How Sweden Became The Silicon Valley of Europe

STOCKHOLM, Aug 11 (Reuters) – As Klarna’s billionaire founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski prepares to stage one of the biggest-ever European fintech company listings, a feast of capitalism, he credits an unlikely backer for his runaway success: the Swedish welfare state.

In particular, the 39-year-old pinpoints a late-1990s government policy to put a computer in every home.

“Computers were inaccessible for low-income families such as mine, but when the reform came into play, my mother bought us a computer the very next day,” he told Reuters.

Siemiatkowski began coding on that computer when he was 16. Fast-forward more than two decades, and his payments firm Klarna is valued at $46 billion and plans to go public. It hasn’t given details, though many bankers predict it will list in New York early next year.

Sweden’s home computer drive, and concurrent early investment in internet connectivity, help explain why its capital Stockholm has become such rich soil for startups, birthing and incubating the likes of Spotify, Skype and Klarna, even though it has some of the highest tax rates in the world.

That’s the view of Siemiatkowski and several tech CEOs and venture capitalists interviewed by Reuters.

In the three years the scheme ran, 1998-2001, 850,000 home computers were purchased through it, reaching almost a quarter of the country’s then-four million households, who didn’t have to pay for the machines and thus included many people who were otherwise unable to afford them.

In 2005, when Klarna was founded, there were 28 broadband subscriptions per 100 people in Sweden, compared with 17 in the United States – where dial-up was still far more common – and a global average of 3.7, according to data from the World Bank.

Spotify allowed users to stream music when Apple’s (AAPL.O) iTunes was still download-based, which gave the Swedish company the upper-hand when streaming became the norm around the world.

“That could only happen in a country where broadband was the standard much earlier, while in other markets the connection was too slow,” Siemiatkowski said.

“That allowed our society to be a couple of years ahead.”

Some executives and campaigners say the Scandinavian nation demonstrates that a deep social safety net, often viewed as counter to entrepreneurial spirit, can foster innovation. It’s an outcome that might not have been envisaged by the architects of Sweden’s welfare state in the 1950s.

Childcare is, for the most part, free. A range of income insurance funds can protect you if your business fails or you lose your job, guaranteeing up to 80% of your previous salary for the first 300 days of unemployment.

“The social safety net we have in Sweden allows us to be less vulnerable to taking risks,” said Gohar Avagyan, the 31-year-old co-founder of Vaam, a video messaging service used for sales pitches and customer communication.


Although overall investments are larger in the bigger European economies of Britain and France and their longstanding finance hubs, Sweden punches above its weight in some regards.

It has the third highest startup rate in the world, behind Turkey and Spain, with 20 startups per 1000 employees and the highest three year survival rate for startups anywhere, at 74%, according to a 2018 study by OECD economists.

Stockholm is second only to Silicon Valley in terms of unicorns – startups valued at above $1 billion – per capita, at around 0.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to Sarah Guemouri at venture capital firm Atomico.

Silicon Valley – San Francisco and the Bay Area – boasts 1.4 unicorns per 100,000, said Guemouri, co-author of a 2020 report on European tech companies.

No one can say for sure if the boom will last, though, in a country where capital gains are taxed at 30 percent and income tax can be as high as 60 percent.

In 2016, Spotify said it was considering moving its headquarters out of the country, arguing high taxes made it difficult to attract overseas talent, though it hasn’t done so.

Yusuf Ozdalga, partner at venture capital firm QED Investors, said access to funding and administrative or legal tasks connected with founding a company could also prove tough to navigate for non-Swedish speakers.

He contrasted that to Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, where the government adopted English as an official language in April to make life easier for international companies.


Jeppe Zink, partner at London-based venture capital firm Northzone, said a third of all the exit value from fintech companies in Europe – the amount received by investors when they cash out – came from Sweden alone.

Government policy had contributed to this trend, he added.

“Its an interesting dilemma for us venture capitalists as we’re not used to regulation creating markets, in fact we are inherently nervous about regulation.”

Sweden’s digital minister Anders Ygeman said that social regulation could make it “possible to fail” and then “be up and running again” for innovators.

Peter Carlsson, CEO of startup Northvolt, which makes Lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and is valued at $11.75 billion, said that ultimately success bred success.

