Mink and the Coronavirus: What We Know

Mink are the only animal known to both catch the virus from people and transmit it to them.

#agriculture-and-farming, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #denmark, #italy, #minks-animals, #netherlands, #spain, #sweden, #united-states, #vaccination-and-immunization, #world-health-organization, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science


In the Arctic, Reindeer Are Sustenance and a Sacred Presence

For the Indigenous communities who herd the animals, safeguarding dying culinary traditions isn’t merely about eating but about protecting a longstanding way of life.

#agriculture-and-farming, #arctic-regions, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #finland, #food, #indigenous-people, #meat, #norway, #reindeer, #samis-ethnic-group, #sweden


Hej! Amazon opens Amazon.se in Sweden to expand in Europe

Amazon is the biggest online retailer in Europe, and today it took the next step in making that effort more localized. The company has launched a dedicated portal for Sweden at Amazon.se — giving Swedish shoppers, third-party merchants, and itself, a local URL — and a local logistics system, and a local marketing push — for buying and selling goods and services online.

Sweden, as the world’s 10th biggest economy by GDP, is a key market for Amazon and its growth strategy.

But the news comes at a time when large tech companies, and Amazon in particular, continue to be scrutinized in Europe over issues of competition and tax payments — or more specifically, the lack of tax payments. On the former, the European Commission earlier this year opened an investigation into antitrust practices of the company. And on the latter point, Amazon is currently contesting a €250 million tax bill from the EU that goes back several years to when the company was much smaller, but potentially has wider implications for how Amazon is taxed today.

Amazon said that the local storefront will launch with 150 million+ products in 30 categories — examples of the popular Swedish brands that it will feature include Electrolux, Lagerhaus, OBH Nordica, Ellos, BRIO, Bonnierförlagen and Ifö — and it will provide free delivery on eligible orders above SEK229 ($26) that are fulfilled by Amazon.

It becomes Amazon’s 17th local portal, alongside Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Amazon had already been doing a lot of retail business in Sweden.

It has long had a system in Europe where shoppers from individual countries where it didn’t offer direct operations were redirected to those closest to them. Amazon URLs localized to Denmark, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Poland, for example, all default to Amazon’s German site (Amazon.de) but see the text and some specialized content presented in each respective language. (And this is also where Amazon.se pointed until today.)

But this latest move is about doubling down on the potential of the country, both as a place to tap merchants and shoppers, and compete potentially more aggressively against homegrown merchants like Ikea and H&M.

“We are thrilled to launch Amazon.se and to be able to offer Swedish customers a selection of more than 150 million products, including tens of thousands of products from local Swedish businesses,” said Alex Ootes, Vice President, European Expansion for Amazon, in a statement  “Today is only the start of Amazon.se. We will continue to work hard to earn the trust of Swedish customers by growing our product range, ensuring low prices, and providing a convenient and trusted shopping experience.”

Considering that Sweden is the 10th-biggest economy in terms of GDP, it’s perhaps a surprise that it took so long. Amazon, however, has been known for taking a slow approach to global rollouts of certain products (the Kindle, for example, took years to break out of its home market of the US).

All that is not to say that Amazon hasn’t been operating other direct businesses in the country. It has an extensive set up in Sweden for its AWS cloud business, and just earlier this month it turned on its first European wind farm to produce clean energy, which was built in Sweden to power its Swedish AWS data centers.

For local merchants, it will give them another more direct online marketplace to sell goods to local customers who already know their brands, but have until now getting most of their business through Amazon in other countries.

“The opportunities on Amazon are enormous. Amazon has grown to become our most important channel for exports, and within the first months of working with Amazon we were cash flow positive,” said Pierre Magnusson, head of e-commerce at N!CK’S, a Swedish healthy snack business, in a statement. “N!CK’S continues to grow and has become one of the best-selling brands within our category, and we are still seeing 50% year-on-year growth in the EU Amazon stores alone.”

Elisabet Sandström, CEO of Miss Mary of Sweden AB, a manufacturer of high quality lingerie, added: “Amazon is an important channel for our expansion in Europe and the US, and we now look forward to selling through the Swedish Store when Amazon opens in our home country. Our sales on Amazon have increased steadily by over 50% per year, and Amazon is our fastest growing channel. Germany is currently Miss Mary’s largest customer base, and when we entered Amazon.de we noticed an immediate sales increase. We now appreciate the opportunity to reach new Swedish customers and make them happy.”

