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Stockholm Tech Fest: The Local's Blog

Stockholm Tech Fest: The Local's Blog

Published: 05 Sep 2014 09:24 GMT+02:00
Updated: 05 Sep 2014 09:24 GMT+02:00

PREAMBLE
 
Let's start with a word association game. 
 
Stockholm. Water!
 
Stockholm. Syndrome! 
 
Stockholm. Islands!
 
Sthlm. Technology!
 
We got there in the end. Technology. Take away an 'ock' and an 'o' and suddenly you're talking about a whole different city. It's a city where every café is pulsating with lattés and laptops. A city where world-changing companies like Spotify and Klarna are bursting out of every basement. Where creativity and innovation are shepherded by Swedish organisational skills into pens of productivity.
 
And today the world is watching as 3,000 investors and entrepreneurs descend upon the city, hoping to rub shoulders with the magic. And the money.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, it's Sthlm Tech Fest - and The Local is in the house (the house being the quite spectacular Stockholm Waterfront). When we're not trying to steal entrepreneurs' ideas or coaxing cash out of investors, we'll be reporting on the start-ups, innovations and visions that will be part of your future. 
 
Buckle up!
 
9.30 SLEIGHT OF HAND
 
What better way to start off a tech fest than with a bit of iPad magic? The city's resident magicians have performed their now-famous iPad act - a video of which has already gained over 3 million hits on YouTube. 
 
Check it out below. 
 

9.50 THE FUTURE OF GAMING
 
The royalty of the Swedish gaming industry - and let's face it, Swedish gaming is the royalty of the global gaming industry - is on stage. 
 
Tommy Palm, self-professed 'Games Guru' at King is sitting beside Karl Magnus Troedsson, self-professed 'CEO' at Dice. And they're discussing a pitch from Stockholm startup fuffr - which uses an infrared cover to allow you to control your phone without touching it.
 
"Gaming is about so much more than playing these days," says KMT. 
 
"There's a lot of stigma around gaming," says fuffr's Mai-Li Hammargren. "But life is a game. Look at the Swedish word for love: Kär - lek. Beloved - game." Applause!
 
10.05 POPPERMOST
 
Poppermost, a little independent gaming outfit from Stockholm, is pitching now. A symbolic image of a salmon (they go against the stream, geddit?) is followed by a stunningly beautiful clip from their free-to-play game 'Snow'. 
 
 
"Goosebumps," says Tommy Palm. "It's not about violence, shooting people, blowing things up. " Then he realises who he's sitting next to. "No offence," he says to Dice's Troedsson.
 
Mai-Li isn't convinced by free-to-play, though. She wants people to pay to play.
 
10.20 CHILDREN'S GAMING
 
Peppy Pals on the stage. These guys do mobile games for kids aged 2-6, aiming to develop their emotional intelligence. Rosie Linder from the company puts a picture of Gandhi and Hitler on the big screen.
 
"What we say is that the world needs less Hitlers and more Gandhis," she says. 
 
OK, you've got our attention. 
 
Now they're showing a video explaining how kids can use their games, which have no language and no text, to understand empathy. 
 
The clip shows a cute little dog helping a cute little owl in a playground. Perhaps some kind of metaphor for tech, not sure. 
 
The team says they've already proven that kids playing Peppy Pals talk more about emotions with their parents. 
 
The panel, and the crowd, are impressed. I'm still thinking about the owl.
 
10.25 WHERE THE WILD ROCKERS ARE
 
Rock Science!!! Extra exclamation marks there to convey heavy guitar and the momentary appearance of Lemmy. "We gamify subcultures" - that's the message from Rock Science, which claims to be the ultimate rock trivia game. But what's interesting is the approach taken by Nuday Games: identifying subcultures and then producing THE game for that group. Everyone impressed. It would be uncool not to be.

 

It's another Sthlm start-up, by the way. If you thought Sthlm start-ups were all being led by fresh-faced, finely-groomed Svenssons, think again.
 
