I would like to share my experience of being part of the Stockholm biohacking community. Last summer I implanted an 880 byte 13.56 MHz NFC chip in my left hand. It was nothing planned but happened one afternoon when I attended a biohacking event at Epicenter, an innovative environment and flexible office space for startups, and listened to Hannes Sjöblad talking about microchips and I felt “Hey, why not?”. 30 minutes later I had a chip under my skin, and just like that, I became a cyborg.

The biohacking community in Stockholm is fairly strong, compared to other countries where there seems to be a generally bigger skepticism towards this kind of human-technology interaction. With Hannes Sjöblad (Epicenter) as front person, there are seminars and meetups dedicated to biohacking. Being an early adopter of experimentation with emerging technology, Hannes calls himself a biohacker activist.

So, what can the microchip implant be used for? I am able to use it whenever there is a NFC card reader, meaning an entrance where one’s card doesn’t have to be swiped but just blipped. I can also use it as tiny storage, for example keeping my business card or Linkedin-link (even funny videos or other unnecessary stuff). SJ (Swedish train company) also support the chip technology for tickets, as well as several gyms and airlines. In the future, the chip will hopefully substitute both wallet and keys. But to be honest, I got it out of curiosity and just for fun, the small scar reminds me not to be afraid of trying new things and always keeping my passion for tech and innovations. Also, it’s a great ice breaker!

Right after I had the chip implanted. Now there is just a tiny scar. 

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VR Sci Hackathon

VR Sci Hackathon

I attended the VR Science Hackathon at Epicenter. As my HCID specialization is in Situated Interaction, I had an interest in seeing what Virtual Reality technology is out there.

I unexpectedly had the opportunity to try the Microsoft Hololens. Such an opportunity is unique as this piece of hardware is quite expensive, and it is not commonly reachable to curious students. A professional showed me how to perform basic gesture interactions with the device. Its responsiveness is better than expected, and I foresee plenty of industrial applications for such technology. I tried a Hololens game, and that’s where I think the device is lacking as the field of vision is limited, and playing a game might become frustrating. Nevertheless, the product is in its first version, and it already surpasses many competing devices. I felt much more comfortable interacting with Hololens than with any VR device available at the event.

The first day of the hackathon was around story telling as it is a central theme in Virtual Reality. VR is known to many as the ultimate empathy machine. I can attest such a thought as I could only truly understand the horrors of the Syrian war after watching a 360 video showing the ruins of Aleppo. Therefore, this hackathon challenged participants to create an experience that would tell a story tackling one of the United Nations goals for the year.

Participating in a VR hackathon made me reflect on the future of my field of study – Human Computer Interaction and Design. VR is nothing new – it has been around for decades – so, why is it finally such a hot field. Maybe it is the ability of using phones as screens that made the technology finally accessible, but maybe it has to do with our increasingly short attention span and how much is needed to capture our attention.

To exemplify what I am thinking about what level of pervasiveness media needs to achieve in order to capture our attention, I could talk about the changes in children’s cartoons. The animated cartoons shown on TV nowadays are extremely irritating for me as they might be too loud, too colorful, and might otherwise some information overload in visual and sound. However, this is what kids like nowadays, and showing children an old cartoon might bore them to tears as my generation’s cartoons might be too static for them.

That’s where I think VR might be the answer to a generation that needs more and more the intromission of technological devices. Their phones might not be giving them enough of a hit, of dopamine, serotonin, or whatever the brain produces as a response to candy crush, Facebook notifications, or what’s app messages. People might soon move into the next digital drug and want to be completely immersed in that alternative reality, a tendency that can also be implied from the broad trend of binge-watching and the success of streaming media.

The day after my class (Technology Innovation Entrepreneurship at KTH) visited the Epicenter, I and other two classmates went to the event “Bootstrapping your Startup” hosted there. So, in this post, I am going to tell you about this experience.

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The aim of the event was to provide the audience with experiences and advices of three startuppers who decided to bootstrap their startups rather than ask for financing from VCs or other institutions. We can define the bootstrapping technique with the following sentences: “an individual is said to be boot strapping when he or she attempts to found and build a company from personal finances or from the operating revenues of the new company”. Thus, when speaking about this kind of startups we do not refer to future unicorns, but companies that has to monetize earlier in order to grow.

Peter Russo led the event and acted as a sort of interviewer and presenter; he founded several Startups and now he is involved in the no-profit business, thus he talked also about his own experience sometimes. The interviewed startuppers were three young guys:

  • Fritjof Andersson (Founder and CEO, RelationDesk.com),
  • Therése Gedda (Founder and CEO at 30minMBA)
  • Andreas Andersson (Founder and CEO of DMG Education).

The discussion started with Fritjof, Therése and Andreas talking about their businesses, the first two RelationDesk.com and 30minMBA operate in the B2B business while DMG Education is in the B2C business. Here a brief description of what they do:

  • RelationDesk.com is an online platform to manage customer relationships through the different social media.
  • 30minMBA supports people in developing their business skills when it fits them with leading business concepts based on great books in audio and text on your mobile.
  • DMG Education is an online music school.

