. Here, she tells us more. 

Tell us about Syncc! 

Syncc is an exclusive community where music, artists and creators are in focus. People can discover music from like-minded, be discovered and get credit for their great taste in music. Artists and tastemakers can also engage and interact with their audience. 

How did you come up with the idea? 

The idea came to me when I was doing a PR internship in Beijing. I’ve always been the playlist provider for my friends, and I was feeling quite isolated and lonely there. They kept requesting new playlists for parties and events that I couldn’t attend, and I started thinking, what if I could play music here and they could just tune in? How can I make the listening experience more social? I even asked Spotify about real-time listening and better social tools to connect people, but they were moving in the opposite direction. So, I decided to do it myself. I had no experience in the music industry (except I’m a total music nerd). I can spend hours browsing for new music. If I haven’t heard it, it’s not good (laughs). 

Tell us more about why music lovers need Syncc. 

Today, 60,000 tracks are uploaded to Spotify every single day, making it hard to navigate and find new music. There’s also a growing dissatisfaction with algorithmic suggestions. Most people see personal recommendations as the most reliable way to find music. In a world where we are fed with content in an algorithmic and digitalized way, We strongly believe that music recommendations still need to be validated with a human touch. With Syncc, you get authentic and accurate recommendations faster than anywhere else. I guarantee you will find new music that you’ll actually like.

Who’s the team behind the app?

I have no experience with coding, so I wrote in a group for programmers and my co-founder Max, who’s from Finland, answered. Max had also been thinking about building a music library that was accessible for everyone, so we had common interests. Julia, our creative director, is a friend of Max and joined us from the very first days. She lives in London and has worked with massive brands like Nike – she’s so talented! We also have three developers, Jihan, Dorde and Anis, who are from Bangladesh, Montenegro, and Tunisia. So, I’m the only Swede in the team! Because we come from different cultures and backgrounds, we all bring different insights and knowledge to the table – which makes the product more interesting and less homogeneous. But we all share the same passion for music. 

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far on your startup journey?

It’s much harder than I ever thought it would be. Teamwork is key where it’s important that you’re all in it together because you can’t do everything alone. I’ve also learned that the journey is the goal. With that in mind you don’t get devastated when something doesn’t go as planned, you just know you need to make a turn to continue forward. I’m always reminding myself that I’m doing what I love, and we’re building something complex that didn’t exist before. That’s actually quite cool. 

The level of business admin also took me by surprise! Just trying to understand what to do and know what’s legal and what’s not takes so much time. I often wonder how on earth people actually manage to start companies, because there’s so much admin. Thankfully, I got lucky when it came to meeting people who knew about this stuff. I also have some fantastic mentors which makes a huge difference. When I say the words ‘I have my own company’ it honestly feels weird. How did I pull this off in between all this paperwork? (laughs). 

Do you have any other advice for other entrepreneurs?

I would definitely find a mentor who believes in you. That’s so important in the beginning. You need someone with a bit of experience that you can bounce stuff with. Even if it’s just a friend or a business partner, having that more experienced person makes all the difference. Telling someone my idea out loud who would actually listen was the first big step for me – and it’s a good start. 

When it comes to the idea, I’d say you need to hash out the problem and the demand. Basically, you can be blessed with an awesome business idea that you think people will like, but that’s not enough. You need to refine it, test it, and figure out the actual demand.

What’s next for Syncc?

We will officially launch Syncc in the beginning of January 2022, but we’re keeping it exclusive (meaning you need an invite to join). We want to ensure that it’s the right crowd on the platform. Our target group is really hardcore music enthusiasts, playlist creators, DJs, artists, and all-round music nerds. We’re also testing out our recommendation feature, which recommends human-curated playlists instead of algorithmic ones. We’ve also added a functionality with social connections so you can see who follows your playlists which you get credit for – which is a nice reward because it takes a long time to create good playlists! 

What’s your favourite song right now?

Territory by The Blaze, it’s such an emotional kick and I highly recommend watching the well-produced music video.

Would you like to learn more about Syncc?

Download the app or reach out to Josephine on josephine@syncc.app

Healthtech December 9, 2021

Meet Infrion: the startup digitizing medical testing

Managing medical test results is a cumbersome process for healthcare professionals. We spoke to Infrion founder Aslak Felin to hear how his startup streamlines this process and get his advice for other healthtech entrepreneurs.

Tell us about your background. 

After graduating from Chalmer’s School of Entrepreneurship I started a medtech company. I was then hired to work with entrepreneurship students, doctors, and startup companies. 

Nine years ago I was asked to join RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) and spent most of my time working in Preventive Health and lately with Measurement for Sustainable Transformation. Six months ago I founded INFRION with three others – so I have basically worked with health my whole career.

Infrion Co-Founder Aslak Felin.

Why are you drawn to the medtech space?

I can’t exist without doing something meaningful, and health and biosciences is incredibly important. I need to be in a meaningful job, or I won’t function. 

Where did the idea for Infrion come from? 

We came up with the idea when the first wave of the pandemic started as there’d inevitably be a lot of fake vaccine certificates and test results floating around. We got some funding from the EU and built it, during the second wave launched the service and during the third 11,000 patients had received a certificate. Six months ago we spinned the project into INFRION with a vision to be infrastructure for diagnostics.

So Infrion is a spin-off?

Yup. We ran a project in Carechain called Certify.Health that was funded by the EU. After the project, we transferred all we built into Infrion as a clean spin-off – so now Infrion is a product in its own right, not just a project. 

How would you summarize your company vision?

In one sense, we envisage ourselves to be Shopify for medical testing, because now anyone could start doing diagnostic tests and be profitable. Our customers have made SEK 150 million already, and we have around 100 clinic locations and three laboratories who have served 170,000 customers with our product. Now our aim is to have 10,000 customers and 1 million patients using our portal, and have thousands more labs working with us. 

Tell us more about why the healthcare sector needs Infrion. 

Half of all visits to the doctor end up in a lab test, and the way they’re handled today is very cumbersome. There’s a lot of paperwork, spreadsheets and lack of imagination. 

One of the clinics we work with said they can spend six hours a day trying to figure out whose result is whose and if something is wrong, they must call the lab which means there’s a lot of back and forth. They also have to manually move things from a spreadsheet to a patient’s journal. It’s a lot of work – but with our portal they can do it in two minutes. 

Put simply, we digitize diagnostics. We also make it possible for telehealth doctors to not only do video consultations but also send people to get tested at a pharmacy. So, if you have a symptom and you call the doctor and they’re not quite sure what the problem is, instead of saying go meet a doctor physically, they can say go do this test. This increases their volume exponentially. We’re the integration between patient journals and the labs, and we make sure all the data is verifiable, secure and trustworthy. 

Why is it so important that this information is verified?

