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Financing May 16, 2022

How to set and track finance KPIs that actually matters

As an early venture, how good are you at transforming investments in marketing and tech into revenue?

How can you truly understand your customers to be able to build better products for them?

And how do you explain your business to investors — both the journey this far and where it’s heading?

Key Performance Indicators or KPIs can answer all these questions by measuring how your company is doing overall. But first, you must know the metrics important to your business, how to keep track of them, and how they influence your profit margin. This will allow you to make informed, data-driven decisions every time and of course appeal to your stakeholders with confidence.  

Using my insights from working hand-in-hand with multiple companies to drive their growth potential — I’ve gathered the finance metrics below. They are a good starting point to start the journey for your startup’s key metrics.  

Basic metrics that can assess your company’s financial health

Remember it’s never too early to start tracking and projecting KPIs – which will help you to understand how financially healthy your company is from the start. In short: track your cash; know your runway; plan for your fundraising. The metrics below will help you get started. 

  • Runway – how many months do you have before you run out of cash 
  • Burn rate – how much money you’re spending per month 
  • Revenue – income from sales, do not confuse this with contract values or bookings 
  • MRR/ARR – recurring revenue & the key here is the word recurring, monthly or yearly 
  • GMV – gross merchandise value, total sales going through a marketplace (not the same as revenue) 
  • Monthly churn – how many customers you lost 
  • CLTV or LTV – long term value of a customer, how much a customer makes you net profit while they are your customer 
  • CAC – the cost of acquiring new users 
  • CAC payback – how quickly can you get back the money you used to get a new customer 
  • Gross margin – revenue minus cost of goods sold 
  • Month-on-month growth – your monthly growth rate 

Here’s a great resource to dive deeper into different metrics: https://a16z.com/2015/08/21/16-metrics/ 

Identifying the right KPIs for your business

What do you need to know about your business? You want to look for your growth drivers and track metrics as those help you identify your company’s opportunities and pain points – and of course track your month-on-month growth. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t change or influence what you don’t know, no matter which area of the business we’re talking about  – be it finance, marketing, or DEI. So decide which key metrics you want to track and be open to modifying them to fit your need, which is likely to evolve. 

Keep your eyes on the progress

Key metrics are only as good as if and how you track them – without which yet again it’s impossible to know how the business is progressing and what needs changing. So set clear goals and don’t forget to also think long-term, like when you’d need to raise your next funding round. Then use the KPIs to keep tabs on how your business progresses – all while trusting the data and adapting the way you work to better reach your goals next time around. 

About the author:  

Josefiina Kotilainen is CFO at Maki.vc, a seed-stage VC firm partnering with brand-driven & deep tech companies obsessed with challenging category norms. Prior to joining Maki, she was CFO at Europe’s largest startup event Slush. 

Josefiina Kotilainen, Maki VC

Insights April 26, 2022

BIORESTORE is out to revolutionize the way we consume fashion

Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions[1] and the production has doubled in the last 15 years. Simultaneously, the time clothing is worn before it is thrown away has fallen by around 40% [2].

The founders of Sting company BIORESTORE, one of five winners of the 2022 Global Change Awards by H&M Foundation, took on the challenge to address this critical world problem.

We spoke to co-founder Wajahat Hussain to hear more about the innovation that could revolutionize the way we consume fashion.

Congratulations on being one of five winners of the Global Change Awards Wajahat, that’s an amazing achievement! Now we’re curious to hear about BIORESTORE. What is it that you are doing?

BIORESTORE Is a product that restores old and worn-out clothes back to new in a single wash. The product is a powder that you put in the washing machine together with your worn garments, wash them at 40 degrees, and voilá, you have a practically new piece of clothing. The colors are refreshed, pilling is removed, the fabric feels tighter and softer, and prints look like new. Each treatment lasts for months!

That sounds amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about the sustainability challenges this is solving?

A lot of research within the sustainable textile field is focusing on recycling fabrics and garments. That is all good, but if you can prolong the life of clothes that are already produced, the impact will be much bigger. This can reduce carbon footprint by at least 50% [3].

Sounds like magic to me. How did you come up with the idea?