10.40 COFFEE
10.45 PEOPLE
 

Now we're onto company culture. The Local's Natalia Brzezinski is hosting and she's flanked by Stockholm vice mayor, Ulla Hamilton, Bonnier's Ulrika Saxon and investor Jane Walerud. Joe Green of causes.com is also there, along with King CTO Thomas Hartwig.
 
"Immigration cuts to the core of America's entrepreneurial ecosystem," says Green. "It is our greatest asset."
 
Ulla Hamilton gives the Stockholm view:
 
"We have more than 5,000 IT specialists in Stockholm for companies outside of the EU. In order to grow companies you need competence, and it's hard to find the necessary competence in Stockholm. It's crucial to make it easy for people to move to Stockholm. Ordinary Stockholmers don't understand how important it is to make Stockholm competitive. People from other parts of the world add value to a small city like Stockholm."
 
Bonnier Growth is walking the walk: 60% of Ulrika Saxon's team is from outside of Sweden. 
 
Here comes a pitch. Brace yourself.
 
11.00. SELFIE JOB APPLICATIONS
 
You've heard of selfies... what about selfie job applications?
 
"Young people should be able to pitch themselves in 20 seconds. They don't need CVs, just their personalities," says Martin Tall of Selfie Jobs. "It's all about pitch, swipe, and share."
 
He compares it to Tinder for jobs. 
 
Young people have limited patience, we need to make it super simple. No typing. 
 
It's all about learning from young people, they can't spend two days applying at Sweden's job agency. They like SnapChat and Instagram.
 
The panel doesn't look too impressed. Having videos can allow discrimination, one says.  
 

11.15: SOCIAL MEDIA

Relation Desk - managing customer service via social media. The founder of the company promotes this as a way to protect and build your brand via social media. It's a tool to get everything in the one place. And the panel is impressed. 
 
It's basically a phone switchboard for social media. The founder said it was something he needed when he worked as a head of a big company's social media, and couldn't find. So he invented it. This is a regular theme today. Take the jump, readers. Get inventing. 
 
 

11.30 FUTURE OF COMMERCE

There's a chap called Per Roman from GP Bullhound up on stage, shouting, telling people to stand up, take off their jackets. He's taken his off. He's pretty psyched.
 
He welcomes the founder of Wrapp, Hjalmar Winbladh, on stage. Something extraordinarily exciting is about to happen. 
 
Ah, it's the next generation of Wrapp. Here we go. It's an app with a card. A MasterCard. But a product, swipe the card, get a notification in your app - and a very, very targeted reward offer. Buy a book, get an offer from a coffee shop. Buy a coffee, get an offer for more coffee.
 
Hjalmar says he's putting consumers in control of their own data. Sounds more like he's letting brands hit consumers with targeted advertising wherever they are. 
 
But who cares? He's offering 400kr to anyone who wants to try it out
 
And he's joined on stage by a high profile bunch: Jacob de Greer of iZettle, Paul Fischbein of CDON, Diego Berdakin of Beachmint and Diede Van Lamoen of Stripe.
 
Per Roman just told an odd story involving cucumbers, jogging, Blekinge and a beautiful woman who accepted iZettle payments. It must be nearly lunchtime.

12.17 JUST BEFORE LUNCH

The commerce lads are still discussing the future of banking, saving and selling. But now Per Roman introduces one of his 'favourite CEOs'. It's one of Stockholm's most celebrated and inspiring expats, Lesley Pennington, founder of Bemz. Bemz sells covers for Ikea sofas. Simple but brilliant. She tells us that e-commerce is now being replaced by 'me-commerce'. Personalisation and relevance. 

Per Roman tells Lesley that "if I were a brand man I would rename your company 'pimpmysofa.com'. Lesley will consider it, no doubt. 

What do the panel think of Bemz? Hard to tell: they are mainly using Lesley's talk as a vehicle to talk about their own businesses. But the audience is impressed.

12.30 LUNCH: WHAT'S STOCKHOLM'S SECRET?

We're going to hit the food trucks and we'll be asking delegates a simple question: what's Stockholm's secret? Why are so many amazing companies coming out of this city? Is it the air? The water? The universities? The wifi? Tweet us @thelocalsweden with #sthlmtechfest if you know the answer.