Firstly, health data is one of the most valuable data sets out there. There’s a rising number of cyberattacks on hospitals because hackers want to sell this data. It’s crucial that patient records are verified and secure. Secondly, we need to know that the tests have been ordered by qualified doctors and that the tests were real and reliable. One doctor might not know where another doctor’s test results came from, or if they can trust it. Even if it’s legitimate, they might not even know how to put it into their system. That’s why so many patients have to take multiple tests if they get a different doctor, or they’re referred to a specialist. 

What are the most important things you’ve learned so far on your startup journey? 

I think the most important thing is verifying the demand early on and focusing on that not the idea. The other thing is getting the right team.  Everything else kind of takes care of itself. The team must have passion, they can be good at something, but it must align with the company’s purpose. I’d say in general I’ve learnt that you need a CEO, a CMO, and a CTO – these are the three experts needed at first. 

We’ve also learnt a lot about breaking into a very traditional market. Everything had to be very well thought out from a user-friendliness perspective to ensure people would adopt it. Relationships are super important too. There’s a lot of different stakeholders in this space, it’s not a clear-cut transaction between a customer and a seller. You also need to consider authorities to some degree. So yeah, it’s a complex sale and you have to put a lot into building the right relationships. 

Do you have any other advice for other startups in the healthtech space? 

Marinate in the problems and try to really understand them. What are the root causes? What are the feasible mechanisms to solve the problem? I’d also advise people to focus on desirability and feasibility. 

What’s next for Infrion?

Prepare our system to scale internationally. We’ve done a good job here in Sweden and have a good foothold, but we have to make it more scalable from a sales perspective and from an internal perspective. So that’s our next big thing! 

Has Sting helped you on your journey at all?

Definitely. The most important thing for us has always been the network Sting offers, especially when it comes to investors. We’ve gotten a lot out of it too. We’ve also been very lucky with our business coaches Johanna and Fredrik. 

Johanna has deep industry knowledge, and Fredrik is great as a general coach to talk about entrepreneurship with. A lot of the time I’m surrounded by techies, so it’s great to have someone to talk to about wider startup stuff. 

Would you like to learn more about Infrion?

Visit their website or reach out to Aslak: aslak@infrion.com

Healthtech December 9, 2021

Meet Andning Med: the startup helping millions of people breathe easier

Between 70-90% of people using an inhaler don’t get the right amount of medicine. We spoke to co-founders Petra Szeszula and Essam Sharaf to learn how Andning Med’s device helps respiratory patients inhale their medication correctly and get their advice for other entrepreneurs.

The team behind new Sting company AndningMed, the healthtech startup helping millions of respiratory patients successfully manage their disease.

Tell us about the team behind Andningmed. 

Petra: The three initial co-founders all individually applied to a program called Clinical Innovation Fellowship. We all really wanted to make a difference for patients and Clinical Innovation was a perfect opportunity. The objective was to create innovations in healthcare through the design process, and the program is very special in the way they form new teams. They deliberately put people with very different areas of expertise together. 

Essam: That’s right! I’m a medical doctor, Petra came as a business developer, then we have a product/service designer, and an engineer. But most of us have a double education. I also have a master’s in bioentrepreneurship. Petra is both a business economist and a scientist in molecular biology. And Christian – our CTO – is a mechatronic engineer and has a master’s in industrial management. 

Why did you decide to be entrepreneurs?

Petra: I think I speak for the whole team when I say I just wanted to make a real impact. I was a scientist at Karolinska, and even if you come up with a new drug for cancer patients, it’s probably not going to save patients in your lifetime. So I decided that I wanted to help people during my lifetime, and that actually doing business is the most effective way. That’s the quickest way to develop new products and improve people’s lives. 

Essam: As I mentioned, I worked as a medical doctor before, but I wanted to switch to innovation because as a doctor you can only have a limited impact. To be a medical doctor is brilliant, and very rewarding, but there are only so many patients I can see in my life. But one single innovation can have a positive impact on a lot more patients. 

What’s the problem you’re trying to solve with Andning Med?

Petra: During the Clinical Innovation program, we followed different doctors, nurses and patients to see and understand the problems they had. We met a nurse whose entire job was to re-educate patients with asthma and pulmonary diseases on how to use inhalers, all day, every day. Even though some of these patients had been using their inhalers for years and years, she still needed to teach them how to do it. It seemed like a massively inefficient use of resources, so we wanted to change that. 

Essam: We asked a lot of questions and searched scientific literature, and it turned out that 70-90% of respiratory patients were making critical mistakes when using their inhalers – like not breathing out fully before inhaling the medicine or inhaling at the wrong angle. When they make these mistakes they don’t get the right amount of medicine into their lungs, which means their disease doesn’t get better and they have more complications. For us, it was a device design failure, and since we have a great industrial designer on the team, we decided to change that. 

How do you solve this problem?

Petra: Because we are strong in designing physical products according to the user’s needs, we decided to build a device that really connects people to their inhalers in a new, engaging way. Our device has several sensors that measure and guide the patient through all the right steps every time they use their inhaler. With it, they get the optimal dose of medication, which enhances their overall well-being and comfort. They can track their performance in a mobile app and share data with their doctor. But the real beauty of our product is that they don’t necessarily need to open their phone to know how they inhaled. They see the feedback directly on the device, which makes it more comfortable to use in every situation. The data is stored automatically. I’m a chronic patient myself and sometimes your days can be so bad. Chronic disease can really affect your daily life, and everything that makes it easier is welcome. That’s why we hope that our device will help millions of patients breathe easier. 

What are the most important things you’ve learned so far from a startup perspective?

Petra: For me, research is something that I completely understand, but when I look at all the extra hoops we have to jump through to build a medical device it can be quite frustrating. I know we’re dealing with patients and vulnerable people so we need proper measures to make sure we’re meeting standards, but it takes a lot of time and money. But with sheer willpower, determination, and hard work, you can do it. You just close your eyes and keep grinding until you’re on the other side.

Essam: I agree with that, not only how hard it is from the medical perspective, but in general, how much resources it takes to build something. Especially if you have big ambitions, which you must have, because otherwise no one will fund you. And even if there’s a voice somewhere in my mind shouting this is too much – you just have to go through it. I’ve also learnt you have to be able to operate on very low resources, especially money-wise. How much can you do when you’re hungry? Can you go that extra mile or not? But on the other hand, I’ve learnt that when you walk through fire, you see what’s really important. 

Petra: We’ve also learnt how lucky we are to be in Sweden! There’s so much support with governmental grants, incubators, coaches and mentor programs, especially in healthcare – which is why we’ve got this far.  The supportive environment, which Sweden and Stockholm created, made it possible, and we’re learning so much. I spent five years learning economics management at the university, but nothing prepared me for being an entrepreneur. 

Have you learnt anything specifically at Sting?