“You’re really creating ripple effects when you’re seeing the success of somebody else and I think that’s perhaps the most important thing in order to create local ecosystems.”

By and

Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Colm Fulton in Stockholm; Editing by Pravin Char

Source: How Sweden became the Silicon Valley of Europe | Reuters



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Darktrace London Listing Sees Shares Leap 40%, Shoots Towards $3.3 Billion Valuation

Darktrace IPO on the London Stock Exchange raises $160 million.

Cybersecurity startup Darktrace, one of the U.K.’s most promising tech companies, has started trading on the London Stock Exchange, valuing the business at $2.3 billion (£1.7 billion). The company said Friday morning that it had raised $200 million as a result of the initial public offering (IPO).

Trading began at 8am London time under the ticker “DARK” and has had an auspicious opening, with shares trading up from 250p per share to 350p on opening. That would give it a market cap of $3.3 billion.

It’s an exciting start for the cybersecurity company, which had been dogged by the continuing allegations of fraud facing one of its key investors, Mike Lynch, who helped launch the company back in 2013. Lynch is facing extradition to the U.S. where he faces criminal charges relating to HP’s $11 billion acquisition of his old company Autonomy. Lynch has denied all wrongdoing.

Reports had also raised issues around Darktrace’s hard-driving sales culture, whilst Forbes had previously reported on the abiding influence of Lynch and another former Darktrace director, Sushovan Hussain, who was convicted in the HP fraud case, though has been fighting an appeal. There were also allegations of sexual harassment within the startup.

Lynch and his wife together own 18% of Darktrace, whilst Hussain owns just below 3%.

The Darktrace offering will also be a boon for the London Stock Exchange, which has struggled to compete with New York and Hong Kong for high-growth tech listings, with food delivery startup Deliveroo’s IPO flop weighing on its prospects. Shares of the company slumped 30% on opening. That knocked $2.6 billion off the Amazon-backed company’s value.

“Our company is deeply rooted in the UK’s tradition of scientific and mathematic research so we are especially proud to be listing on the London Stock Exchange,” said Poppy Gustafsson, chief executive of Darktrace. “This is a momentous day for Darktrace and for the UK’s unparalleled science and technology sector.

“Our mission has always been to apply fundamental technology to the universal challenge of cybersecurity and we would not have got to this point without the determination and dedication of our talented employee base, as well as the continuing loyalty and feedback from our customers. As we look to the future, we are eager to build on our AI technology and to accelerate its deployment in existing and new markets worldwide.”

Darktrace claims its artificial intelligence can learn how networks operate and then spot anomalies, with the ability to eradicate threats on its own without human intervention. It’s one of a handful of British tech companies worth more than $1 billion, in a country where few cybersecurity businesses grow so large or go public. Its past customers have included corporate giants like BT and HSBC.

The company says it plans to use its new funds to invest in its research center in Cambridge, U.K., and expand globally.

Thomas Brewster

I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’m also the editor of The Wiretap newsletter, which has exclusive stories on real-world surveillance and all the biggest cybersecurity stories of the week. I’ve been breaking news and writing features on these topics for major publications since 2010. As a freelancer, I worked for The Guardian, Vice, Wired and the BBC, amongst many others.

Source: Darktrace London Listing Sees Shares Leap 40%, Shoots Towards $3.3 Billion Valuation


British cybersecurity company Darktrace Plc is cutting the value of its imminent London flotation as it adopts a cautious approach aimed at avoiding a repetition of Deliveroo’s disastrous public debut, Sky News reported citing people it didn’t identify. Darktrace and its advisers are leaning toward a price range that will put a valuation of about 2.4 billion pounds ($3.3 billion) to 2.7 billion pounds ($3.75 billion) on the loss-making company, Sky said.
The details are likely to be set out in an announcement to the London Stock Exchange that could come as soon as Monday morning, Sky said. Darktrace’s initial public offering in London is expected to value the company at about $3 billion to $4 billion, Bloomberg News reported April 12, citing a person familiar with the matter. Darktrace and shareholders plan to sell at least 20% of the company’s equity, and the stock will trade on the London Stock Exchange’s premium market and be eligible for FTSE’s benchmark stock indexes, the company said in a statement. All data is taken from the source:
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With $27 Million In Funding, A Tiny Fintech Takes Aim At Cigna, Aetna And UnitedHealthcare

Level’s early team. From left, software engineer Vikas Unnava, CEO Paul Aaron and strategy lead Ashley Koh.

