Hi Tim, great to have you here in Umeå. To start with, could you tell us a little about your role in the Enterprise Europe Network?
I have two main roles: matchmaking, and business development. For the first part I help companies find partners in other countries, making it easier for them to engage in transnational technology transfer. Part of that is finding end users, but I also help small companies to connect with distributors. That can be anything from unusual luxury food products, to steel or biotech - I cover a really wide range of sectors.
The second thing I do in the network is a programme called Enhancing Innovation Management Capacity. Basically it’s a series of three modules to assist companies with their IP, their business model, strategic marketing etc, because we’ve seen that these companies often lack experience in running a business, and could benefit from some guidance in these areas.
I also chair the biochem tech sector group within the network. Our job isn’t so much about what we know as who we know, but what we know is the process of business development, and turning innovative ideas into something viable. We’re people with a passion for science, with a good general knowledge about a lot of different areas.
You were on the panel at the Umeå Tech Arena, with the theme Going Global. What did you think of the event?
I thought it was fantastic! I attended the Demo Day as well, getting to see some startups in their early stages, and there were some really promising ideas. I’m really impressed with how much support there is here in Umeå for companies across all different stages of development.
I thought that two companies in the evening,Shimmercat
Photon Sports, were especially interesting, and the speakers were great. If I attended that event as an entrepreneur looking to go global, I would surely have come away with some solid advice.
It was also interesting that one of the speakers said that Swedish companies should be role models, and I think that Swedish companies are very well respected in terms of sustainability and equality. It was great was that the two main speakers were both women, which almost seems like it went unnoticed - but in a world where there aren’t enough female CEOs, that’s pretty commendable.
From the startups that you’ve seen at the Demo Day and the Tech Arena, are there any in particular that really stood out to you?
Yes - a great company called Musikmedel. They’ve developed a series of lesson plans for music teachers, and I think the founder, Per Fransson, has identified a real gap in the market. I met with him last night and spoke about how to refine his vaue proposition, and I think what he’s doing is wonderful.
This is your first time in Umeå. Aside from the Tech Arena, what’s been your impression of the city?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much jaw-dropping interior design in 48 hours. All the cafes, the meeting places… Uminova Innovation also seems like a great space to work, with stunning views of the forest. It’s a beautiful place, perfect for creative people with big ideas.
What kind of possibilities do you see for cooperation between Sweden and the UK?
There’s already a lot happening, which is great. Our main metric is Partnership Agreements (PA), and in the last four years we’ve arranged a total of 129 PAs between the UK and Sweden, in business (76), technology (20), and research (33).
What advice would you give to Swedish startups trying to make it in the UK?
Talk to your local EEN partner. Every company will have a specific question, and a local EEN contact can often be really helpful. Beyond that, get to know the culture; not just the business culture, but the market, the customers. In fact I remember the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden a few years ago, when Petra Mede was presenting, and she did a half-time act about what Swedes are like. It was hilarious, and I really thought they shared a lot of qualities with British people - like obsessive queueing. So I’d say Swedish and British people probably have more in common than we realise!
From Umeå to the UK: Content Central is Going Global
Joachim Ljungquist, CEO Content Central, in London
One example of an Umeå-based startup expanding to the UK is Content Central, an online marketplace for freelance journalism. Founded in 2014 by Joachim Ljungquist and with support from Uminova Innovation, the company connects freelance writers with media outlets, streamlining the distribution process for both parties. Content Central is now looking to break into the UK market, and recently attended the Professional Publishers Association Festival 2017 in London. Uminova Innovation business coach Peter Bäckström joined the company on their successful trip.
The startup met with Tim Benzie several years ago in their development phase, and are now set to tackle the British media market head on, with continuing support from both Uminova Innovation and the Enterprise Europe Network.
Text: Luke Insoll