KTH Innovation's Brighter program helps start-ups succeed internationally

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KTH Innovation's Brighter program brings startups to international innovation environments where they learn what it's like to operate on a global market. One of these startups is Waves, who participated in the program´s visit to New York last fall. Their idea is a service that helps individuals make investments that maximize their sustainability impact.

An app that enables individuals to make sustainable investments. This was the idea that the startup Waves – Emelie Jin and Alexander Jakobsen, both of them students at the Master Program in Industrial Engineering and Management – planned to work on when they applied to KTH Innovation´s program Brighter. A program where, each year, startups are given an opportunity to test their wings and see if they are ready for an international market.

After an intense week in New York last fall, Emelie Jin and Alexander Jakobsen tweaked their initial idea and dropped the idea of developing an app themselves. Now their service Waves recommends investments that have a major impact on the global development goals.

“We will still target private individuals, but we will do so through the banks. What´s important for us is how we can have the greatest influence and impact. And we think we can do so as a service on banking apps,” Emelie Jin says.

They got valuable feedback

Waves´new focus is a direct response to the feedback they received in New York, where robot financial advice is much more advanced than in Sweden, according to Alex Jakobsen.

“In Sweden, it's all about designing and optimizing the technology itself. But the technology is relatively well established. This was the feedback we got from the people we met in New York: investors at venture capital funds Carbon Ventures and Northvolt, with extensive experience in fintech, and KTH alumni Petter Kolm, professor of financial mathematics at New York University. But they also said that we have something that is unique and that is that we work with values,” Jakobsen says.

One very important part of the Brigther program is just that; that the participating startups take on board the feedback they get. This is part of a learning process in the program, which lasts six months with 15 participating startups each year.

“After the program, participants should be able to stand on their own two feet, have a network and be able to expand and continue their internationalization efforts independently,” who is Program and Community Manager at KTH Innovation Viktor Olsson says.

The startups get their first international contacts

One result of the lessons a startup in the program learn could also be not to pursue their idea further. They might start with a new idea when they get back home – and this is also a gain, according to Viktor Olsson.

“Primarily, this is not about our startups going away to find investors. Rather, it’s about making an initial contact with an ecosystem elsewhere – because Sweden is so small,” Olsson says.

In addition to New York, other places the program has visitedare Silicon Valley, Boston and Munich. This fall they are going to Tokyo for the first time.

Before they leave for the destination they are to visit, the startups have a lot of preparation to do. On beforehand they make important contacts at the destination – investors, companies and alumni from KTH – to whom they can pitch their ideas and who can help open doors to new contacts. In order to get the most out of this, they also need to learn certain things before they leave. What is thelocal business culture like? What should you wear when you go to a meeting? And how do you follow up on the contacts you've met? Participants also practice a lot on pitching their ideas.

Waves impressed the UN

Important contacts Emelie Jin and Alexander Jakobsen of Waves made in New York include Meng Li and Luisa Karst of the United Nations (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs. They were involved in designing the global sustainability goals. Waves´ idea is now included at the UN founded Global Innovation Exhange, a global development technology platform for innovation, funding and insight.

– We have applied through the STI Forum to go there in May. If we are selected, we will be able to present our idea to the UN, says Alexander Jacobsen.

This article was first published on 4 March 2020 by KTH.

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