There’s no reason why paying for a root canal should be more complicated than paying for a steak dinner. That’s how it looked, at least, to Paul Aaron, one the first 20 employees at digital payments giant Square and later a product manager at Oscar Health, the direct-to-consumer health insurance upstart founded in 2012. Connecting the dots between these two jobs inspired him in 2018 to build Level, a New York startup hoping to sell employers on more efficient and affordable insurance benefits for their employees.

“The big insight behind Level was this idea that insurance is just a way to pay for things,” says CEO Aaron, speaking at 6:30 a.m. over a zoom call from Hawaii (he’s keeping East Coast hours). “It’s a product that people really depend on, but it’s actually pretty confusing and sometimes can feel very unfair to us.”

After launching employer-sponsored dental plans in 2019, Level closed a $27 million Series A round at a valuation north of $100 million in late 2020, previously unannounced until today. Lightspeed Venture Partners and Khosla Ventures led the round, joined by First Round Capital FCAP 0.0% and Homebrew. The company added vision coverage in January, is hiring more staff and soon plans to expand into other employee benefits—making benefits better than a salary’s cash component is Level’s “north star,” Aaron says.

Employees who have access to Level through their work can use its app to search for providers, compare prices for various services, book appointments and handle co-pays then and there, no insurance card or belated paper bills in sight. Claims are typically processed within 4 hours, compared to 30 days or more with some mainstay providers. And while users can see any dentist or optometrist, more than 100,000 providers have an in-network contract (and access to software that tracks patient visits and billing) with Level.

Current customers include several mid-size tech companies like Intercom and Udemy and Level investor First Round.  Aaron says his startup saves employers money by giving them insights into the benefits that their workforces uses, allowing HR teams to customize plans and ultimately pay only for the services they need. Intercom, a business messaging startup, says it saved 20% from its previous dental provider, while adding more benefits—such as coverage for adult orthodontia—for its approximately 600 workers. First Round claims it saved 47% year-over-year after switching to Level’s dental coverage.

The funding announcement also accompanies the launch of a new insurance product underwritten in-house. Unlike most traditional group insurance arrangements, where companies annually forfeit the cost of benefits not used by workers, Level now allows businesses to pay a fixed amount each month and receive a refund at the end of the year for any unused benefit.

Critically to companies with tight balance sheets, they will never have to pay for costs beyond the monthly fee. The shift allows businesses as small as two people to adopt Level’s self-funded model historically accessible only to large corporations that could absorb the cost of unexpected, expensive procedures like an emergency surgery. (And luckily for Level’s costs, these hefty bills aren’t as common in dental or vision care.)

Insurance is not the sexiest industry, but it is lucrative. In 2019, U.S. healthcare spending reached $3.8 trillion, more than 17% of the gross domestic product that year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and census data indicates that about 55% of the population—more than 180 million people—received employer-sponsored insurance. Venture capitalists have taken note, investing more than $7 billion across 377 “insurtech” deals in 2020—a four-fold dollar-amount increase from 2016, per private markets data provider CB Insights.

Level won’t have an easy path, as it takes on giants with footprints to match. Healthcare insurer Cigna CI -0.7% counts more than 17 million global dental customers, Aetna AET 0.0% has 12.7 million dental members and UnitedHealthcare Dental has enrolled more than 13 million Americans in its employer-sponsored, Medicare and Medicaid plans. Its largest rival, though, might be Delta Dental Plans Association. The organization covers more than 80 million participants across the country. [Update: Level claims it is negotiating partnerships with some big insurers.]

At 10,000 employees covered today, Level is barely a blip competitively—but Jana Messerschmidt, a partner at Lightspeed, has given the startup a vote of confidence twice over, having backed Level both personally and professionally. (She first joined the startup’s seed round as an angel investor in 2018 before Lightspeed hired her later that year.)

“This is one of these companies that has the potential to become Stripe-sized in this new fintech meets insurance tech space,” she says. “There are a lot of things that have to go right for the company for that to happen.”