Essam: Literally this week we were hiring an intern, and Petra said ‘Oh, I know Olivia works with interns, we should ask them about contracts.’ I texted one of the founders and she immediately sent me an NDA document which saved us hours. So in short, it’s amazing to work alongside so many other awesome startups that help each other out!

Petra: For me it’s the business knowledge and networks we get through the support by our coaches. They connected us with investors, pharmaceutical companies and other experts and entrepreneurs, and they taught us how to get the most out of those connections. The legal support and advice has also been really good too. 

What’s your advice for other healthtech entrepreneurs

Petra: Get a diverse team and get the designer in the team, not just engineers! I think that’s my general advice to any startup. Get someone who understands how to speak to your users, create user journeys and create products for people. I’ve bragged about having Annelie, our designer, on the team so much. The skills she brings as an industrial designer are priceless. 

Essam: Definitely! I think people neglect the benefits of design, designers don’t just make things beautiful – they make things user-friendly and simple. That’s why in the end I believe our products will be loved by millions of people. 

Would you like to learn more about Andning Med?

Visit their website or reach out to Petra on petra@andningmed.com. 

Insights December 6, 2021

Meet Attini: the startup automating IT infrastructure quickly and securely

Migrating to the cloud has big benefits for organizations, but it’s not always smooth sailing. We spoke to Attini co-founders (and brothers) Carl and Oscar Östrand to hear how they’re making cloud environments easier to work with.

Tell us about your backgrounds. 

Carl: I’m a cloud architect and I’ve been working with AWS cloud for about five years. My job has essentially been to help companies migrate or maintain their cloud environments. That’s where the idea for Attini came from – I wanted to find the best way to do this.

Oscar: I’ve been a systems developer for over seven years in the banking sector. So I guess you could say I’m the builder. We also have Rashin who’s our chair of the board while holding down another CEO position for a bigger company. 

It’s cool that you’re brothers – why did you want to work together?

Carl: We work well together and get along spectacularly, so why not? It also feels nice to start a company with someone you trust 100%. We never needed a big discussion on who owns what, because it didn’t really matter. 

Oscar: Exactly. Brother and best friend is a great combination, and our competencies also complement each other. We’ve talked about doing something together over a few beers for years. 

What problem are you trying to solve with Attini? 

Carl: On a high level, most companies in the world are migrating to the cloud, which has a lot of benefits, but massively increases complexity. It’s hard to migrate multiple IT environments to the cloud and standardize and manage them all securely without undesirable side effects. And of course, all of this management and development requires a lot of time and resources.

Oscar: It all boils down to this new technology – well it’s 10 years old, but it only gained real traction over the last few years – and that’s Infrastructure as Code (IaC). It’s a way to configure your cloud and define IT environments, networks, databases, and certificates and whatnot. But the current ways of working with this technology are very immature, so it’s painful to work with and requires a lot of engineering. The best way to solve this is to completely remove manual configuration of IT environments. So we created a serverless deployment framework for Infrastructure as Code that will standardize and automatically run your deployments for you. It’s also really affordable and it’s much less error-prone. 

Why is this important to you? 

Carl: Well it used to be my job to build this for companies, and it was frustrating to see every company solving this issue in different ways, and often in crappy ways. It made my work quite painful, and I knew there was a better way to do things through standardization and automation. I guess I want to prevent my former colleagues and other IT folks from having to deal with the same headaches!

Oscar: Yeah, cloud architects have way better things to do with their time than build these frameworks. When a company moves to the cloud, there’s a lot of promises of agility, traceability and ease of management, which can be fulfilled – but you need to implement so many things first. We want it to be much easier for people to get what the cloud promised them.  

What are the most important things you’ve learned so far on your startup journey?

Oscar: Don’t underestimate how hard it is to find good people – we spend a lot of time on that. And also, it’s hard to start a company in general. You can’t assume what people and companies will need. We spent quite a lot of time building a few things then realized after we didn’t even need it. 

Carl: I think one thing that’s been quite an eye-opener is that it’s such a small portion of the work that’s actually development. It takes way more work to create the design or sort out documentation and payments and all that stuff. 

When you work for a big company, you can just write the code, you put it into production, and it works. But selling something as a commercial product is a whole other thing, which we knew, but we didn’t know how different it would be. And also, lawyers are super expensive (laughs). 

Oscar: Yeah the legal part is terrible, I don’t enjoy that! I think we’ve also learnt how important building customer trust is. We’re basically asking companies to trust us with their IT infrastructure, which is a big thing and earning that trust is probably our biggest challenge. 

And how do you build that trust?

Carl: Public exposure really helps, and building a digital footprint by being present on LinkedIn and stuff is important. If anybody actually looks at you, they have to be able to see that we’re actual people with qualifications, experience and partnerships. 

Oscar: And then of course it’s good to have customers who’ll give you a good reference! There’s a real herd mentality in the software space, Which is hard as a startup. When you have momentum, it’s fine, but getting that momentum can be a challenge. 

What would your advice be for other startups?

Carl: You can’t be the best at everything, but it’s good to have someone who knows a bit about legal, financing, business development and marketing – in addition to the tech and IT skills. You also need to find a good way to update your product. No matter how you deliver it, it’s continuous work, and you need to set up a good structure so you can easily deliver new features to your customers.

Oscar: Yeah, I agree. We’re pretty good at the IT part, which seems to be unusual. Most startups seem to have the opposite – they start a company because they have a cool idea but they often rely on consultants for development and IT implementation which can get really expensive. We’re kind of the opposite, so it’s good to have a balance and a mixture of knowledge! 

How have you found Sting?

Carl: Straight away we started getting good advice about how to talk to investors and other stakeholders, and what to highlight in all these different conversations. We actually went in and quickly changed some stuff on our website after our first couple of coaching sessions. 

Oscar: Yeah, Sting has definitely helped us avoid a couple of expensive mistakes. 

What’s next for Attini? 

In January 2022 we will launch our product for general availability. Then we will focus on sales and getting feedback from existing customers so we can improve the product further. It’s fairly powerful now, but there’s a lot of things we can do to make it easier to get started. 

Would you like to learn more about Attini?Visit their website or reach out to carl.ostrand@attini.io.

Healthtech December 6, 2021

Meet Din Psykolog: the psychology service that’s always open

Using a smart-matching algorithm, Din Psykolog allows people to get in contact with a psychologist online, anytime. We spoke to founder Ramzi Jelassi to hear more about this unique healthtech startup.

From left to right: Maria Ljungberg (Propel Capital), Ramzi Jelassi (Din Psykolog), Felicia Westin (Din Psykolog) and a private investor at Sting Day 2021.

Tell us about your background. 

I’ve been interested in psychology since I was very young. I think it’s about being interested in your own thought process, which most people are. My first career was actually as a professional poker player. I travelled around the world playing the biggest tournaments, and used psychology to my advantage, and also worked on my own psychology. After that, I did a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and business and began working for a startup because I always wanted to start something myself. Once that business was mature, I decided to pursue my idea for Din Psykolog and found some other people to launch the platform with. 

