Having been guests at the latest #CPHFTW and #STHLMTech events, (as well as having me on their podcast) Balderton Capital have recently been stepping up their presence in the region. In the latest move demonstrating this, today, they are announcing they have became international investor members of Sup46. As part of this agreement, investors such as Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen will host workshops and host events at the Stockholm-based co-working space, with the first taking two place tomorrow. With this in mind, I caught up with Lars to get find out what verticals interests him, his thoughts on the Nordic tech scene, his predictions for the next 12 months and what innovations he considers really worth backing.
Today (Tuesday 9th February), Balderton have announced a partnership with Sup46. With this is mind, do you have any particular thoughts or predictions about Nordic tech?
I agree with your recent thoughts, Neil, in that there is an incredible sector-diversity in The Nordics. I think that all of the raw materials are particularly in place for the region to lead the rest of Europe in health tech. This is as a result of second-generation startup founders pointing their microscope at the health sector. Companies such as Lifesum (ex-Spotify team) and Feast Kitchen (ex-founder of Endomondo and MyFitnessPal) are good examples.
The movement towards health tech will also be fuelled by the high uptake of new mobile tech throughout the population, the consciousness of health and wellbeing in Scandinavia, and a strong heritage in the traditional pharmaceutical industry due to companies such as Novo Nordisk.
What start up verticals interest you most right now?
I am a mobile guy at heart, so I can’t help but be passionate about mobile companies for both consumer and enterprise businesses. If a startup can hit the sweet spot of offering a strong consumer experience which also applies to businesses use, I will find that very interesting.
There is a lot of potential for this consumer/business crossover in industries like payments (NFC), transportation (self-driving car technology), insurance (like Asurion), privacy and security (think Palantir meets Lookout and identity fraud) and messaging and communication.
I am interested in a number of different verticals that I feel are broken, and I’m trying to discover where and how mobile can fix existing issues, and help create the next big platform solution. I also have a passion for innovative hardware solutions, as hardware can invent and shape the next evolution of user-experience and interfaces.
Apart from the above, what are your biggest predictions for the next 12 months?
1. It’s great to see more Europeans moving to the Valley to chase their dream, much like I did. But, we’ll start to see a new phenomenon in the next twelve months: more Europeans will be returning to Europe from their Valley adventure, with great experience and networks under their belt. Every time I travel to a different European hub (London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Paris…) I find myself talking to another person who has followed this path. It’s a strong common entrepreneurial bond. This phenomenon is great for Europe, and it will add to the current momentum of entrepreneurial mentality and only further increase the probability of success.
2. I’ve read a few articles recently that suggest that the momentum of the tech scene in Europe may be cooling… contrary to this belief, I think more tech companies will be founded in Europe in 2016 than in any previous year. It’s hard to get a headcount of exactly how many founders come together to build a new company across the continent as a whole, but a good barometer is the abundance of tech accelerators now in operation. I won’t get into talking about which programmes are better than others, but the fact that there are now way over 100 accelerator programme providers in Europe indicates a drastically increased number of ambitious, early-stage founders in the continent.
3. Full disclosure: I’m half Portuguese! But I genuinely think Lisbon will become the next “Berlin”. Startups will continue to move there from abroad, encouraged as relaxed legislation and increased levels of support make it easy for startups to ‘plug and play’ upon arrival. Web Summit is also moving to Lisbon this year, which will bring with it a lot of media attention and big names. Companies like Farfetch are also becoming examples of how successful a native Portuguese company can become, which will inspire many other entrepreneurs to follow this example. Just over $25m was invested into Portuguese startups in 2014. $25m may not be the largest number in the world, but this is up from zero a few years beforehand. This type of growth will continue.
Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?
I have three young kids. A huge highlight of each pregnancy was that moment when you get to see your baby for the first time at the ultrasound screening. In the UK, this is paid by the National Health Service (NHS) but most pregnant couples in the World never get this experience.
This process is conducted by a scanning machine the size of a massive old mainframe computer, which is attached to a black and white screen. This huge piece of kit is connected to the smaller handheld node which is used to conduct the actual scan.
My idea is simply called "Miracle".
Offer this experience as a service at home. Plug the scanning machine and technology into the cloud, and make it accessible via web/app experience, so it can be used remotely. Parents-to-be could subscribe to the service during the several month period of the pregnancy when scanning is possible, and they would get sent the scanner and gel to their home, along with a cable that connects to their smartphone. The market would be huge. I’m imagining a monthly subscription model too…
They could connect the scanner node to their iPhone or Android phone and, boom, parents can say hello to their new family member anytime in their own home! The data would be sent from the node via the phone to the backend, which is itself plugged into one of those big scanning machines. Then images would be returned to the phone in realtime. Miracle!
I think it could be huge, and there is potential to extend the technology to medical care outside of hospitals - maybe even scanning for broken bones, damaged tissue, or for the fast delivery of medical test results. It's almost like making the ‘hospital visit’ a thing of the past, and enabling the masses to take more control of their own healthcare, at home.
I think a ton of patents can be made in this industry and, using these proposed technologies and the data created by them, it would be easier for qualified doctors to provide medical advice relating to the the safety and health of the mother and baby.
That's actually a great idea! Finally, if you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you're facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?
It would be a new phone interface whereby I could see my kids in hologram form. As I travel every week, I am away from my kids. Of course we talk a lot on the phone and on Skype, but I would feel closer to them (and it would be much more fun!) if I could see them in 3D. I know it is just a question of time before this is enabled… R2D2 managed to do it in 1977.
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