I’m an assistant editor covering money and markets. Before joining Forbes, I worked at Bloomberg and Pitchbook News reporting on plastic straw bans, pizza robots and everything in between. I studied history and economics at the University of Virginia, where I also worked on the student paper and, more importantly, an underground satire magazine.

Source: With $27 Million In Funding, A Tiny Fintech Takes Aim At Cigna, Aetna And UnitedHealthcare


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How The New Domain Extensions Can Help Your Business Look More Relevant

Are you looking to add legitimacy and relevance to your business? The first step is to get a website, as most people now go online first when looking for products and services. Before you can launch a website, you must register a domain name, selecting a domain extension that suits your business.

To those who have no idea about what domain extensions are, these happen to be that part of the website domain name that appears on the other side of the dot — like .com, .in, .net, and so on.

There are now hundreds of these to choose from.

Domain extensions are also referred to as TLDs or Top-Level Domains. Let’s take a closer look at how domain extensions can help your business thrive.

The importance of domain extensions

Google search results showing cotton manufacturers in Gujarat

Your web address is very important because it acts as a digital calling card. It is usually the very first thing that people see on Google when they search for a service or product.

How your web name ends makes people take instant calls about what type of website you have.

For instance, a technology firm could use .net as a domain extension, as it is associated with ISPs and other tech providers.

A business located in India might choose the .in domain extension for its web address, as this is known as India’s TLD.

The most well-known of domain extensions — .com — has become the go-to choice for any internet-based business. But as ecommerce grew tremendously over the years, many of the shortest and most valuable .com domain names have already been registered. Hence, it became necessary to have many more domain extensions made available (see complete list).

Why opt for new TLDs rather than .com

There has been a veritable explosion in the number of new domain extensions. For example:

Opting for a new domain extension can change the way your business or organization is perceived by its target audience. There are several other advantages to using one of the new domain extensions for your web address. Let’s take a look at what these may be in some greater detail.

1. A more memorable website domain name

A name that is easy to remember is half the battle won when it comes to getting found on the internet.

It’s time to look beyond .com.

A domain extension name that resonates with your target audience and makes them come to you is something one should be looking at. It will have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of your digital efforts.

2. Improved branding

Not only is the right kind of domain extension easy to remember and relate to, but it also helps enhance branding across the services one offers. Besides, easy to use names are less likely to be misspelled during the search process.

3. Better defined organization

A suitably chosen domain extension will instantly identify the line of work carried out by a business or an organization. An Indian non-profit would, for instance, be well advised to use a domain extension to identify its area of expertise and its location. It would help the organization make its presence felt in its specific niche, which can only augur well for its outreach efforts.

4. Establish a business identity

A domain extension should be able to establish a business’s identity like nothing else. An architect’s firm, for example, would do well to use the .archi domain name that would have synergy with its business.

5. Help diversify

If your line of work has expanded and your current domain extension does not seem to adequately represent the changed status of your business, a change in domain extension could help correct that impression. If you are a

n exercise instructor who has also started giving yoga lessons, you might want to adopt the .guru extension to reflect the change.

6. Create a strong solo brand

A lot of people who are strong solopreneur brands by themselves can further accentuate their brands by choosing an appropriate domain extension. This will help one obtain much better results in organic searches of one’s personal brand name. Changing your existing brand name to your legal name lets you leverage your personal clout to help enhance your brand image.

Give the new domain extensions a look

The importance of a domain extension cannot be underestimated, in that it defines the very identity of a business, organization or individual in the online space. These days one can choose from a very large number of domain extensions, whose names are far more reflective of what they represent than plain old .com.

Truly, a domain extension is much more than a mere web address of a business or organization. It is no less than a powerful marketing and branding tool that can help improve a business or organization’s prospects.

With hundreds of domain extensions to choose from, one can quite easily choose something that will represent the best face of a business or organization to its core target audience.

Indeed, those from large corporations and trading organizations to businesses, professionals and nonprofits would benefit immensely from a change of their domain extension.