My co-founders and I all met in different ways: online, through friends, on Linkedin – and I also met my CTO through a startup event. And Felicia, who just started, is a psychologist and she’s worked at a company similar to ours before. We all fit really well together and have a great connection. I think we all really like working together. 

Where did the idea for Din Psykolog come from?

Talking to a psychologist has had good results for me personally. For me, it’s a no-brainer that everyone should talk to a psychologist at some point. I saw people getting more and more comfortable talking to doctors online, and it felt like a natural step for people to start talking to psychologists online as well. So I decided to create a fully digital psychology service where people can contact to a psychologist anytime, from anywhere. 

How does Din Psykolog work?

The patient logs into the platform using their BankID and answers a few simple questions. Based on that, we use a smart-matching algorithm to recommend psychologists that suits each individual’s needs. You can read about them and their background, and based on that, decide who you’d like to chat to. The entire interaction is text-based, so you can start writing to them immediately. You’ll always get an answer within 24hrs and can continue to write a little every day, or whenever you feel like it. 

It’s similar for the psychologist. They login to their work profile and can see all of their patients collected in one place. They login every day and chat with patients, and have access to different tools to help them. The platform is really smooth and automates a lot of time-consuming, manual processes. This gives psychologists more time to speak to patients and raise the quality of care. The healthcare system is also pretty slow, especially when it comes to mental health. With Din Psykolog psychologists get to help more people, faster. It also gives them much more flexibility.

What other problems does it solve?

Most importantly, Din Psykolog lowers the threshold for people to actually start seeing a psychologist and makes it much easier. This is really crucial. I think most people walk around thinking ‘yeah, maybe I should go to a psychologist, but many don’t follow through. It’s still stigmatized or people don’t dare do it.  But if you make it digital and easy, then you lower the barrier to entry and actually try it. The fact it’s text-based also makes it less intimidating. And our psychologists are great. They have so much experience. 

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far on your startup journey?

There’s a lot of people out there who prefer writing compared to other forms of communication. A patient emailed me once asking if we would save their data after speaking to a psychologist, and I assumed they didn’t want us to. But it was the other way around. It turns out a lot of our patients want us to keep their text so they can log back in afterwards and read what they said and what the psychologist said so they can use it as a journal. 

The act of writing can also be therapeutic in itself, even before the psychologist comes in. 

What sort of unexpected challenges have come your way? 

We’re in a highly regulated market, so there are some things we just have to do, like patient confidentiality and data security which is super important. There are specific regulations we need to follow and specific insurances we need to have. But as long as you have those hygiene factors in place you can start focusing on the service itself and adding value. 

You have to have one eye on your vision – which is what you want to achieve, but at the same time, you have to work here in reality and look at what’s in front of you. You have to listen to your customers and build what they want, and that’s not always what you’ve planned for. Sometimes people don’t know what they want until you build it, and sometimes, you build stuff they don’t want. It’s a double-edged sword really. You just have to try to strike a balance between your vision, what’s required, and what actually your customers are saying.

Do you have any other advice for other startups in the health tech space? 

Apply to Sting! (laughs). But to be perfectly honest, we’ve been part of a few other startup programs before. They were good, but this is on a totally different level. Here there’s an expert for every single thing we need help with. It’s not like somebody that knows a bit of this and a bit of that. They’re actual experts. 

When we were looking for funding, we asked Fredrik if he could help us find investors and he said ‘I’ll see what I can do.’ I’ve heard that maybe 30 times in the past, and nothing usually happens. But he came back a few days later with an investor to talk to (that later invested). I thought ‘oh my god! This is totally different.’ Investors also put more effort in because they know the quality of Sting’s startups is high, so they’re willing to spend the time with you. 

What’s next for Din Psykolog?

We just closed a round! We’ll use this money to improve the service so we can offer our users as much value as possible. We will also offer our service for a much lower price from now on, which is in line with us wanting as many people as possible to to be able to get help and make taking to a psychologist more accessible”

Would you like to learn more about Din Psykolog?

Visit their website or reach out to Ramzi at ramzi@dinpsykolog.nu

Deeptech December 6, 2021

Meet Flox: the deeptech startup helping animals and humans coexist in harmony

All around the world, wild animals are damaging crops and young forest, posing a dangerous threat to landowners’ livelihoods. We spoke to Flox Robotics CEO and co-founder Sára Nožková, to learn how they’re solving this problem and discuss the challenges deeptech startups often face.

Where did the idea for Flox come from?

Marco and Matteo came up with the idea for Flox in 2019. They were collaborating on a project at KTH, because Marco has a background in drone robotics and Matteo works with AI and software. It was a perfect technological match.

They’re both from Northern Italy, and at the same time the country started having huge problems with wild boars destroying crops, and people’s homes and gardens. It’s crazy! It’s actually become a political problem there, and a lot of landowners and farmers are quitting their jobs in central Italy. They thought about how they could leverage what they were working on to address the problem, and got help with some market validation. The more they dug into it, the more they realized that this is a huge problem here in Sweden too, and in many other countries, like the US and Australia.

They were very into the tech side of things and needed someone who could work on the business side, which is where I came in. I’ve been working with drones and autonomous vehicles and their applications, bringing emerging technologies within smart cities to the market, and whereas it will take a couple of years until we see large-scale drone traffic there, the possibilities to use autonomous drones in the fields in sparsely populated areas are opening up already. I knew Flox had enormous potential from the start.

Tell us more about the problem you’re trying to solve.

Even before working with autonomous drones we all saw the scary predictions when it comes to climate change and how it affects wildlife and local communities as the balance between them is getting harder and harder to maintain. Winters are getting milder because of global warming, destabilizing animal species and biodiversity. Due to deforestation and human population expansions, we are taking more of the wildlife’s natural habitats. As a result, the human-wildlife conflict rises and it will get much worse – that is if we do not do anything to restore the balance in a mutually-beneficial way, and maximize output of the cultivated fields and reforestation areas.

Some species are rising in number (wild boar populations increase 30% each year) and there’s no way around that really. Animals are encroaching further and further into arable land, causing billions of euros of damage to crops each year. They also often eat newly planted trees which also sets us back from a climate perspective. We also need to feed a growing global population which is a serious concern. The research shows that human-wildlife conflict will continue to rise unless we can redefine the boundaries. 

How does Flox prevent this from happening?

We provide tailored, easy to set-up autonomous drone solutions that use AI, deep learning and robotics to prevent wild animals from damaging crops.