It may sound like magic, but it’s really just bioscience. As a textile engineer, I had worked in the fashion industry for 10 years before I started my master’s degree at the Swedish School of Textiles. Being the oldest student in my class, I came with experiences from having worked with a lot of different factories around the world, with fabrics, materials, and chemistry.

All research at that time was focused on questions like ‘how do we recycle textiles’, but I thought that they were missing a step. I was thinking ‘what if we could prolong the life of the garments instead of just throwing them away, or recycling them, as soon as it looks a bit worn?’

I started looking into different technologies, formulated a hypothesis, experimented a bit, and eventually had a technological breakthrough. I spent some more time converting the technology to something a consumer could use in their washing machine at home. The idea of BIORESTORE has always been to empower consumers to be able to prolong the lives of their garments and reduce waste.

How did you make the decision to start a company? How was that process?

As I mentioned, I had been working in the fashion industry for quite some time. For example, I spent three years setting up a sustainable innovation department at Gant. This is where I met Richard, my co-founder, and Creative Director. Our shared passion for sustainable fashion during lunch discussions clicked. One of the learnings was that the adoption of technology and solutions is extremely slow and most deep technologies never make it out to consumers. So, we understood that if we wanted to make this successful, we needed to make sure the product reaches the consumers. We wanted control of our direction which is not always possible if you depend on partnerships. From there it was easy to take the decision to form a company.  

How has the entrepreneurial journey been for you?

Entrepreneurship came very naturally to me. I enjoy it. There are some pros and cons, obviously, you can’t rely on a regular paycheck. On the other hand, you can do what you want, and you can make an impact much faster than you, in my experience, could if you work for someone else.

What has the biggest challenge been, putting your innovation on the market?

Initially, it was very hard to convince people that it really worked. In today’s world of photoshop, filters, and scams, a photo is not enough to build trust. Before the pandemic, we carried around fabric samples so that people could see the results with their own eyes. When we weren’t able to meet in person anymore, we started to distribute a huge number of product samples to people who could use them and then give us testimonials. We joined Sting in 2020 and by the time we graduated, we had over 100 testimonials from people who had used the product. That made it easier for new customers and partners to trust that this wasn’t a scam.

We also partnered up with a fellow Sting company, ‘Hack your closet’. They rent out garments and have a need for restoring some of the things that are starting to look a bit worn. This gave us some further recognition. And not it’s this Global Change Award, which is a real game-changer. People finally believe that this is real.

How was your time at Sting Incubate?  

Without Sting we wouldn’t have reached as far as we have today. We are not local entrepreneurs, I moved to Sweden in 2014 and my co-founder is from the UK, so it was hard for us to know where to start. Building a consumer brand requires quite a lot of skills, network, initial investments and Sting has opened many doors for us. With the help of our Sting coaches, we feel that we could make the right decisions. We ended up raising around 2.25 MSEK, which wouldn’t have been possible without Sting.  

What drives you to move forward?

Our ambition is to make BIORESTORE a global market leader when it comes to clothing restoration. We want this brand to be a household name so that people always think of restoring clothes before buying a new one. Looking at all the responses we get, we are convinced that we are on track with this mission.

Clothes are not only something we put on our bodies, but people also have many memories and emotions attached to their favorite piece of clothes. For example, I met a guy at the gym who was working out in an old Jack Daniels t-shirt. I asked him why and he told me that before he became a successful hotel owner, he worked as a bartender, and this shirt was a fond memory from that time in his life. I could see that it was totally worn so it felt good to be able to offer him to restore it.

This is just one of many stories. There is a big human element to it in addition to all the sustainability data that we can show off.  

What advice do you have to a founder in the Sustaintech area, looking to make an impact?

My strong advice to Sustaintech developers is to believe in what they’re doing. And also, to keep a healthy balance when it comes to sustainability activism and economy since finance and sustainability are closely linked together. Many times, when passionate people build their ventures, they forget that they also must generate revenues in order to get that amazing product or service out to the world.

Where can I buy the product?
We just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter where you can pre-order your BIORESTORE products and have them delivered in August-September. After this, the product should be regularly available on our website and other marketplaces. Many thanks for your time Wajahat and good luck with the Kickstarter campaign!