Vipin Labroo

By: Vipin Labroo

Vipin Labroo is a content creator, author and PR consultant (not in any particular order). A member of the Nonfiction Authors Association, he has years of corporate experience working with an eclectic range of clients. In his line of work he writes press releases, articles, blogs, white papers, research reports, website content, eBooks and so on across segments like technology, business & marketing, internet marketing, healthcare, fashion, real estate, travel and so on. Vipin has earned a solid reputation for the sterling quality of his work across the English-speaking world. Connect with him on Twitter.


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How Silicon Valley Strategies Can Help Any Company Grow

Ryan Hogan built his entertainment startup around one of Silicon Valley’s most notorious startup manuals–and it’s working. He doesn’t run a tech company. He’s based in Baltimore, not the Bay Area. But Silicon Valley-style principles still helped catapult his startup to hypergrowth.

Hogan is the co-founder and CEO of Hunt a Killer, a subscription-based gaming startup that sends customers fictional murder mysteries in boxes to solve. Earlier this month, the 4-year-old company earned the No. 6 spot on this year’s Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America, already boasting $27 million in annual revenue.

Last year, it was named one of Fast Company‘s most innovative gaming businesses of 2019. Hogan credits that success to a surprising source: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by entrepreneur and author Eric Ries.

On Tuesday, Hogan joined me on the latest episode of Inc.‘s Book Smart podcast, where we explore the books beloved by prominent entrepreneurs, founders, and notable figures across the spectrum of industry. The Lean Startup, practically a bible in Silicon Valley, helped popularize phrases like “product-market fit” and “minimum viable product” after publishing in 2011.

It’s significantly less popular in other industries, like Hogan’s entertainment world–which, he says, may have given his startup a leg up.”It does seem like an entirely different world: talking about sprints, being able to launch features, and all these other ideas that are really rooted in technology,” Hogan says. “But they translate just fine into any other business, because fundamentally, businesses are all the same.

A business is solving a problem for your customers. You need to understand what that problem is, and you need to understand how to communicate your solution.”

Note: This page will be continually updated as new episodes of Inc.‘s Book Smart podcast are released.

Source: INC

We Got An Exclusive Look At The Pitch Deck Crossbeam Used To Get $25 Million To Help Companies Collaborate During COVID-19


Crossbeam, a startup that helps simplify the process of sharing data between companies, recently scored $25 million in Series B funding in a round that included Redpoint Ventures and FirstMark Capital.

Business Insider has obtained an exclusive look at the pitch deck Crossbeam used to convince investors. Crossbeam’s platform takes data from the disparate programs used by companies to track customer information and combines them to create a single, searchable set.

Co-founder Bob Moore said he was inspired to start the company by his past at SaaS companies, where even seemingly simple acts of data-sharing between companies were stymied by mismatched systems.

Business partnerships between companies have always been complicated. Now the physical isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder.

“How can you do an effective job of building a partner ecosystem when you can’t high five, can’t slap people on the backs anymore and shake hands?” Bob Moore, co-founder of partnership platform Crossbeam, told Business Insider.

The pandemic helped accelerated interest in Crossbeam’s simplifying platform to the point where investors started approaching Moore less than a year after the company’s previous round. In early August, Redpoint Ventures led a $25 million Series B round for the company, joined by FirstMark Capital, Okta Ventures, Slack Fund, Uncork Capital and Partnership Leaders. You can check out the redacted pitch deck Crossbeam used to bring investors on board below.

“It’s a little bit of a surprisingly rabid funding market right now,” said FirstMark partner Matt Turck, who joined the round after Moore told him he’d been approached by other investors. “Five months ago everybody thought the market was going to slow down considerably. Then lo and behold, fast forward to today, it’s actually more intense than it’s probably ever been.”

Moore said the extra funds would go to expanding the company’s free version of its services to help pull more customers in.


“We think that’s the smartest way to go about building a really valuable network where people are active and their use will grow over time,” Moore said. “We’re not rushing into trying to extract dollars from them the first two weeks after they sign.”

When companies partner with each other, they frequently need to figure out what customers they may have in common. But the way companies keep track of their customers varies, making it hard to easily and securely compare data to find any overlap. Crossbeam works with programs commonly used to track customer data, like Stripe and Salesforce, to create a common data set both companies in a partnership can search through.

Moore said he was inspired to found Crossbeam by his past at SaaS companies.