We install a charging station in the area that needs to be protected, and the drone takes off to patrol the area and returns every half an hour to charge. They can cover about 200 hectares before they need to charge again, and it just continues on the same mission to provide continuous protection and mapping. We use thermal cameras and AI so the drones understand the difference between people, dogs and wild animals. If it’s a person or a domesticated animal, nothing will happen. But if it detects a wild animal, like a boar, it will automatically head towards them and switch into repellent mode, where it omits a sound a specific frequency that only the animal can hear which is super annoying for them and drives them away from the area. These deterrent sounds are tailor-made for each species and the whole process is autonomous. 

Our customers can also use our app to track all of the activity that’s happened on their land and review video footage to see what sort of animals appeared and where they came from. This provides valuable insights and statistics, and also evidence for insurance companies if farmers need proof to support compensation claims. This data is also great for different wildlife associations so they can track how many animals are in different areas. At the moment they just interview farmers and it’s not very data-driven. Now authorities can make decisions based on our information. 

What are the most important things you think you’ve learned so far on your startup journey?

For us, it’s that everything takes more time than expected. Especially working with the technologies we do. We’ve also learned that you will break and destroy equipment and have to start over again until you get it right! 

But I think the major learning is the team. Launching a startup is such a bumpy ride with lots of ups and downs, but as long as we have a really strong core team with different capabilities and expertise we’ll figure things out.

We come up against a lot of skepticism as well, which is okay, because a lot of people don’t really understand what we are doing yet. People say things like ‘oh this will never work because boars will get used to anything’, but it’s natural to be skeptical of brand new technologies. So we focus a lot on educating our customers and providing concrete examples of it working in action. And I really like that, because we get to talk to our customers a lot and run different demos for different stakeholders – so it’s like building relationships and branding at the same time. We’ve also learnt that how we brand ourselves is super important, and we really need to be careful about what we say and our vision. Biologists, farmers, hunters, and agronomists all have different priorities and opinions and our messaging needs to resonate with all of them –  after all, we started Flox with the vision to help protect our planet, starting with both local communities and wildlife. This is what drives us every single day.

Has Sting helped you on your startup journey?

We really like all the coaches, they are brilliant. We were also quite surprised about the level of support you get, and there’s so many things to choose from. You get a lot of hands-on support and it feels like the coaches really care about our business. There’s always an expert on hand too, for example, Karin really helps out with impact and sustainability, then we can talk to Raoul about IPR, then ask Julia about PR – so that’s super nice to pick up different brains.

Would you like to learn more about Flox?

Head to their website or contact Sara Nozkova, CEO at Flox at sara@floxrobotics.com.

Insights December 6, 2021

Meet Gårdskapital: the startup connecting Swedish farmers with investors

Gårdskapital is an agricultural impact fund helping farmers accelerate their transition to more sustainable working practices. We spoke to co-founders Ebba Sundström and David Elvingsson to get the story behind their startup.

Gårdskapital Co-Founders co-founders Ebba Sundström and David Elvingsson.

Tell us about your backgrounds and why you wanted to start Gårdskapital. 

Ebba: I grew up on a farm, and worked in the pension fund business for over five years. Connecting these two different worlds is really interesting to me, and one of the reasons I joined Gårdskapital. We’re solving a huge issue that’s only getting bigger: farmers’ capital needs. Farmers need more money to make the transition to more sustainable farming practices and increase local food production, but they struggle to secure loans and investments. Combining my interest in agriculture, but also my willingness to work in the financial sector while serving a higher purpose is really motivating for me. 

David: I’m from southern Sweden where there’s a lot of agriculture. I had a summer job delivering newspapers to farmers and started chatting to them about their businesses. I saw there were a lot of issues in the sector. Sweden imports half of its food, even though it should be the opposite, and the average age of farmers in Sweden is over 60 years old so they couldn’t secure loans or financing needed to implement more sustainable practices. Land prices also continue to increase, and traditional banks simply aren’t set up structure-wise to finance all of these businesses. 

So I got this idea that if you could create an alternative lender to farmers, as opposed to traditional bank loans, it would make a massive difference.  There’s such a high demand for capital and a strong synergy between what’s good for the soil, the planet, the farmers, the economy, and the wallet, so to speak. I really wanted to help these people become more financially stable and more ecological. 

How does Gårdskapital solve both financial issues and environmental ones?

Ebba: Gårdskapital connects farmers with investors to accelerate the transition to more sustainable agriculture. We provide a complement to bank loans for farm businesses making responsible investments. Loan purposes focus on, for example, climate adaptation increased local food production – which massively reduces global emissions – and regenerative farming practices. 

David: From the farmers’ side there’s a very high willingness to invest in sustainable practices, for example, drainage to make the soil more resilient to extreme weather and greenhouses – but this requires a lot of money. With these loans, farmers can become more resilient to climate change and also help mitigate it. Soil and forests absorb the carbon from the atmosphere, so there is a big opportunity for them to reform the land so they can catch carbon from the atmosphere. You can develop all sorts of foodtech solutions that are super sustainable, but if farmers – who are really the crucial people in this equation – can’t afford to implement it, then it’s redundant. Primary stage food producers need to be supported in order to reach the sustainable development goals. 

What other issues are farmers facing?

Ebba: I think a lot of farmers are misunderstood because, for example, 50 years ago everyone knew a farmer. But today almost everyone is so urbanized, so nobody knows a farmer. There are so many misconceptions and prejudices about farms that they’re bad for the environment. A higher vision of ours is to bridge this knowledge gap, strengthen farmers’ status and educate the general public and investors about how farming works. 

David: Exactly. And connecting the financial market and investors with the agriculture sector is one way of doing it. If we start to invest in agriculture, we can learn more about it and understand how it actually works and help the whole sector become more sustainable. Right now, it’s very hard to quantify what is sustainable and what is not because there’s so many ways to look at it and so many conflicting interests. 

What are the most important things that you’ve learned so far on your startup journey?

David: Things can change so much from one day to another – it’s a real rollercoaster. Some days you feel like you were really onto something, and the next day you’re back to square one again. You also always need to be open to new perspectives, but it’s a balance. You can sit for hours discussing things and listening to ideas, but eventually, you have to stick to one strategy. In the end, it’s the execution that really matters.

How do you make these sorts of strategic decisions?

Ebba: We try to look at our broader vision and higher purpose. Our vision is to accelerate the transition to more sustainable agriculture. So in all of our discussions, we kind of go back to basics, and ask ourselves why we are doing this – and what will help us get there faster. You can’t listen to all of the experts or it’s just information overload. 

What would your advice be for other startups?

Ebba: Stick to your higher vision and don’t compromise on that. Also make sure you have fun during the process, because like David said, one day you feel like you’re onto a super good thing, then the next you realize it won’t work. So I think it’s very important to have fun on the journey, make jokes, and try not to be too serious because otherwise, it’ll be hard to find that motivation again. We try to celebrate all the small wins too! 

What’s next for Gårdskapital?