[1] https://www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org/resources/updates/sustainable-fashion/

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/how-the-circular-economy-is-redesigning-fashions-future/

[3] The mistra future fashion

Insights April 19, 2022

Startup trends 2022: what’s happening in Sustaintech?

The pace of innovation in the sustaintech space continues to accelerate as a dire need to reverse climate change escalates. We spoke to Sting sustaintech coaches Karin Ruiz and Magnus Rehn to discuss what’s happening in this crucial part of the startup ecosystem.

With the EU aiming to reach climate neutrality by 2050 and public pressure reaching unprecedented levels, it’s no surprise that startups in Sustaintech/Climatetech/Greentech – or whatever you prefer to call it – are thriving.  

Sting coaches Karin Ruiz and Magnus Rehn work closely with Sweden’s most promising Sustaintech startups on a daily basis. Here, they share the latest trends in this space.  

As the industry grows, the capital flows

Today, sustainable business is the only way forward. Companies that do not take active steps to help the world reach net-zero will simply become redundant. Venture capital firms are increasingly impact-driven, and it’s not just for the good of humankind. It’s now widely accepted that sustainability and profitability go hand in hand. In Q2 2021, investment in European Sustaintech reached an all-time high of EUR 5.4 billion. 

“If you look at the amount of capital invested and the number of startups and scale-ups cropping up, the Sustaintech space is growing exponentially,” says Magnus. 

“People are becoming more and more aware of the importance of Sustaintech, and the positive correlation between sustainability and profitability. Investors know that in this space they can get a higher return on investment and future proof them while doing good at the same time,” he explains. 

Karin echoes this: “There are more and more voices arguing that if you have a measurable positive impact and put sustainability at the core of your business, it’s a clear indicator of future profitability. If the impact is a top priority the financial return will follow.” 

A matter of survival 

In the past, sustainability has been a nice to have, but today it’s a matter of survival for businesses, as well as our planet. 

“Today, there’s no other way forward. Policy and legislation play a part to some extent, but what we’re really talking about is survival. For example, if you want to raise a fund, more and more LPs will demand that you have a solid ESG strategy and are directly contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. They need to be able to prove that the capital they invest is used in a wise way, not only from a return on investment perspective. It should also have a purpose,” explains Karin. 

Magnus also makes another crucial point: “If you want to attract the best talent, you need to be doing something positive. People want to join purpose-driven companies and to be proud of their work (or their investments). At least, I wouldn’t want to sit here and say ‘I’m personally invested in this company that makes plastic bottles and landmines.’”  

Sustaintech space is far from saturated 

Both Karin and Magnus believe there will be greater and greater demand for Sustaintech solutions that tackle the climate crisis – and the research backs this up. The International Energy Agency estimates that almost 50% of the technologies we need to get to net-zero by 2050 have not reached the market yet. Deploying mature technologies like solar and wind is crucial, but will not be enough. 

“We’re only scratching the surface of the Sustaintech market. If we look at the amount of capital invested into this industry over the last five years it has doubled every year. Is it a bubble? No, it’s not a bubble because the problem will not be solved – and the technologies are crucial. Of course, there will be companies and projects in this space that don’t make it, but as an industry, it will only grow. And we’re not just talking over the next 10 years, we’re talking 50 or more,” explains Karin. 

Risk mitigation is naturally occurring

When you invest, you inherently take on a certain amount of risk because you can’t predict the future. But in the Sustaintech space, this risk seems to be lower. 

“The risk is always there, but because there’s room for so many startups and solutions in this space, the risk is naturally less that a company or project won’t make it,” says Magnus. “More and more soft money is also being channeled to the Sustaintech space as a result of new policies such as the European Green Deal. These deals often require co-financing, so for example, the grant would provide financing of around 50% and the rest has to come from other sources in a hybrid agreement between public and private money. This basically means that as a private investor, you’re reducing the risk by half, and investors get more bang for their bucks, so to speak,” he adds.

Food, fashion, and circular solutions are in the spotlight

A high number of Agritech, Foodtech, and Circular Economy startups especially are cropping up. 

