Donnie Lygonis is an Entrepreneur, Business Coach, and International Innovation Advisor at KTH-Innovation. Most recently, he returned to Sweden after spending a year in Silicon Valley where he helped start the Swedish platform at the Nordic Innovation House.
What is the mission of KTH innovation and how do you work with shaping our future entrepreneurs?
KTH Innovation exists with the sole purpose of supporting ideas and research results that are generated at KTH and maximizing the amount that meets the market. (KTH = The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden) We are a free early-stage innovation support department at KTH with 16 full-time employees, and our work is focused on helping the aspiring entrepreneurs develop their ideas with a clear focus on customer and market in a very early stage.
What are the key ingredients of a successful international expansion?
To understand from the start that your business is international; the Swedish market is not big enough. So you need to start by understanding customer needs outside of your home market. Traveling to other countries, understanding customer and business culture, establishing your networks, having people on the ground in the new market, all those are important stepping stones to a successful international expansion.
Sweden is ranked among the top countries in several global indexes, from sustainability and innovation to economic development. What core competencies and characteristics do you think enables Sweden to stand out as a leader of innovation?
I think the combination of well-traveled citizens that have seen the world, a high level of digitalization and high-speed internet penetration, a high level of education, and a history of solving big problems for many people. All of these factors contribute to making us look for large solutions to large problems. And with a high standard of quality in delivery, a systematic approach with solutions that work in a larger context, we have a unique situation here in Sweden.
Having spent a year working with the Nordic Innovation House in Palo Alto, what is Sweden’s image abroad when it comes to our innovation culture?
I’d say that Swedes, in general, are considered loyal, skilled and no-nonsense people that do what they say. A handshake is a legally binding agreement, trust matters a lot. And trust is one of the fundamentals in building an innovative culture. Openness is another, with very informal organizations where anyone can speak their mind and come up with ideas. We have fostered a culture of curious, openminded, progressive, highly skilled people.
Philadelphia is a growing hub for health care innovation because of the first-rate universities, hospitals, and pharma communities. In a country that is known for having the highest health expenditure per capita among industrialized countries, how do you think innovation in healthcare technology can improve both the quality of healthcare as well as lower the cost?
I think digitalization is here to stay in healthcare, and with that comes both cost-cutting as well as an increase in quality. And considering the state of healthcare today, it’s not a matter of not affording to digitalize – we’re reaching an inflection point where we can’t afford NOT to digitalize. Concrete examples are patient access to data, personalized medicine, a better healthcare experience end-to-end that run from keeping people healthy, through treatment, to follow up and rehab, it all ties together. Swedish startup AsthmaTuner is one good example where asthma patients can monitor their asthma themselves, Coala Life another one, for heart monitoring.
What key drivers of innovation do you find the most interesting today and how do you think they will change in 5-10 years?
Today’s most interesting key drivers are without a doubt all the concerns about sustainability. The UN 17 SDGs have done a lot to help point us in the right direction here. It’s not a matter of choosing between being an entrepreneur or a social entrepreneur, today all entrepreneurship can be socially responsible AND be good business.