The vast majority of THINGS member companies offer products and services such as sensors, edge computing, data analytics, AI, robotics and energy solutions that solve the digital transformation challenges for industries such as manufacturing and energy. In a rapidly developing tech landscape large global companies cannot afford to be complacent, and in order to stay competitive and relevant they must innovate. Startups and corporates need each other.
“The industry is in a phase where a lot of new technical opportunities appear, and we have the potential to bridge the gap between new solutions developed in small, niche startups with the needs of large corporates to increase the speed of commercialization and implementation of new, improved approaches and technologies,” says Krondahl.
In 2014 Linda Krondahl was headhunted by the godfather of Swedish tech startups Pär Hedberg to head up THINGS. Together with co-founder Magnus Melander they created a physical space for technical startups offering industrial applications.
“We’re constantly developing our content and offer according to our vision, to transform innovation in small companies into large scale value creation through collaboration with corporates,” continues Krondahl.
In a two part interview, Linda tells us what makes her get out of bed in the morning and shares her thoughts, insights and highlights from the Deep tech hub over the past five years.
What is THINGS in 2-5 words?
A physical co-working community for deep tech startups!
What is a deep tech startup?
The formal definition of deep technology companies is defined by their substantial scientific advances and high tech engineering innovation. They are high risk as they require lengthy R&D, may take a long time to reach commercial application, and often require large investments to achieve commercial success. The underlying intellectual property of deep tech innovations is usually well-protected and hard to reproduce, making it a strong competitive advantage or barrier to entry.
At THINGS we also want to see the potential to solve really important problems, ideally with a connection to SDG goals.Though, when we invite startups we take a broader approach and support startups in the early stages where often than not their solutions are yet to be proven.
In a few short sentences, what do you offer your customers?
We have two types of customers; startup members and corporate partners. For startups, a membership means an opportunity to work and develop your company in a growth environment. We have strong relationships with a large number of large industrial and technical corporations that we connect with members where relevant. For corporates we help them navigate the large and rapidly changing startup landscape and keep them abreast of new technologies. And we support them as they develop their business offer together with startups.
What is the biggest risk that startups face when they are starting out?
Everything! But if I should select ONE risk, it is that they develop a product that no one wants to pay for. It is very easy to keep developing the product without bouncing the idea, offer, price and business model on potential customers.
What is the biggest threat for large companies today?
To think that you’re all set because you’ve had a great business for years. Today, you can never relax as you need to continuously develop to stay ahead of the global competition!
What is your favourite THINGS moment?
I think the annual celebration is amazing! It has always been the peak moment of the year, when we fill the house with decision makers representing not only our member startups and corporate partners but capital, expertise, and the startup ecosystem that can really make a difference!
Were there any tough moments over the past five years that you would like to share?
It is always a struggle to make sure that we stay relevant, both to startups and corporates. Since the beginning we’ve been running this business as a startup ourselves without soft funding or state support to keep decision-making fast and close to us, and not having to blur our vision and focus with other agendas. That has of course made the financials tougher, but I really believe this has been a key to our success.
What is your biggest achievement at THINGS?
Not sure! To keep it all running relatively smoothly in spite of our early stage startup audience who often suffer from a lack of funding, customers etc in their early days. Providing the most relevant features and offerings whilst keeping the cost down for our startup members.
What’s the most important thing you are working on and how are you making that happen?
I think the creation and continuous development of Ignite Sweden has been a key achievement. Ignite Sweden is a program that initiates collaborations between startupsand established companies. Together with five other parties across Sweden we have been able to build – to my knowledge – the first nationwide program that really helps startups get their first commercial collaboration, and the response from the 100+ corporates and 300 startups participating so far has been AMAZING! We’ve been able to catalyze more than 100 commercial collaborations between corporates and startups – so far. That makes me really proud, and I know participating startups have been able to employ more people, raise capital and grow faster thanks to this.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The feeling that we really can make a difference to an amazing group of startups by building a community larger than ourselves. Members sharing their knowledge and networks with each other is a fabulous booster and proof that we have built a super-cool community.
If you weren’t building a startup what would you be doing?
No clue! I’m currently in some sort of third phase of my working life, and in a few years from now, someone else should probably take over my role as CEO and develop THINGS to the next level. I’m sure my next venture or phase in life will magically reveal itself in front of me once it is time!
Which entrepreneur do you admire the most?
I don’t think I’ve ever been able to point out a single role model. Instead, I look for features and behaviors that impress me. I’m really amazed when people manage to build teams around them that independently run and improve the business and processes, where everyone knows their role and mandate, nurture the courage to go above and beyond what is specified in your formal role, and through trust and knowledge build and develop great things together. When our small team operates smoothly and efficiently, delivers amazing results and receives cheers from our community that’s a great feeling!
About Linda Krondahl
With a solid technical M.Sc degree in Technology Management from Lunds Tekniska Högskola, Linda began her career in management consultancy before turning to entrepreneurship. In 2008 she founded and was the CEO of a cleantech startup called HiNation and in 2014 she co-founded THINGS, The Innovation Growhouse Stockholm. Sweden’s first Deep tech focused hub and community which connects startup members with customers and capital. THINGS counts some 40 startups as members and has a wider community of 600 startups in it’s network.
Linda has received awards such as Female Inventor of the Year, Beautiful Business Award, Super Talent of the Year and WWF Climate Solver. She is also external assessor for Vinnova, a member of ALMI Greentech Investment Committee and co-founder of Ignite Sweden.