13.00: TYLER SHARES STOCKHOLM'S SECRET

Just bumped into the organizer of the event -- Tyler Crowley -- and asked him to reveal Stockholm's secret.

"Well, it all starts with the schools," he said. 
 
"Then you've got a really rich environment of events to go to, a lot of shared learning, networking. And then the people in government have their heads on straight about being supportive without being too overbearing."
 
But it doesn't stop there, he said.
 
"Stockholm has a lot of trained, seasoned entrepreneurs who can mentor younger people and even invest in them. That's something that very few cities in the world have. And when I say a few, I mean like two."
 
 
So Tyler, why do we need an event like this?
 
"A lot of the world doesn't realize that a lot of their favourite content and apps come from Stockholm - Minecraft, Spotify, Candy Crush, even Avicii. These are housdhold names in America, if not addictions. It's time America realized a lot of their most loved content and brands come from Stockholm."
 
Crowley added that there will be some strong panels on the agenda for the afternoon, including one on media followed by "a DJ performance that will blow people's minds".
 
Want to know more about the man behind the Tech Fest? The Local had a long chat with him back in November. He said Stockholm was the tech world's hidden nightclub. 
 

13.55 PRINCE DANIEL IS IN THE HOUSE

Would everyone please be upstanding. Thank you. You may sit.

14.00 GROWTH

We all want some, right? The Local had 4.5m readers last month - 50 percent up on August 2013. That's growth. But others are having a bit of it too. Bloglovin, for example, which is exploding following the demise of Google's RSS reader. Klarna and Truecaller too - also Stockholm start-ups. And Tesla, confounding the car industry's view of its cars.

And they're here on stage to tell us all about it via the now-established medium of four more startup pitches.

Here we go.

14.15 - A FAMILIAR FACE

Just bumped into Natalia Brzezinski from the US embassy. She's one of our feature bloggers, and she was a panelist today. And she's enjoying the show. 

"It's so exciting to see American and Swedish companies come together at Stockholm Tech Fest around shared values of innovation and diversity," she says.
 
"This is exactly the type of forum for engagement and dialogue that can impact positive change and create shared value: business with a social impact. It's very similar to what my husband, myself and the great embassy team try to do each day. I had so much fun and learned a lot moderating a panel today on CSR. And I love that Stockholm tech fest was organized by an American."
 
 
Want to know more about Natalia? We had a good chat with her back in May when she launched her blog. 
 

14.16 GROWTH CONTINUED

Sinch is app to app communications. Andreas from Sinch, which has been spun out of Rebtel, says they are taking the complexity out of the TelCo world and leaving all the magic. Make of that what you will. Pay Sinch a visit here:

 

Tyler is wondering whether Truecaller and Sinch have something in the pipeline. They both deny it but do confess to being 'very good friends'.

Malmö-based Mapillary reckons there's no efficient, scalable way to map the world today. But they have an app that automatically collects pictures of places, stitches them together and makes them into maps - better than Google's cars can do.
 
"You'll never get users to give you any photos," said Tyler six months ago. Since then they've had 3.2m photos mapping 100,000km of road.
 
"I love it when I'm wrong," quips Tyler.
 
We've sat through a lot of pitches so far today, but this is quite impressive.
 
Nami from Truecaller advises Mapillary to focus on unique data.
 

14.30 THIS GROWTH SESSION JUST KEEPS ON GROWING

Now Stockholm's Lifesum is giving its perspective on growth. With a million users a month they have a story to tell. "Always swing in weight classes much heavier than our actual one." You also need to "love your users" and "understand your platform to maximise distribution". Joy Marcus of Bloglovin likes what she hears: product appeal is crucial - it all starts with a great product. If you want to know the secret to Lifesum's success, here's where you'll find them:

Interestingly, Tyler is emphasising that these are all Stockholm companies but their representatives are quick to focus on the global. As Andreas from Sinch puts it: here in Sweden you can't be comfortable in your home market. Want more Stockholm secrets?

