How innovative Stockholm is shaping the post-coronavirus world

When the world faces great challenges, innovative minds and entrepreneurial spirits often come up with the solutions. In 2020, the need for creative approaches to help us through the coronavirus pandemic could not be clearer.

How innovative Stockholm is shaping the post-coronavirus world
Photos: Anna Fredrixon of Kry and Donnie Lygonis of KTH

Companies founded in Stockholm, a global centre of innovation, are rising to the challenge of increased demand for digital services. Stockholm’s creative energy also continues to see the birth of new solutions-focused start-ups. 

The city actively fosters new innovations through the Stockholm Innovation Scholarship. The Local spoke with two people at the heart of innovation in the city about what’s happening now, what’s coming next – and why innovation is in Stockholm’s DNA.

Get it done at home – from healthcare to shopping

Our ability to do things remotely has been growing steadily for years. Then came the pandemic. Suddenly, doing as much as possible digitally became a necessity – or at least the obvious first choice – for vast numbers of us. This is true of work, shopping, and even seeing a doctor.

Find out how Stockholm provides support, consultation and opportunities to entrepreneurs

Stockholm-founded Kry is a digital health service provider offering help via their app, as well as at their growing chain of health centres, to ensure the right mix of physical and digital medical assistance. You can use the app to get the expert advice of a health professional from the safety of your own home.

Demand for the service has skyrocketed: it took four years for Kry to reach its first million calls from patients – but just one more year to reach two million. You can rapidly be connected for a primary care consultation for all manner of symptoms, with frequent topics including skin rashes, eye infections and anxiety.

“We’ve proven the need for digital healthcare to ensure patients can receive high quality consultations and treatment without having to physically visit a health centre,” says Anna Fredrixon, VP People at Kry. “Not all issues can be solved in a digital environment, so we make sure they’re triaged to the right level. Personally, I have three children and we’re using Kry to avoid going to a physical centre if it’s not necessary.”

The company operates in Sweden, Norway, and Germany, as well as in the UK and France under the name Livi. Recruiting more clinicians to keep up with demand has not been difficult, says Fredrixon. “People are really attracted by the idea of working for something with a purpose, that makes an impact on society,” she says. 

Kry is one of many major companies founded in Stockholm helping people to adjust to the realities of life today. Skype, co-founded by the Swede Niklas Zennström, has been connecting friends and colleagues online since 2003 and experienced a surge in demand as the pandemic spread.

If you’ve been doing more shopping online, you may be one of the 85 million consumers who use Klarna. The shopping app promises to make online payments simple, safe and smooth – a message that could have been created for 2020.

Take your innovation to the next level by applying for the Stockholm Innovation Scholarship

Photo:Ola Ericson/Stockholm Media Bank

A city of connections and solutions

Innovators never stand still. That’s why Stockholm constantly looks to the future. 

“Stockholmers are extremely connected and trend-aware,” says Donnie SC Lygonis, business development coach and innovation strategist at KTH Innovation. “The design, the fashion and the music here all play into the creative need to be on your toes all the time.” 

The City of Stockholm runs the Stockholm Innovation Scholarship to reward creative people with bright ideas – and help them develop their innovations further. If you’re an innovator you can enter across five categories, including ‘simplify everyday life’ and ‘social impact and sustainability’.The winners of each category get 100,000 Swedish kronor and further support to advance their project.

Lygonis says foreign students and researchers he works with are always impressed with how ingrained sustainability is in the Swedish way of thinking. But building a sustainable business also requires profitability, he cautions. “People forget that when they talk about social entrepreneurship,” he says.

A strong engineering tradition is another essential feature of Stockholm and Sweden. “A systematic approach to solving very big problems is part of the DNA strain of Swedish innovation,” Lygonis says, citing companies such as Ikea, Ericsson and Spotify.

Kry’s Fredrixon agrees that Stockholm is “a great climate to work in”. “We have an ecosystem of start-ups, support for scaling up, and angel investors looking for positive ideas,” she says. “We also have a high level of digital access and knowledge and Swedish people are early adopters who like to try new things.”

Inspiration and acceleration 

So, what’s the message for budding entrepreneurs considering making an entry? Lygonis says the best inspiration comes from “the world around you”.

“Today, that means all of them will have a more or less strong tie to the pandemic,” he says. “To address new problems on everything from transport to digital meetings to helping people into work. If social media made us more alone before, I think the pandemic has made us even more alone and we’ll see a lot of things coming up to address that.

“In Stockholm, we’ll always see quick, frugal responses to crisis. We’ve seen breweries producing disinfectants and we bought hand sanitizer that smells distinctively of gin – it’s very weird!”