“It was shockingly hard to answer what seemed like really simple questions anytime we were collaborating with another company,” Moore said. “So if we had a partner and we just wanted to know ‘how many customers do we have in common?’ or we wanted to know ‘are my sales reps currently selling to any of the same companies that your sales reps are……..

Read More: Business Insider


5 Tips for Crowdfunding During the Pandemic


With the in a holding pattern and businesses shutting down, you may be wondering if a campaign can succeed right now. Are people going to be interested in funding your next cool gadget or product?

’s numbers reveal that backers are still showing up to support their favorite projects.  crowdfunding campaigns are also thriving.

To those afraid to launch a crowdfunding campaign, I say this is an excellent time to go ahead. While people are cautious about how they spend their money, most are getting on with life and resuming activities they may have paused — including funding projects. And as the number of live campaigns is lower than usual, you can take advantage of less competition and leverage the platforms’ deadline extensions and reduced fees.

Here’s how to make sure your crowdfunding campaign is a success.

1. Focus on community

Community fuels Kickstarted and Indiegogo campaigns. If you have a strong community, build on it. Engage with your audience. Find new ways to pique their interest and regularly update them about product delivery or delays. Consumers have more time to browse and buy products than they used to, so they’ll seek out something that resonates with them. Attract attention with the right messaging and product discounts.

2. Level up promotion

As people make more deliberate money decisions, your job is to be more convincing in your pitch. Give backers strong reasons for funding your project. Invest in ads, doing aggressive A/B testing to get your messaging and visuals right. Spend smartly on social advertising, not more.

Related: How to Kickstart Your Capital Funding

3. Increase your outreach efforts

Start or ramp up how often you send out press releases, reach out for influencer , and guest post, to name a few outreach strategies. People are spending more time online, scanning for content. Address the demand by sending out two guest posts a week instead of one, for example. Add to your content, engaging with your audience and showcasing the impact your product can have.

4. Plan for a relaunch if you are having supply chain issues

If your product relies on supplies from a region with production slowdowns and you have limited options for workarounds, communicate that to your community. Most likely, they will continue to support you through the delay.

Related: 12 Key Strategies to a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

If you see a dwindling in your funding despite the , marketing and promotion, plan for a relaunch. A relaunch in the next few months may prove to be more effective than stalling a campaign that can’t deliver because of supply-chain issues.

5. Communicate

Regardless of your crowdfunding journey and current status, communication is key to running a successful campaign. Talk to your suppliers and shippers. Keep your community informed, communicating any setbacks or issues you experience. Going silent when you encounter challenges will not help you achieve your goals.

No matter what your situation, give your backers the benefit of knowing the truth. They will likely understand and may try to meet you where you are. Continue to press on for the best outcome and keep involving your backers. That’s how to succeed today.

Related: Beyond Kickstarter: 10 Niche Crowdfunding Platforms for Startups

By: Sohail Khan Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer


Billionaire Tech Entrepreneur Tom Siebel Built A Massive Compendium Of Covid-19 Datasets. Some 2,000 Researchers Now Use It


Billionaire tech entrepreneur Tom Siebel struck gold with Siebel Systems, which he sold to Oracle in 2006, and is trying again with artificial intelligence firm, valued at $3.3 billion. But as the pandemic hit, business slowed and he spent weeks immersed in how to use data to help Covid-19 researchers. He set up a so-called “data lake” of Covid-19 information, culled from Johns Hopkins, the World Health Organization, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the Covid Tracking Project and dozens of other organizations that researchers could access in one place for free.

All told, he says, some 2,000 active users from around the world are now working with this compendium of datasets to research the course of the disease and ways to mitigate it. Among the users, he says, are researchers at the National Institutes of Health, MIT and various pharmaceutical companies.

“What’s difficult about these data sets is making all the connections. All of these data sets are extraordinarily large with tens of thousands of fields, and hundreds of millions of records. In order to make them useful for analytics you need to connect issues like comorbidity and infection rates,” he says. “The number of things we have connected is mind-numbing.”