“We just reviewed the list of candidates for Swedish Sustaintech Venture Day, and what’s sticking out is the electrification of course because that’s our theme, but also Agritech,” says Magnus. 

At Sting, we’re also seeing an increasing number of highly promising startups join our programs too, for example, Flox, Ignitia, Karma, and Klimato – who recently put climate labels on all of the food at COP26. Other Sustaintech companies are Surfcleaner and Planboo.

“Over the last few years it’s been fun to follow these types of projects but now they’re getting serious and the Agritech sector is growing quickly, especially in southern Europe,” he adds. 

“There’s also a crossover between Bioeconomy and the fashion industry, where there’s a particularly high demand for innovative new solutions and circular business models. So many fantastic startups are cropping up in the space. For example, Sting company Reselo, which has developed a fully sustainable bio-rubber that can be used in shoes, and others like Sellpy, It’s Re:leased and Hack Your Closet are really trailblazing in the re-use space,” says Karin.

Working with an innovative Sustaintech solution?

Apply to Sting now for your chance to join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and get access to a vast support ecosystem so you can make a bigger impact, faster.

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Electrification is creating a demand for smarter energy storage

Where the use of fossil fuels is declining, electrification is rising. As a result, Magnus and Karin say we need more innovations in the energy storage space. 

“Today, we must be able to transport energy from one point to the next safely and efficiently and store intermittent sources of energy (like solar and wind) so we can rely on these power sources at a later date. To do this, we need innovative, effective ways to store and distribute energy. One way to manage this, for example, if we’re talking about battery-powered vehicles, is to use them as a crowdsourced storage solution when they’re plugged in. But you also need to have a smart grid to enable this,” explains Magnus. 

With the rise in electrification, it’s no surprise that startups in the battery technology development space are also getting a lot of attention at the moment, such as Enerpoly, who has developed rechargeable zinc-ion batteries,  and Cling Systems, which is creating a circular economy for lithium-ion batteries. 

“Finding alternative battery solutions that do not use rare metals that are very hard and dangerous to mine should also be top of the agenda, as well as recycling of these materials. Although electrification can be a good thing, we must limit the number of natural resources we need to produce these batteries and increase their longevity or this will not be a sustainable long-term option,” says Karin.

Credibility is key (especially for early-stage startups)

It’s hard to talk about startups without talking about teams, and Sustaintech startups in particular need to make sure they have the right people on the bus.

“When building a startup in this space so much of it is about who you have on the team because the credibility aspect is so important. If you’re just a couple of enthusiastic students who want to change the world (which I’ve met a lot of), that really is great as you need drive and energy. However, you also need sustainability experts and industry on your team who bolster your credibility and really know their stuff when it comes to impact. If you can bring them into your core team, establish a group of advisors. If you have credible people involved in your business it’ll provide a crucial quality stamp that’s much more critical than in other sectors,” explains Karin. 

Impact entrepreneurs must prioritize scalability 

Impact and scaling go hand in hand – and early-stage startups need to think big. As awareness of climate change rises, people also increasingly want to see facts and figures that back up your level of impact. 

“From the get-go, Sustaintech startups should be asking themselves: how do we scale? How can we make a bigger impact? I always encourage our startups to really think big, as they often limit themselves at the beginning” says Karin. 

“Sustaintech entrepreneurs also need to work out if what they’re doing will really have a big impact in the first place – or is it just incremental? This is why it’s important to closely measure impact with accurate assessment tools and KPIs. It’s also super important to choose the right business model, meaning the one that allows you to make the biggest impact possible and be truly scalable. Investors will also look closely at scalability and potential negative implications of your solution, so startups need to get this right,” Karin adds.

Even if in the early stages it’s a bit of a guessing game, Karin stresses that showing you’ve thought it through from early on and have an impact assessment as part of your business model from the very beginning is key to success. Internationalization should also be considered early on.

“A lot of these markets are truly international, for example, when it comes to energy, you can’t limit yourself to the Swedish market. A lot of the big B2B customers are international companies. It’s also worth remembering that while the same problem might be everywhere, the solution might be different for different geographies,” says Karin.