Victor Suarez, a Spanish developer at Fishbrain, told The Local earlier that Stockholm's secret is the attitude of people here. "They aim for excellence in everything they do," he said.

Back to the session. Detectify are here boasting about having hacked Google and dozens of other major organisations. That's one way to sell your services.

Andreas from Sinch: "I assume you're selling to CTOs. Isn't this like telling them that they're not very good at their jobs?" No, says the Detectify dude: we sell to lower level developers so the CTOs don't even have to worry about it. Nice answer.

And the Google hack wasn't as shady as it sounds. Google actually paid Detectify $10,000 for the hack. Gatecrash the Detectify party here:

14.50 INSTABRIDGE

No reason why they should get their own heading, but this is another amazing Stockholm start-up. It's a wifi app which lets you connect to all other Instabridge users' wifi networks. And it shows you all the other wifi spots near you. It even gets your phone to direct you towards free wifi when you're not online. 

Instabridge's biggest challenge is... getting growth. But its users seem committed. "We have one guy in Mexico who has run around adding 300 hundred networks in the last month," says Instabridge CEO and founder Niklas Agevik.

Borrow Instabridge's wifi here:

 

 

15.00 UBER

Uber gets its own headline too, not least because the presentation is by Stockholm general manager (and one of The Local's first employees) Robin Reznik. Uber is one of the world's fastest growing companies. Most people think of Uber as a taxi-like outfit - but they see themselves as a mobility company. Cars, helicopters, boats - whatever it takes. And Robin announces - to a spontaneous round of applause - that Uber is now launching a ride-sharing service in Stockholm. 

UberPOP is in beta but it's 60% cheaper than regular taxis. That's what people want to hear. 

Robin offers everyone in the audience 200 SEK off their next Uber ride. Although he only leaves the code on screen for about three seconds.

15.10 THE SECRET TO STOCKHOLM

We mingled with the crowd, asking people to share the secrets behind Stockholm's success.

Stockholm's Vice Mayor Ulla Hamilton:
 
"The secret is meeting places and open-mindedness," she says.
 
And more specifically?
 
"We have very, very talented people, good universities, and quite a lot of creative people. And as it's a fairly small city - though we're one of the fastest growing city in Europe - it's quite easy to get to know each other and exchange ideas."
 
 
Fritjof Andersson, the CEO and founder of Relation Desk 
 
"The secret is openness," he says. 
 
"A lot of people genuinely help each other here. Sweden is moving towards becoming a hub for tech start ups, a compact hub like Silicone Valley - and people's openness is what's creating that.
 
Katje Bergman, Chief Investment Officer at MOOR
 
"The secret is that Swedes are international by birth. They're building internationally from day one. And that's very rare," she says.

15.25 ADVERTISING

We've got an advertising panel on now, featuring heads from Widespace, Videoplaza, Facebook, Schibsted, and Klout. Stay tuned.

15.35 PRINCE WATCH

Not sure if Prince Daniel is still here. There was a big rush for some free ice cream five minutes ago. Perhaps he slipped out. 

15.40 PITCH: STICKY
 
Only 14 percent of ads are looked at, we're told. The company has run a study tracking volunteers and where exactly they looked on the screen when it comes to ads. The truth: People miss a lot of adverts. As in, they don't even glance at them. 
 
The panels response? Seems like they're on the fence. 
 
15.50 PITCH: GOO
 
A pitch from Sticky followed by a pitch from Goo. Is there a theme here? 
 
Goo Technologies has been working with Google and Nike on an interactive, 3D football ad. The ad "is like an experience", says co founder Ola de Freitas, as he shows the crowd a video about the ad and how it was made. This is complicated stuff, but the users have loved it, with millions "using" the ad in around 200 countries.
 
"If you make the ad engaging enough, people won't even think of it as an ad," explains host Tyler Crowley. 

The panel seems relatively impressed. The engagement is fantastic, says the Facebook chap. 
 