David: We’re currently closing our financing round, which is our top priority. We’ll be able to invest more in the business and grant more loans so we can prove our business model. 

Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs trying to raise a round?

Ebba: Dealing with investors is super hard, it’s a science in itself! One tip could be to find investors that can contribute with more than just money. I think that is quite important for us as we’re at a pretty early stage. I’d say look for someone who can become more of a long term partner, rather than someone who wants to make an exit as soon as possible.

Have you learnt anything in particular at Sting?

David: Sting has helped us a lot, actually, especially when it comes to organizing and structuring investor meetings. They made us think about a lot of details that would’ve never crossed our minds. 

Would you like to learn more about Gårdskapital?

Visit their website or reach out to Ebba at ebba@gardskapital.se.

Deeptech December 6, 2021

Meet Reselo: the startup turning birch bark into sneakers

A rising global demand for rubber is threatening our planet. We spoke to Reselo co-founder Thomas Baumgarten to find out how his team is replacing fossil-based plastics with green biomaterials through sustainable chemistry and get his advice for other entrepreneurs.

Reselo co-founder Thomas Baumgarten.

How did you come up with the idea for Reselo?

I’m German and I came to Sweden to do a PhD in biochemistry at Stockholm University 10 years ago. I never thought I’d stay, but it’s easy to get stuck here. I realized I didn’t want to continue in science, but back then it was difficult to get into industry, so I applied for a stipend at the Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH as a postdoc. 

That was when I got into sustainability and what the problems are from a material science perspective, which are huge. I also realised that there’s not actually as much progress as you’d think and hope for. Take the tyre industry, for example. Every three or four years when there’s a big event they’d present a tyre that’s bio-based. You think it’s going to hit the streets, but it never does, it’s just more of a PR thing. On the other hand, developing sustainable fossil-free materials is also a huge challenge because the amounts needed are enormous. 

During my post-doc I was playing around with birch bark and at some point I got this rubber material and thought, ‘hey, that’s cool.’ Then I showed it to Gustav Notander who is a business coach at KTH Innovation and he saw some potential and suggested trying to commercialise this technology. It took me a while to come round to the idea because I never thought I’d start a company. So I’m more of an accidental entrepreneur.

What happened next?

First, I did Sting’s Deeptech Test Drive course, which gave me a clearer idea of what a startup journey could look like. Then, I joined the Startup Climate Action challenge by Sting and Norrsken, which was a team competition. Initially, I was concerned because I did not have a team but the platform made it pretty easy to find others with relevant skills and experience. In the end, I got really lucky with recruiting a great team, and when we realized we could work well together, we decided to go for it.

Tell us about your product, Nordic Bio-Rubber. 

Nordic Bio-Rubber is made of birch bark, which is a massive byproduct of the forestry, pulp and paper industries in the Nordics. This residue isn’t refined today, they just burn it to generate energy. But this creates a lot of carbon dioxide and has to stop at some point.

From a chemical point of view, there are some interesting compounds in birch bark and isolating these compounds holds great potential for developing biomaterials. I’m not an expert in material science, I did something very different before, but coming in from the outside you have a different perspective on processes. I was less focused on extracting individual molecules from the birch bark, because this has been done before and yields are too low for bulk applications. I realized that if you take a big fraction of the bark and create a material out of it, you’re much more likely to have something scalable. 

Now, we’ve managed to develop a truly sustainable alternative to synthetic rubbers, which we called Nordic Bio-Rubber.

What problem are you trying to solve? 

The global rubber market is worth around USD 45 billion, which is enormous. Today, rubbers are mostly synthetic, fossil-fuel based materials that are produced using strong chemicals . Natural rubber is also common but it’s plantation causes deforestation of tropical rain forest and competes for land with food production. 

Nordic Bio-Rubber eradicates these issues, and with over a million tons of residual birch bark created each year in Sweden and Finland, we’ve got plenty of it to go around. We’re also looking beyond rubber and exploring ways to create other biomaterials. I believe starting from abundant renewable feedstocks has to be the basis for developing sustainable alternatives to fossil-based plastics.

What can Nordic Bio-Rubber be used for? 

Nordic Bio-Rubber can be used as a sustainable alternative to many synthetic rubbers, as it has similar properties as traditional rubbers. Initially, I thought we could make Lego tires from Nordic Bio-Rubber because back then I spent a lot of time with my son playing with Lego. Now, our customers are mainly fashion brands, because our material is great for shoes, but in the long term we believe that our material can be used in many other applications. You can probably make everything from toys to yoga mats. 

After getting some media coverage, we have been contacted by businesses asking if they can use Nordic Bio-Rubber for other applications too. Such a great demand and interest is very encouraging for us.  

What are the most important things you’ve learned so far from a startup perspective?

Every startup is on a different journey and things can develop in very different ways, so you have to be flexible. For example, other deep tech companies I’ve come across have developed much slower with usually a few years passing by before they could attract seed funding. So first I thought okay, I am prepared to have this as a side project for 3-4 years but then half a year later things got really serious. Basically things can go fast or slow, and you have to be prepared for that. And you need to accept that not everything is in your control. 

What sort of things have you found are beyond your control?

How developed the market is. You can have a great product, but if your customers don’t agree, it doesn’t matter. Everyone was telling us that we really need to convince customers to try our product but soon we realised that for us it was the other way around. Customers were super interested in our material and they wanted to have it as soon as possible. So we were really lucky that the market is much more developed than for most other innovations.

Have you faced any other unexpected challenges?

There’s some personal risk involved when you start a company, like financial security. About five months before founding Reselo, I joined a biotech company as a full-time researcher. But since Reselo developed so quickly, I felt I had to spend more time on it to keep the traction going. So I was very open with my former employer which was a bit risky since I was still within my probation period, but we agreed that I could reduce my hours to 80% and this support was incredibly helpful and mitigated my personal financial risks. 

Many people will tell you that you have to commit 100% to launching your own business, and you’ll have to work 80 hours a week and so on. But I don’t think that’s true. Nowadays, with working from home and part-time contracts we are much more flexible, so you don’t necessarily have to take this risk in the beginning. 

Of course, there’ll be a time when you have to commit fully, but if I didn’t have some kind of financial security, even just for six months, or a year, Reselo wouldn’t have happened. I have a family to support too and that’s something I cannot compromise on. So being able to keep my regular job at the same time as starting Reselo was a really good thing. 

Also in Sweden people generally have a very positive attitude towards starting a company. When I told my family in Germany what I’m doing everybody’s like, ‘did you really think this through? Are you crazy?’, because their mindset is very different. I think entrepreneurship is really encouraged in Sweden, and there are more laws and rules that make it easier than in other countries, like the fact that in Sweden as a researcher at a university you own your technology. In contrast, anywhere else the university owns “your” invention which can be a great hurdle when trying to bring technology to the market.