In speaking about their first steps they gave some interesting information such as the no salary time, DMG Education was the one with the longest period with no salary that last for one and a half year. When you decide to bootstrap your company, you need to be profitable in a rather short time and thus saving on your salary is quite “mandatory”.

Each of the startuppers focused on something different and repeated it many times during the event. I think it is what they retained their success factor. Fritjof spoke about the importance of finding people, as both resources and customers, to build and develop a network. In particular he spoke about the method used by him of speaking directly with them. Thus, he exhorted the audience to participate more to startup events where it is easier to find the right resources interested in what are you doing. While Andreas continually repeated the importance for its company of Facebook ADS in bringing people to the platform. He did not know anything about it, thus it had to learn. This to say that when you decide to bootstrap it is more needed an enlarged knowledge rather than a specific knowledge of a selected discipline, and to highlight the importance of learning to use new and different tools by yourself. Instead, Therése focused on the role of a common culture in the company and talked about her case to show us an example of how to create it. In particular, she told us that when you cannot reward people through high salaries the climate on the job could fill the gap.

bootstrapping your startup (2)

Later Peter Russo asked about the main tools used by them and if they have any suggestions. Therése replied and cited Dropbox, Buffer, Wilu, and when asked by the audience about cheap accounting tools she suggested Fortknox and Bilogram. Since the audience asked about free tools Therése said that sometimes it could be better to pay some services, because it is fundamental to choose what to outsource and what to do by yourself, even if you are bootstrapping. In particular, it is important to focus on the startup’s core business.

Then they spoke about the choice of having or not an office. While in Fritjof opinion, it is needed to separate personal life and work, Therése simply said that in her point of view the important thing is that the resources can work where they are more productive, also at home if it is the case.

Andreas touched the argument of prioritizing the resources to success and being efficient. Thus, Peter asked them about which is the most crucial resource in their opinion. Fritjof did not need time to think about it and promptly replied the “time”, how to spend your own time without wasting it in doing activities that do not add value or that it is better someone else does. While, again, Therése talked about company’s culture, she also mentioned that a common well defined culture has to be taken into account overall in the recruiting process.

Later Peter Russo moved the discussion to the lean argument: how to be lean, and what they mean with the word lean. Therése cited side thinking and talked about developing together with the clients. Fritjofsaid the same thing enhancing the importance of speaking with the customers before and during product development to better understand how to meet their needs. Thus, he suggested again to use private meetings and, as he said before, to set these meetings during events.

A guy from the audience asked about marketing tools. Andreas said their first growth was mainly coming from Facebook ADS, but that now their best advertising is to add value and use the students as promoter of their services. While Therése used a cheaper way, like simple stickers at events in which their potential customers could be interested about.

Peter Russo later touched the argument about how to convince people to work for you and from the audience someone asked about payment with shares. Fritjof said that the main problem about this way of paying resources are the taxes. Indeed they are not the same in every country, and in Sweden they are too high (70% confronted to 15% in the USA). Secondly, he said you should consider that it will be a long marriage, thus it is important you are sure they are the right people. Then, to reply to Peter question, they all mentioned paying people with “freedom”, “having fun” and other small things that create a nice job climate.

The climate at the event was really informal and relaxed, it was like meeting together speaking and sharing our expertise. I appreciated the fact that the audience was quite active and diversified: there were people of each age, who already started their business and who was interested in doing it with completely different backgrounds. The audience really guided the discussion together with Peter Russo, and this was the aspect that more I enjoyed there.

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Last Wednesday I went with Niclas to Stockholm Entrepreneurs’ event “Innovation & Disruptive Technologies: Entrepreneurship As A Mindset” at Epicenter. The topic was discussed by a panel with a lot of experience in the field;

Mahesh Kumar – Digital entrepreneur, Innovation advisor

Lisa Renander – Founder of Hus24, ‎Manager & Advisor: Innovation, Entrepreneurship

Yatin Sethi – Innovator and Design Thinker, working on societal challenges

The event was moderated by the serial entrepreneur Peter Fosso, Founder of Global Music Project, NetMusic Entertainment, Stockholm Entrepreneurs.

They covered a lot of big questions about innovation and startups. The panel was very competent so it was really nice and interesting to hear what they thought about innovation in today’s society and also what they thought awaits in the future. The panel interacted with the audience and for example asked a question if we are afraid for anything due to future innovation? Should we? Some responds was about AI and data collection, interesting subjects which could not be covered in depth because of the limited time unfortunately.

Besides the panel discussion Hannes Sjöblad presented shortly Epicenter and his work with implanted microchips, which replaces access cards. He is currently using it to access his office, open his phone and computer and he believes it might replace credit cards and keys in the future. You can read more about it at bionyfiken.se.

Another cool item was presented by Robert Nyman from Google and it was the Google cardboard, http://www.google.com/get/cardboard/index.html. It is a simple cardboard box with two lenses that enables you to experience VR with your phone. Very simple but very fun, check it out.

I had great experience and I can truly recommend Stockholm Entrepreneurs’ events!