Siebel, 67, is in a unique position to create a compendium of data sets. He spent more than a decade and, he says, nearly $1 billion building the technology underlying, which offers predictive analytics to customers that include 3M, Royal Dutch Shell and the U.S. Air Force. His Redwood City, California-based business has grown rapidly, passing $160 million in revenue for the fiscal year ended in April. Yet as the pandemic hit the United States this spring, Siebel–who expects both a recession and a massive shakeout among AI companies–became one of more than a dozen billionaires to borrow money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, accessing between $5 million and $10 million, according to data from the Small Business Admnistration. (For more on Siebel and other billionaires who’ve borrowed from the PPP, see our online feature; for more on, see our 2017 magazine story.) cleaned up the data sets using the automated tools it developed to help its corporate customers so that researchers could access data that is structured, readable by machine and free of anomalies. The effort began with 11 data sets, published in April, and expanded over time to include 32 in June. Siebel says that he intends to continuing adding new datasets to the data lake, which is hosted on AWS, over time.

“This is a natural application of AI,” Siebel says. “There are a lot of applications of AI that we both know are a little scary and onerous, and this is one that is potentially enormously socially beneficial.”


The data effort is one of two Covid-19 projects that Siebel launched this spring. The other, called the Digital Transformation Institute, is giving away more than $300 million in grants and in-kind resources to data-driven, Covid-19 research projects in partnership with Microsoft. The University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are managing that consortium, which has funded 26 projects to date.

“We’re doing our best to help advance the underlying science that will make this problem go away,” Siebel says. “Until we make this problem go away, I don’t think we’re going to get this economy back on its feet.”

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I’m a senior editor at Forbes, where I cover manufacturing, industrial innovation and consumer products. I previously spent two years on the Forbes’ Entrepreneurs team. It’s my second stint here: I learned the ropes of business journalism under Forbes legendary editor Jim Michaels in the 1990s. Before rejoining, I was a senior writer or staff writer at BusinessWeek, Money and the New York Daily News. My work has also appeared in Barron’s, Inc., the New York Times and numerous other publications. I’m based in New York, but my family is from Pittsburgh—and I love stories that get me out into the industrial heartland. Ping me with ideas, or follow me on Twitter @amyfeldman.



Japanese Startups Harness Cloud Healthcare To Tackle COVID-19 And Clinical Trials


While countries around the world grapple with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Japanese startups are accelerating the deployment of telemedicine and clinical trials, important tools to overcome the pandemic as well as future disease outbreaks.

Legacy healthcare procedures and regulations have slowed the development of more efficient ways to provide medical care and perform clinical research. The coronavirus pandemic is speeding the transformation of conventional medicine into digital health, comprising everything from telemedicine to diagnoses supported by artificial intelligence. Japanese entrepreneurs are seizing this opportunity to provide unique solutions in Japan and overseas.

Delivering healthcare in a pandemic

Over the past few months, Tokyo-based MICIN has seen unprecedented demand for Curon, its telemedicine solution, as patients and healthcare providers try to minimize coronavirus infections. The service is helping popularize telemedicine in Japan. Curon is an app from MICIN that lets users fill out health questionnaires, schedule appointments with doctors, consult with them over video, and pay for services. They can also arrange for prescriptions to be sent to pharmacies and have medicine delivered. The cost is as little as 300 yen ($2.79) per session.

“What we wanted to do is help patients and physicians use telemedicine easily and painlessly,” says Hara Seigo, cofounder and CEO of MICIN. “For patients, the entire experience, from booking a consult to medicine delivery, is seamless. The app can also gather important healthcare data from medical devices, such as blood pressure monitors, for review by doctors. For healthcare providers, adoption is as easy as possible because patients pay for the telemedicine service.”

Curon was launched in April 2016, about five months after Hara founded MICIN along with Kusama Ryoichi and Shiohama Ryushi. Hara began his career in medical practice, working as a hospital physician before moving to a Japanese think tank to do health policy research and recommendations. After graduating business school in the United States, he took a job in a consulting firm with clients including pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers.

“I’ve been involved in healthcare in various capacities, but my passion has always been to help the healthcare system in Japan,” says Hara. “When I was a doctor, patients diagnosed with disease or facing death often voiced regret about not knowing earlier. I want to eliminate this kind of regret through entrepreneurship. That’s why our vision is that everyone lives their life with dignity. I also enjoy creating value from scratch with my trusted colleagues.”