#amazon, #ecommerce, #europe, #sweden


Herd Immunity? Or ‘Mass Murder’?

A proposal to let people with low risk of infection live without constraint could lead to a million or more preventable deaths.

#centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #institute-for-health-metrics-and-evaluation, #medicine-and-health, #shutdowns-institutional, #sweden, #trump-donald-j, #united-states


Ikea Will Buy Back Some Used Furniture

The program, part of the company’s larger efforts to combat climate change, will be available in 27 countries, but not the United States.

#black-friday-and-cyber-monday-shopping, #furniture, #great-britain, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #ikea, #shopping-and-retail, #sweden


‘We Were Bulletproof’: As Child Soldiers Grow Up, Legacy of War Lingers

Twin leaders of Myanmar’s God’s Army were once thought to have magical powers. Now adults, they are contending with the trauma of exile, alcohol and loss.

#auckland-new-zealand, #defense-and-military-forces, #foreign-workers, #gods-army, #htoo-johnny, #htoo-luther, #immigration-and-emigration, #karen-national-union, #myanmar, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #sweden, #thailand


Pandemic Exposes Holes in Sweden’s Generous Social Welfare State

Decades of budget-cutting and market reforms laid the ground for a wave of death in Swedish nursing homes.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #elder-care, #labor-and-jobs, #nursing-homes, #politics-and-government, #sweden, #taxation, #wages-and-salaries


Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life, and the Battle for Her Seat

In a two-part special, we reflect on the achievements of an American legal giant and examine the fight to replace her on the Supreme Court.

#deaths-obituaries, #ginsburg-ruth-bader, #greenhouse-linda, #supreme-court-us, #sweden, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights


The Age of Electric Cars Is Dawning Ahead of Schedule

Battery prices are dropping faster than expected. Analysts are moving up projections of when an electric vehicle won’t need government incentives to be cheaper than a gasoline model.

#automobiles, #baden-wurttemberg-germany, #batteries, #bayerische-motorenwerke-ag, #carnegie-mellon-university, #electric-and-hybrid-vehicles, #energy-department, #environmental-protection-agency, #european-union, #factories-and-manufacturing, #ford-henry, #frankfurt-germany, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hyundai-motor-co, #karlsruhe-institute-of-technology, #kelley-blue-book-co, #lucid-motors-inc, #musk-elon, #renault-sa, #sweden, #tesla-motors-inc, #volkswagen-ag, #wood-mackenzie-ltd


France and Sweden Confirm Novichok Poisoning of Navalny, Backing Germany

The evidence that Moscow attempted to murder Russia’s most visible opposition politician hardens. But for now, Germany and its allies are still struggling to respond.

#assassinations-and-attempted-assassinations, #charite-universitatsmedizin-berlin-germany, #france, #international-relations, #merkel-angela, #navalny-aleksei-a, #poisoning-and-poisons, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #sweden


Trump advisor reportedly wants to let COVID-19 spread, repeat Sweden’s mistakes

A serious man in a business suit sits with his hands folded in his lap.

Enlarge / Member of the coronavirus task force Scott Atlas listens to US President Donald Trump during a briefing at the White House August 10, 2020, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI )

A new advisor to President Donald Trump is reportedly advocating that the pandemic coronavirus spread largely unrestrained so that the United States can reach “herd immunity”—an idea that infectious disease experts call “absolutely absurd,” “simply wrong,” and a strategy that actually amounts to the absence of a strategy, which could leave hundreds of thousands of more Americans dead.

Still, according to reporting by The Washington Post, the idea is being pushed by Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who began advising Trump in August. In his short tenure so far, Professor Atlas has repeatedly made statements contrary to scientific evidence, such as saying that children do not spread the virus.

Officials say Atlas was recruited to the advisory role counter the advice of Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. One senior administration official said Atlas, who has no background in infectious diseases, sees himself as the “anti-Dr. Fauci.”

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#covid-19, #herd-immunity, #immunity, #infectious-disease, #public-health, #science, #scott-atlas, #sweden, #trump, #who


Atlassian acquires asset management company Mindville

Atlassian today announced that it has acquired Mindville, Jira-centric enterprise asset management firm based in Sweden. Mindville’s over 1,7000 customers include the likes of NASA, Spotify and Samsung.