“The fact you can demonstrate you’re able to understand frameworks, see the value in measuring impact shows, and looking beyond your immediate market shows you’ve done your homework and you’re serious. If you don’t build this into your plan, you’ll be taken by surprise,” Karin adds. 

Healthtech March 29, 2022

Startup trends: Healthtech continues to boom with Krim Talia

The last two years have changed Healthtech radically. Serial entrepreneur and investor Krim Talia shares his thoughts on what’s happening in the industry today, and why.

Accelerated digitalization in healthcare

The pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of the healthcare industry to new heights. Everything changed and people started to prioritize their health more than ever before. Experts say that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital health and virtual care forward by at least three years.

According to the HIMSS Future of Healthcare Report, 80% of healthcare providers plan to increase investment in technology and digital solutions over the next five years. (Forbes) Areas like telemedicine, personalized medicine, genomics and wearables, AI integration, and mental health are all expected to rise. 

Over the last couple of years, the healthcare sector has faced major challenges, and true to form, entrepreneurs have been quick to find new solutions. Investors are also digging deep to fund their endeavors. In 2021 WHO released its first global report ever on AI in health.

The value of Healthech over the years

The 2021 global digital health market size was $268 billion and is expected to be $334 billion in 2022, rising up to $657 billion in 2025 (Statista). In 2021 alone, $44 billion was raised globally in health innovation – twice as much as in 2020 – and the acquisition of health and health tech companies rose 50%. (We Forum)

In 2020 alone, Healthtech companies raised a record $14 billion in funding – marking the first time in history that Healthtech investments have outweighed those in traditional healthcare sectors, like pharmaceuticals. In total, Swedish Healthtech startups raised a combined €396m during 2020 according to Dealroom – a record number. And according to Sifted, the combined value of European Healthtechs has grown over 6x from 2016 to 2021 – from $8bn to $41bn. 

The pandemic also accelerated shifts in consumer behaviors and expectations, with people today being much more open to digital care and telehealth. But what else is driving these trends, and what does the future of healthcare look like? We sat down with Sting Coach, serial entrepreneur, and investor Krim Talia to get his thoughts. 

The big picture: efficiency is key to unlocking real value

Krim believes the healthcare sector faces a shared challenge on a macro level. 

“There’s one overarching thing setting the stage for the whole healthcare industry: a super-fast increase in healthcare costs, while taxable incomes are generally flatlining. Because of this, the whole sector cannot expect to see huge inflows of new resources into the healthcare space,” explains Krim.

Today, Europe spends on average around 8% of its GDP on healthcare, the US spends roughly 18%, and here in Sweden, around 9% of GDP is spent on healthcare. 

“If you look at where we spend that money, you can cut the loaf in different ways. For example, we’re spending around 5% on Medtech products, around 15% on pharmaceutical products, and the bulk of the money is spent on healthcare services.  So, almost 80% of total spending in the healthcare sector is on healthcare itself. This means the approach that has the largest potential to address increasing healthcare costs is to develop innovative solutions that increase efficiency on the ground, for example, in hospitals, nursing homes, and primary care.”

The dismal figures for prevention

If you cut ‘the loaf’ in another direction, Krim explains, you’ll see we’re only spending 1-2% on preventative healthcare. 

“Spending on preventative methods is almost non-existent, which is pretty shocking. Our system is extremely reactive, and the bulk of the money – I’m talking like 90% – is spent on people that are already sick, most of which have chronic diseases. And this is a very interesting group of people. These patients have been living with their disease, or diseases, for a long time, and they’re highly motivated to find ways to improve their situation and explore new alternatives. This is a group of people you can really work with to make big changes. I think it’s our duty as a society to help prevent other people from ending up in a similar situation where we can,” says Krim.

The importance of the four Ps

When Krim invests in Healthtech companies, he’s looking for companies that are aligned with four things that he believes are the foundations for the future of healthcare:

  1. Predictive
  2. Preventive
  3. Personalized
  4. Participatory

“I think the move towards predictive health is the most important trend right now, for example, using AI and health data to improve diagnostic tests so people can predict and monitor their health status. 

