To leverage WiderPool’s global coverage of the innovation ecosystem, we have started local arms of the WiderPool model. This strategy will help us with a grassroots effort to better engage with groups of corporate executives trying to achieve growth objectives through their innovation needs, as well as allow us to better identify the most promising tech startups locally that can scale their solutions to our corporate partners around the world.
The Nordics are a prime region for WiderPool to focus on. The World Economic Forum recently ranked 3 Scandinavian countries amongst the top 10 most innovative globally, and in recent years Slate has said “The most exciting startup scene you have never heard of isn’t in Seattle, or London—it’s in Scandinavia. The Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, have the highest percentage of unicorns per capita in the world, and have developed more successful brand name billion-dollar startups—Spotify, Skype, and Klarna to name a few—than any other region besides Silicon Valley and Beijing”.
WiderPool’s Nordics strategy will start off with the Scandinavian countries and eventually engage with the Baltic countries. Here we talk with Thomas Marschall, WiderPool’s Managing Partner for the Nordics region on the launch strategy and potential for the region as a source for innovating-seeking corporates worldwide.
Meet Managing Partner Thomas Marshall
Tell us about your most recent background…I understand that you’ve had a few different career paths?
After a career in the Oil & Gas sector and then moving into software, I joined the biometric specialist company Precise Biometrics in Sweden in 2006. The company was listed on Nasdaq in Stockholm and we had a global array of high-end security customers, including the US Government. In 2012, the fingerprint industry was revolutionized by Apple’s decision to build in fingerprint sensors in their products. Everything changed from one day to the other when all of the companies competing with Apple started buying into the technology. I left the company at the end of 2013 and have since worked as a public speaker on technology and Business Angels. My first book – Angel Business – will be published at the end of 2017.
What type of business are you running now and how does this overlap with what WiderPool does in the innovation space?
My public speaker engagements are about how businesses can benefit more from the technology and digitalization revolution we are experiencing in recent years. In addition I work closely with the technology companies I have invested in as well as meet up with many new exciting startups, which provides me with a good insight into which companies and solutions can add the most value to established enterprises.
How did you initially get involved with WiderPool?
I was introduced to Widerpool though the YPO organization and was intrigued by the value proposition. These days, established companies are being bombarded with pressures to become more innovative. Despite a lot of initiatives and good intentions, the vast majority of established companies fail to see their innovation efforts deliver any commercial value. Their strength is mainly to optimize the existing business with incremental improvements. This is exactly where Widerpool can help as the company may save you a lot of time and effort in reinventing the wheel, where the best-fit technology that can add value to your business may be out there already but you haven’t the resources to find where it is or how to collaborate with the right tech company. I find that leveraging WiderPool’s global network and its ability to find this solution to be a very strong value proposition.
“Each of the Scandinavian countries are experiencing a technology startup boom in recent years”.
WiderPool recently posted about the prevalence of 3 Scandinavian countries among the top 10 ‘most innovative’ as ranked by the World Economic Forum. What is unique about the region that allows innovation to flow freely among corporations and startups in Scandinavia?
The digitalization of public services in Scandinavia has worked very well for many years. Most citizens can conduct all of their banking and other affairs from home or via their mobile phones. The level of education is high, everyone speaks very good English – and quite frequently other languages as well – and on top of it all, each of the Scandinavian countries are experiencing a technology startup boom in recent years. In fact, startups have become a preferred career choice for many new graduates from business schools and universities.
What industries on the corporate or government sectors do you see as being particularly open in Scandinavia as possibilities for the WiderPool’s innovation model?
The telecommunications, utilities, larger communes, state entities are the sectors that are prime for innovation in the region and I see the WiderPool model as being a great fit here.
What are some of the biggest stories on the tech startup side for disruptive innovation originating from the Nordic region?
Unity, Klarna, SiteCore, Spotify, The Eye Tribe and Fingerprint Cards are some of the biggest success stories. There are many more and in fact it has been pointed out that the Nordic countries have amongst the highest percentage of unicorns per capita of any global region.
Tell us about some of the first new steps you’ll be leading to launch WiderPool Nordics in the region?
My intention is to start of testing the value proposition in some of the industry sectors where WiderPool has already had some experience and success elsewhere in the world. One of the things we’re looking to schedule is a Innovation Discovery seminar session where we’ll feature ways in which both corporations and tech startups engage with the innovation ecosystem, especially on the collaboration front with each other. I’ll do the first one in Copenhagen in early 2018.
How broadly will WP Nordics cover the region? Will you be able to showcase tech companies from all the countries and open up conversations with companies looking to innovate from throughout the region?
I will start off mainly in Denmark after which I will test off Norway and Sweden. Finland and Iceland come after this and then probably we can leverage the Baltic states. I encourage executives on the corporate and technology startup front to contact me and/or the WiderPool global leadership team to be involved in the early stages of our regional rollout. •