What is your advice for other startups in a similar space to you?

First of all, enjoy the ride – building your own company is a lot of fun! Second, get external help early on from somebody who’s more experienced than you and get their feedback too. It doesn’t cost you anything and it can help guide you in the right direction. You can always evaluate if you think it’s worth following it or not though, that’s your decision and it can be a very personal decision too. 

Where is Reselo today, and what’s next?

So far, Reselo has been very successful. We’re just over a year old, and customers and VCs are already super interested. We also won startup of the year at the Venture Cup last month. 

We have market verification, which is one of the most important things, and we have technical verification from a third party. Now, we need investment so that we can start scaling our technology with a pilot, a demo production plant and eventually a full size production plant. This will take years, and everybody knows that. However, we also need investors that are patienced enough to join us on such a long journey.  

How has Sting helped you on your journey?

We definitely benefit a lot from the combined experience of the Sting team and the wide network of Sting companies. Opening doors is also something that helps. You get introduced to a lot of contacts and a big business network. And for me the pre-incubator programs, like the Deeptech Test Drive, are really good initiatives to get people out of the lab and evaluate their ideas to see if they have real business potential. It’s a great way to test yourself, the technology, and get feedback from others to see if it’s worth doing.

Would you like to learn more about Reselo?

Head to their LinkedIn or contact info@reselo.se.

Insights December 6, 2021

Meet Lifelong: Sweden’s most sustainable lifestyle brand

Lifelong is Sweden’s most sustainable, plastic-free lifestyle brand. We spoke to Silvia Ulloa and Fernando Molin to hear more about their growing startup and get their advice for other entrepreneurs tackling the climate crisis.

What is Lifelong, and what problems are you trying to solve?

Fernando: Lifelong creates plastic-free, natural personal care products (like body wash and shampoo) that come in fully compostable packaging. We also use a powder-to-liquid formula so people can just add water at home, lowering transport emissions by 94%.

Silvia: So there are two sides to it – reducing the amount of plastic waste we use and also reducing transport emissions, which are both integral to solving the climate crisis. When you buy our products, a small percentage also goes to Seven Clean Seas or ON A MISSION (you choose which one). So it’s a before and after fight against pollution and plastic waste.

Fernando: We’re also addressing a big problem from a customer perspective: convenience. People want a one-stop shop for sustainable personal care and household products. Now, they have to manage multiple subscriptions, which is a pain. That’s why we’re expanding our product range as quickly as possible so we can get everything they’re looking for in one place.

How did you become part of the team?

Fernando: I heard about Lifelong from a friend and when I checked out the products I got it immediately because I am a Huel fanatic, so the vision was super clear. Then I started looking at my life and realized that I do live pretty sustainably, it’s important to me, and I wanted to work with it. I approached Adam – who needed a co-founder – and said here’s what I can bring to the table: project management skills, branding and design. Thankfully he said, ‘this is perfect, it’s what we need’! He’s also extremely inspirational and had amazing energy, so I guess you could say it was love at first sight…

Silvia: I’d worked with Adam before at another startup so I’ve known him for about five years. I remember him coming into the office one day and talking about his idea and how he wanted to get rid of single-use plastics, and as Fernando said, I felt really inspired. We kept in touch, and at a certain point, it was a good time for me to come onboard. It’s been really interesting watching it grow from a little seed in his mind into an actual company with real potential.

Lifelong’s powdered hand wash comes in a fully decompostable bag. You just add the water.

What’s it like working for a startup?

Fernando: Never forget why you were hired. You need to be able to sit on many different chairs but also know what you’re really good at. Because 90% of the time, you’re learning and when you’re in the learning process you get insecure about what’s wrong and what is right. You need to remind yourself why they asked you to join the team. It’s also not for a person that wants a 9-5 job, which means you have to set boundaries. In our team, it’s okay to message someone after five but it’s totally fine if that person doesn’t respond until the next morning. We also schedule things on slack a lot.

Silvia: Being part of the foundations of a company and watching it develop is really gratifying. And then you have the passion that drives it and the desire to make a positive environmental impact. It feels good to know you’re making something happen. It’s also amazing when you see the hard work paying off. There was a point when we had no interest from investors, then suddenly we got major interest from two. Then you realize you worked until 2am for a reason.

What are the most important things you think you’ve learned so far?

Fernando: It’s a constant battle to stay focused on the right thing. As a startup, there’s so much to do, so you have to really prioritize and figure out the best way to use your time. You also have to learn what to do internally to become a better team, while learning how to become a better company for your customers. I’ve learned that these are two different things, though of course they’re intertwined. If one is lacking, the other will hurt.

Silvia: I’ve learnt when to say no. We all want to help each other as much as possible, but if someone says can you help me with this, I always explain what I’m doing and tie it back to our shared goal for that sprint and try to weigh up how much help they need and if that should take priority.  

What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?

Fernando: Listen to your customers, for crying out loud! Also don’t forget to celebrate the small wins. Otherwise, you look at your to-do list and it’s 10 miles long and unlike a marathon, no one is cheering you on, so give pep and good feedback when it’s due.

When it comes to prioritizing, we decide what our immediate goals are and have regular check-ins to make sure we’re all on track. It’s also fine to say to each other ‘no, this isn’t the focus now, remember our goal is X’. This is super difficult because you have so many important things to do, but Sting has been great at helping us hone our focus. In the beginning, it’s overwhelming, but then Sting’s coaches and experts come along and when seven out of 10 say ‘focus on this’ – you know it’s probably the right thing to do.

Silvia: If you can’t disagree, discuss and come out well on the other side you’re probably not with the right people. Having a team that you can share your honest opinion with and develop with is so important. Everybody should also feel like they’re working towards the same goal. Right now, for us it’s making a bigger positive impact on the planet through company growth.

How have you found Sting so far?

Fernando: For me, Sting is by far the best thing that could’ve happened to us. I’ve been in an accelerator before, but I could see quickly that Sting offers so much more. It’s a better accelerator in the sense that it’s better organized, and you just get so much more.

Silvia: It’s really nice to be in this environment, and all the different classes and things that are offered are really cool. It’s also fun to see other people go through the process and hear about what they’re going through and what they consider to be their priorities.

What’s next for lifelong?

Silvia: We have several products in the pipeline that are already being developed, including cleaning products and deodorant. So, the next step is offering more products to the Swedish market, then expanding further into the wider European market.

Would you like to learn more about Lifelong?

Visit their website or reach out to Fernando at fernando@lifelong.eco.

Healthtech December 3, 2021

Meet Olivia: the startup women over 40 have been waiting for

A massive 84% of women say menopause have a negative impact on their life – but 80% of doctors say they don’t have enough knowledge in this area to detect symptoms early on. We spoke to Olivia co-founder Hannah Lindström to discuss how their app bridges this gap and get her advice for other entrepreneurs in femtech.