Then we also see a large interest in prevention, simply because it makes sense. However, the financial models for prevention aren’t fully developed yet. That’s why you see things like health impact bonds emerging, which has been pioneered by RISE Social and Health Impact center and Sting alumni company Health Integrator.

When it comes to participatory, we’re looking for solutions that empower patients to participate in their own treatment and take more responsibility for their health – which is the right way to go. We know the amount of new resources we can put into the system is limited, so we need to involve and empower the patients with the right tool that can free the last hidden resource in the system – the patient themself. 

I’m seeing a lot of Healthtech startups emerging that are trying to do this. Take current Sting company Andningmed, for example, which provides a medical device that empowers respiratory patients to improve their inhalation technique and increase compliance with their treatment regimen.  Another very strong trend is a number of new companies aiming at the epic opportunity offered by catering to underserved needs within women’s health. New Sting startups like Momentus and Olivia offer personalized health services that empower women in their fourth trimester or women in menopause,” says Krim.

Working with an innovative Healthtech solution?

Apply to Sting now for your chance to join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and get access to a vast support ecosystem so you can make a bigger impact, faster.

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There are also big trends emerging around personalized medicine. For example, we have seen a surge in the Healthtech diagnostics market. The pandemic did, however, reveal that there are huge challenges to be addressed when it comes to robust digital lab infrastructures and solutions that can support home testing with high integrity, trust, and quality.

“These challenges are being addressed by companies such as Findout Diagnostics and Infrion (a current Sting company). We also see companies like current sting company 2Heal that use these new diagnostic opportunities in order to analyze the root causes behind health problems and deliver highly personalized health services,” shares Krim.

But he also believes there’s still a lot of uncharted territory in this space – which presents a huge opportunity for Healthtech startups and entrepreneurs eyeing up the healthcare sector.

“Considering these four Ps is also a way for young startups to structure their thinking about how they contribute to SDG 3 – good health and well-being,” he adds.

Krim Talia

Krim coaches companies within healthtech and deeptech.

krim.talia@sting.co
070-973 26 65

Insights March 9, 2022

Celebrating Female Founders

This week we are celebrating our female founders at Sting. Gender equality has long been a focus for us. In 2017 we started to measure and set goals for what kind of companies we wanted to help build and the proportion of companies with female founders in our programs.  

The starting point 

This week we are celebrating our female founders at Sting. Gender equality has long been a focus for us. In 2017 we started to measure and set goals for what kind of companies we wanted to help build and the proportion of companies with female founders in our programs.  

Back then, 26% of the companies had at least one female founder. Today 2022 that figure stands at 75% which we are very proud of and shows that diversity and equality are going in the right direction.  

Today, the proportion of female founders is one of our most important KPIs and something that permeates the entire business.  

Putting numbers into perspective 

We went back and looked at our data from 2021 to see what the numbers could tell us. 61 Sting startups raised approximately 1 bn SEK last year of which 54% had at least one female founder. 

45% of the raised capital went to companies with at least one female founder. 

8% of the capital went to all female-founded companies and 37% of the capital was invested in companies with mixed founding teams with at least one female founder.  

How can we put these numbers into perspective? In comparison, according to a survey by Unconventional Venture, in 2020, all-women-founded startups raised just 0.7% of investment in the Nordics and 7.3% went to mixed-gender founding teams. That’s a massive gap and we believe women-founded startups deserve to have much higher numbers in the Nordics.  

How did female-founded Sting companies do in founding rounds?  

Major funding rounds in female-founded Sting companies include the 117 MSEK round in Volumental, 50MSEK in Evolar, and 48% MSEK raised in Surfcleaner. 

Propel Capital, the investment arm of Sting, made 59% of its investments into startups with at least one female founder.  

We are very proud of last year’s figures but remain dedicated to working for more female founders in Sting companies, helping to support our startups to build strong teams that take a long-term approach to funding, and view dialogues with investors as an ongoing process.  

To celebrate women and encourage more of them to become entrepreneurs, we are opening up our open coaching to make our expertise more accessible. From the 7th-11th of March, female founders or idea owners can book a free coaching session with one of our experienced coaches to get personal advice on how to move their ideas further on their journey.  

https://apply.sting.co/femalefounders/

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