Visit Goo here:
 
 
 
16:40 MEDIA
 
Now we're talking media here. Some serious heavyweights on this panel, including the editor of Aftonbladet, and the "Editor-at-large" of Tech Crunch. Let's bring in some start ups. Feels a bit like Dragon's Den, huh? Except the unedited version. And less shouting. 
 
16:50 VOLUMENTAL
 
Here's a start up making some interesting shapes... literally. We're talking 3D printing here. These guys were at hand on STING, which we wrote about in May. A bit of intrigue in the air with these guys, as their spokesperson couldn't be here today, citing a mystery meeting in San Francisco. Tyler seemed impressed. So did the panel, incidentally. They're based here:
 
 
16:58 NARRATIVE
 
Let's continue with the narrative, shall we? This is a wearable "clip" that automatically records and captures your life as you live it. Two photos every minute of the day. "This has infinite potential," says the founder. He says they have 100 million photos uploaded by his users. Someone do the math - surely that's not that many users, right? 2 per minute, 120 an hour, 2,880 a day... someone help me.
 
It's recently raised $8 million in funding. Martin Källström, the CEO and founder, explains that his team is working on how to deal with all this data.
 

Narrative from Narrative on Vimeo.

"I want one for each of my reporters," says the Aftonbladet editor. He can pick them up at Narrative's office here:
 
 
Now the panel is talking about the ethics behind it. This sounds to be a challenge for Narrative. The founder says the photos are never live streamed, and that users must remove the device if in a compromising position for someone else.
 
17.11 FISHBRAIN
 
This is a guy who wants to help all you fisherpeople. Catch bigger fish and brag about it, that's their catchphrase. So what do they do? They have an app where users can share their catches and their fishing spots. 
 
There are 200 million people who fish, the spokesman explains. That's most than golf. And tennis. Combined. I don't even fish, but I'm hooked. 
 
OK, I've been told to keep the puns to a minimum. I'll keep listening.
 
17:27 SPRINKLE
 
One of the last of the start-up pitches. This is a company talking about narrowing down the flow of the news to suggest exactly what you probably want to read - just for you. 
 
Aftonbladet editor has some harsh words: "It's important to have sex appeal in your product if you want people to dive into it". 
 
He said 83 percent of his readers come directly to the site. He added that Aftonbladet has 5 million readers a month. Impressive figures from Sweden's biggest newspaper: a full 10% more than The Local last month.
 
Anyway, if you want to talk media with Sprinkle, get yourself down to Kaptensgatan:
 
 
17.41 TINDER
 
Now we're seeing the main guy behind Tinder on the screen, live from the States. His name is Sean Rad, and he's wearing a cap. In case you're wondering, this one's not a Stockholm start-up. If you've not heard of it before, Tinder is a match-making app that single people use to speed up the dating game. 
 
Incidentally, we're speaking to him on Skype, which is a Swedish invention. Tinder is already thinking about expanding. "We never think about Tinder as a dating app," Rad says. 
 
18.00 ABSOLUT
 
Now we're on vodka. Unfortunately not the drinking of vodka... we just have a very French-sounding man talking about Absolut. He says all the Absolut vodka comes from a tiny village in Skåne. The crowd is looking at slides of cocktails. I can imagine I'm not the only one wondering how they taste.
 
OK, let's get focused here. It's the last talk of the day. I think I can see people in front of me using Tinder. 
 
 
But how is this about media, you're wondering. Ah, they're expanding into video content. Intriguing. We just saw a teaser... they made 800 clips of cocktail making, all very, very short. Then, users can select "Tom Collins" for example, and there'll be a finished, edited video to show it. There are 3,500 videos in total. Amazing. Cheers? Time for drinks? No, apparently not. 
 
18:15 THE END
 
As two very Daft-Punk looking DJs play us out (they happen to be up at the top of the City Hall), we're going to call it a day too. Hope you've enjoyed the live blog and if you feel inspired to visit STHLM, move to STHLM, or open an office for your multi-billion dollar technology start-up in STHLM, let us know. This is Oliver Gee signing off. 
 

The Local's coverage of Stockholm Tech Fest was made possible with support from Stockholm Business Region.

Photos: TT news agency

 

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