Lygonis is chair of the judges for the Stockholm Acceleration Scholarship, which is open to finalists of the Innovation Scholarship during the past five years.

“The Innovation Scholarship is designed to help you and find out if something works,” he says. “The Acceleration Scholarship says ‘good job, it worked. Here’s another push in the right direction’.” 

That push means a bigger cash prize – 250,000 kronor – and other help including a co-working space at United Spaces for six months. “I meet people with incredible ideas every day,” says Lygonis. “But innovation is also about doing – that’s usually the hard part.”

As many businesses and entrepreneurs are already proving, in Stockholm the hard part happens with impressive regularity.

If you’re interested in the Stockholm Innovation Scholarship, you have until October 12th to apply for what could be a life-changing prize – find out more here

For members


Eating out in Stockholm: Is this the Swedish capital’s best pizza?

Pizza, people and an environment that will transport you to Campania. Perfect for a dinner with friends, a casual date night or a weekday lunch, writes Lauren Abston in this restaurant review.

Eating out in Stockholm: Is this the Swedish capital's best pizza?

On a sunny, late Sunday afternoon after working up an appetite kayaking in Brunnsviken, my friend and I stop by Magari for lunch.

Walking in, we are warmly greeted by the host who speaks to us in English. In the front corner of the restaurant sits a group of six men animatedly gesturing and speaking in Italian. They have drinks and no food, giving an impression they have been sitting and enjoying each other’s company since their lunch, hours before.

We opt for a table outside under the colourful, patterned ceramic tile and start rifling through the menu which explains the name of the restaurant as well as the origin.

Nicolas and Giuseppe are the pizza chefs who hail from Irpinia, the birthplace of pizza. Their goal is to bring innovation and fresh ideas to classic pizza, and the well-organised menu reflects this as it’s split into classic and contemporary pizza.

In addition to pizza, they have starters, snacks, calzones, and dessert. Saying magari is an enthusiastic way to stress how much you desire something. Our waiter helpfully answers our questions about some ingredients we’ve never heard of, helping us narrow down our pizza choices. 

The eponymous Magari lager, served in a wine glass, is the perfect antidote to my thirst on this humid afternoon; it’s cold, crisp and tastes faintly of tropical fruit. Magari has a concise drink menu with sparkling, red and white wine by the glass or bottle, plus classic cocktails.

Soon after the drinks arrive, our pizza is whisked out. We’ve opted for the classic Margherita Irpina and a vegetarian Nerano, with plans to split them half and half. 

Chock full of cheese on top of fresh pureed tomatoes, with scattered basil leaves and olive oil drizzled on top, the margherita does not disappoint. It’s paper thin everywhere except for the blistered, ballooned, chewy crust on the edges. I cut a piece off for myself with the crimson Tramontina fork and knife, and then I greedily pick it up to eat it instead of continuing to use the silverware.

It’s absolutely delicious, and I eat two pieces before remembering that I am supposed to share, and I offer to cut a slice for my friend.

She hands me a slice of the Nerano. It has fior di latte, fried zucchini and round slices of caciocavallo, a nutty cheese from Southern Italy placed on top. Instead of tomato sauce, it has a zucchini cream for the sauce so the pizza is a lovely green and white. It lacks a little salt; we imagine the zucchini has soaked up most of the oil and salt during the cooking, and it doesn’t compare to the margherita, but it’s still delightful.

We finish both pizzas and remain chatting as another group of Italian men spreads out over the table next to us with bubbling flutes of bollicine. 

As a late lunch, it’s a lagom amount, although we are both eyeing the larger than life cannoli that a family of three orders for dessert. I make a mental note to order that the next time. 

Magari may be the best pizza in Stockholm, and the quality food is heightened by the family feeling evoked the second you walk through the door. Going for a weekday lunch gets you a ton of value, 125 kronor for pizza or pasta, plus salad and coffee.

If you want to go on a Friday or Saturday night, I recommend booking a table in advance or planning to take it away. The best seat in the house is at the bar where you can watch the chefs expertly topping and firing the pizzas in the wood fired oven that takes up the majority of the kitchen. 

Magari Pizza Contemporanea

Rating: Five stars

Location: Sankt Eriksgatan 110, 113 31 Stockholm

Price: Starters and snacks: 40 to 250 kronor; pizza: 130 to 199 kronor; desserts: 95 to 150 kronor

Details: Monday through Thursday from 11am to 10pm. Friday 11am to 10.30pm. Saturday noon to 10.30pm. Sunday noon to 10pm.

This review is the writer’s own opinion. Lauren Abston moved to Stockholm two years ago from San Francisco. She loves exploring all the city has to offer, trying out new restaurants and bars with friends, picking up new Swedish words and learning how to dress for four distinct seasons.