Olivia co-founders Hannah Lindström (left) and Amy Aanen (right). Photo by our friend Theo Zätterström.

Tell us about the team behind Olivia.

Everyone has really different backgrounds. I used to live in New York doing marketing and PR and when I moved back to Sweden I started thinking about doing something closer to my heart and my passion: female biohacking. After a while, I started thinking about how I could move beyond the holistic side of things and make a bigger impact. I felt there are so many period trackers and apps for fertility, but nothing to help people actually feel better and understand their hormones so they can take better care of themselves.  

Then I met Amy, who was then part of Antler, by chance. She had started Olivia a few months prior, and she needed a new co-founder. At the same time I was thinking about doing something similar for women in their fertile years, but the more I learnt the more I realized menopausal women is such an underserved market and a lot of the knowledge I had was extremely relevant.

Amy started out working in e-commerce, and she’s been everywhere! She’s from the Netherlands, but she’s lived in Berlin, Malaysia, South Africa, and then moved to Sweden to work with Kry with international expansion. She is very much an excel sheet wizard. 

Then we have Omima, our CTO, a total rockstar. I mean, super, super talented. And she keeps me and Amy in place. I usually go into a mad creative spiral like ‘this is so amazing, we have to do this!’, and Omima is like ‘No way. Where’s the data? Where’s the strategy?’. So we really complement each other. Then we also have talents in content creation, UX and UI design as well as on the medical side. 

What’s it like starting a company with someone you don’t know?

Well, it’s weird because it’s like getting married without even going on a date, but it’s been really good. Being on a startup journey is really not easy. I read somewhere that why most startups fail is because the founders don’t get along. Communication is key, both on who does what and how to go about it with the company, especially when the team grows and it’s not just the founders anymore, but also emotionally. You can’t assume the other person knows how you feel, so you might as well talk about it even if it feels silly. 

Why do women need Olivia?

As women, we’re all very aware when we get our first period, aware of the process of becoming pregnant, and even pregnancy. Everybody has a period tracker, or an app telling them how big their baby is right now. But when it comes to menopause, they get virtually no support. Most women have no idea what’s coming and they’re usually taken off guard.

So a big aspect of it is what we want to see happen in society – in terms of supporting mature women – and change the way we approach things. It should be as common for a woman who’s 45 to think ‘okay menopause is probably around the corner, I need to think about how I can take care of myself to make it easier’, just the same way we do if we want to get pregnant. We consider how we’re living our lives, and stop drinking and smoking our brains out. Menopause can be a very turbulent time and it’s important to take care of yourself. Many also experience mental symptoms that no one really talks about, and often feel like they have to hide their physical symptoms. 

So we created something offering research-based biohacking that’s simple and approachable and allows people to implement things in their life easily and understand why they’re doing it.

Why is this so important to you and your team?

Well, we’re not menopausal yet, but it’s going to happen! There’s also such a huge emotional aspect to it. We’re helping women feel supported and heard, which is what gets me up in the morning. I’m not just doing some bullshit, it’s something that really makes a difference in the world. But I guess everyone thinks they’re saving the world with their product! 

I think a lot about the equality aspect too. We need more women in boardrooms, but reaching that sort of level usually happens at the same time as menopause. How are we going to create an equal future if we don’t take that into consideration? Women need to feel like they have the energy to be in power. Michelle Obama has talked about being at the White House and getting hot flashes, she was just so uncomfortable. We need to make sure that women feel good and don’t step away from the workplace, and of course, live the best life they can.

So how does Olivia work?

Olivia is a digital therapeutics app that coaches women through menopause. The app offers a tracking function to keep track of symptoms as well as lifestyle habits that may be making the symptoms worse, and also learn about what’s going on in your body and mind when going through this phase of life. The app also provides the users with personalized programs on what you can do yourself to decrease symptoms, where we offer support in how to get better sleep quality, stress relief, how to rest in other ways than by just sleeping, having less hot flashes etc. The app is developed with top health experts and academic advisors, so it’s all based on the latest research-backed evidence. 

What unexpected challenges have you faced on your startup journey so far? 

I didn’t expect it to be this tough, or the amount of disappointment you feel on a personal level when things don’t go according to plan. I thought it would be easier (laughs) but there’s a reason people say building a company is really, really hard. 

And you have to kind of get used to feeling like you’re failing, and getting back up every time you’re knocked down. Now, when something happens we’re just like, alright, it’s not the right timing, and remind ourselves why we’re here. You want to do so many things it’s hard to know where to start, and if it’s actually the right thing. 

We spent a long time working on features of the app, and when we did user testing we just didn’t get the response we wanted. We realized it wasn’t the right format, and we had to rethink everything. That was hard because you just expect everyone to love it as much as you do, but then you have to go back to the drawing table and start again. It’s tough, especially in the beginning because you believe in what you do and you realize it was only you who did. 

But the positive side is you can grow a lot as a person. If you’re open to it and see every setback as a learning experience, you can have the best growth journey ever and it can be such a fantastic ride. It’s the best school that you could ever be part of, if you are open to it. But you really need to leave your ego at the door. 

So what’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?

Be open-minded. But most of all: don’t stop. Take feedback when feedback is necessary. But also remember you know your product better than everyone else, you know your market more, but of course, have the data to support what you’re doing. It’s hard not to get hurt by one person’s personal opinion, like if an investor thinks your product won’t fly. Well, fuck it, there are others who will. Never lose faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in it, it’ll never work. 

You need to be obsessed. Discipline triumphs passion every single day. You have to work really, really hard to have just a little bit of luck.

But know when to rest. The company won’t work unless you do. There will always be things that need to be done, you will never be finished. Make sure to press pause and take time off once in a while. Recharge your mind and your emotions, you will be better acquitted both as a founder and as a manager in the long run by prioritizing your own well-being. 

What’s been the best moment so far at Sting?

Something Krim Talia said in a coach meeting. We were talking about when to release the product and saying we’re not ready, we need to do more, it needs to be perfect. And Krim just told us to release it, and said if 200 people hate it, who cares? When you have 20 million users it won’t matter, and no one knows who you are yet anyway. I thought this was such a healthy way to look at it and a great wake up call. We wanted it to be superduper perfect, and he just told us to stop being afraid that someone won’t like it. At the moment, good is good enough. 

So what’s next for Olivia?

We’ve so far gained a lot of organic traction and gathered some amazing insights with the product that is currently live, and we’re now getting ready to release our 2.0 version in just a few weeks, which is super exciting! We are also shipping off a new brand identity which has been a tedious process. So a lot of fun and exciting things are happening for us right now and a lot of hard work is starting to pay off a little bit! We are very much looking forward to the year ahead and everything it will have in store, we are so ready for it! 

Would you like to learn more about Olivia?

Visit their website or reach out to Hannah: hannah@join-olivia.com