MICIN applied for and received approval to use Japan’s sandbox deregulation scheme in 2018, when the government began telemedicine-related reimbursements. Users suffering COVID-19- or influenza-like symptoms have been able to use MICIN’s Curon platform for consultations without fear of spreading infection by visiting clinics. Hara also believes telemedicine apps like Curon can improve access to medical care, even in countries like Japan that have advanced, universal healthcare systems.

With the surge in interest due to the pandemic, Curon has been used by tens of thousands of patients in Japan and at more than 4,000 hospitals and clinics nationwide. Meanwhile, MICIN is focused on adding features such as predicting disease from symptoms, promoting telemedicine with patient platforms such as Japan’s MedicalNote, and collaborating with academics to gather evidence of the benefits of telemedicine.

“We’re hoping telemedicine will be a game changer in Japan,” says Hara. “There will be a new normal where more patients and doctors can use telemedicine as a matter of course.”

Less paper, more productivity

Before a vaccine can be developed for the new coronavirus, therapeutic drugs will continue to play a critical role, and clinical trials are vital in evaluating both vaccine and therapeutic drug candidates. But clinical trials require time and money and are prone to delays. They also involve multiple stakeholders in different locations and a complex array of regulations.

Agatha is a Tokyo-based startup that’s taking some of the pain points out of clinical trials by providing automated processes for creating, managing and tracking clinical trial documents. Agatha offers a cloud-based system that connects all participants, allowing them to share documents, communicate and collaborate. This is a huge advantage because a single clinical trial can involve over 100 hospitals, multiple manufacturers and thousands of patients.

Traditionally, this has been a paper-driven process involving trial protocols, consent forms and monthly reports up to 300 pages long. Agatha’s system is compliant with regulations in Japan, the U.S. and Europe relating to health records, clinical trial regulations and rules relating to long-term storage of records.

“Our solution is to remove the paper and put everything online,” says Agatha cofounder and CEO Kamakura Chiemi. “What makes us unique is that we can offer this solution for both hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, while most other companies serve one or the other.”

Kamakura became an entrepreneur through a chance discovery. After earning an MBA at Rice University in Texas, she returned to Japan and was working in business development at a Japanese conglomerate when she visited a group hospital and came upon big stacks of paper being used for a clinical trial. Intrigued, she learned that hospitals were going through two tons of paper annually, but only drug makers could afford the $2 million software solutions offered by her company.

In 2015, she established Agatha to deliver on her vision of a cloud-based solution at a price more than 100 times less than that of her former employer. Agatha now has about 200 clients, of which approximately half are hospitals and half are pharmaceuticals and medical device makers.

Agatha has seen increased demand amid the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan, as pharmaceutical firms and research organizations have become reluctant to dispatch workers to hospitals. Building on its success, Agatha is now aiming to add artificial intelligence features to its services while expanding its business outside Japan. With offices in France and the U.S., a French COO and a new head of North American operations, Agatha is well positioned to build its business abroad. New overseas customers include companies such as Mablink Bioscience, a French firm specializing in immuno-oncology, and Agatha has built partnerships with firms in countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia and China.

“Our system is very quick, very cost effective and can be used right away,” says Kamakura. “We’re meeting the needs of small biotech, pharma, and medical device companies as well as system integrators in various countries that want to offer Agatha as part of their consultation services. This is all part of our broader mission, which is to contribute to healthier lives everywhere around the globe.”

Note: All Japanese names in this article are given in the traditional Japanese order, with surname first.

To learn more about MICIN, click here (website in Japanese).

To learn more about Agatha, click here.

To learn more about Japan’s regulatory sandbox scheme, click here.

Japan is changing. The country is at the forefront of demographic change that is expected to affect countries around the world. Japan regards this not as an onus but as a bonus for growth. To overcome this challenge, industry, academia and government have been moving forward to produce powerful and innovative solutions. The ongoing economic policy program known as Abenomics is helping give rise to new ecosystems for startups, in addition to open innovation and business partnerships. The Japan Voice series explores this new landscape of challenge and opportunity through interviews with Japanese and expatriate innovators who are powering a revitalized economy. For more information on the Japanese Government innovations and technologies, please visit



Dr. Andre Muelenaer is able to provide the same level of care for patients outside of Roanoke through telemedicine technology. Watch this video to see how the technology works and the convenience it provides for our patients.
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