Image Credits: Atlassian

With this acquisition, Atlassian is getting into a new market, too, by adding asset management tools to its lineup of services. The company’s flagship product is Mindville Insights, which helps IT, HR, sales, legal and facilities to track assets across a company. It’s completely agnostic as to which assets you are tracking, though, given Atlassian’s user base, most companies will likely use it to track IT assets like servers and laptops. But in addition to physical assets, you can also use the service to automatically import cloud-based servers from AWS, Azure and GCP, for example, and the team has built connectors to services like Service Now and Snow Software, too.

Image Credits: Mindville

“Mindville Insight provides enterprises with full visibility into their assets and services, critical to delivering great customer and employee service experiences. These capabilities are a cornerstone of IT Service Management (ITSM), a market where Atlassian continues to see strong momentum and growth,” Atlassian’s head of tech teams Noah Wasmer writes in today’s announcement today.

Co-founded by Tommy Nordahl & Mathias Edblom, Mindville never raised any institutional funding, according to Crunchbase. The two companies also didn’t disclose the acquisition price.

Like some of Atlassian’s other recent acquisitions, including Code Barrel, the company was already an Atlassian partner and successfully selling its service in the Atlassian Marketplace.

“This acquisition builds on Atlassian’s investment in [IT Service Management], including recent acquisitions like Opsgenie for incident management, Automation for Jira for code-free automation, and Halp for conversational ticketing,” Atlassian’s Wasmer writes.

The Mindville team says it will continue to support existing customers and that Atlassian will continue to build on Insight’s tools while it works to integrate them with Jira Service Desk. That integration, Atlassian argues, will give its users more visibility into their assets and allow them to deliver better customer and employee service experiences.

Image Credits: Mindville

“We’ve watched the Insight product line be used heavily in many industries and for various disciplines, including some we never expected! One of the most popular areas is IT Service Management where Insight plays an important role connecting all relevant asset data to incidents, changes, problems, and requests,” write Mindville’s founders in today’s announcement. “Combining our solutions with the products from Atlassian enables tighter integration for more sophisticated service management, empowered by the underlying asset data.”

#atlassian, #business, #computing, #enterprise, #exit, #incident-management, #jira, #samsung, #service-now, #software, #spotify, #startups, #sweden, #tc


Imint: the Swedish firm that gives Chinese smartphones an edge in video production

If your phone takes amazing photos, chances are its camera has been augmented by artificial intelligence embedded in the operating system. Now videos are getting the same treatment.

In recent years, smartphone makers have been gradually transforming their cameras into devices that capture data for AI processing beyond what the lens and sensor pick up in a single shot. That effectively turns a smartphone into a professional camera on auto mode and lowers the bar of capturing compelling images and videos.

In an era of TikTok and vlogging, there’s a huge demand to easily produce professional-looking videos on the go. Like still images, videos shot on smartphones rely not just on the lens and sensor but also on enhancement algorithms. To some extent, those lines of codes are more critical than the hardware, argued Andreas Lifvendahl, founder and chief executive of Swedish company Imint, whose software now enhances video production in roughly 250 million devices — most of which come from Chinese manufacturers.

“[Smartphone makers] source different kinds of camera solutions — motion sensors, gyroscopes, and so on. But the real differentiator, I would say, is more on the software side,” Lifvendahl told TechCrunch over a phone call.

Smart video recording

Imint started life in 2007 as a spin-off academic research team from Uppsala University in Sweden. It spent the first few years building software for aerial surveillance, just as many cutting-edge innovations that find their first clients in the defense market. In 2013, Lifvendahl saw the coming of widespread smartphone adaptation and a huge opportunity to bring the same technology used in defense drones into the handsets in people’s pockets.

“Smartphone companies were investing a lot in camera technology and that was a clever move,” he recalled. “It was very hard to find features with a direct relationship to consumers in daily use, and the camera was one of those because people wanted to document their life.”

“But they were missing the point by focusing on megapixels and still images. Consumers wanted to express themselves in a nice fashion of using videos,” the founder added.

Source: Imint’s video enhancement software, Vidhance

The next February, the Swedish founder attended Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to gauge vendor interest. Many exhibitors were, unsurprisingly, Chinese phone makers scouring the conference for partners. They were immediately intrigued by Imint’s solution, and Lifvendahl returned home to set about tweaking his software for smartphones.

“I’ve never met this sort of open attitude to have a look so quickly, a clear signal that something is happening here with smartphones and cameras, and especially videos,” Lifvendahl said.

Vidhance, Imint’s video enhancement software suite mainly for Android, was soon released. In search of growth capital, the founder took the startup public on the Stockholm Stock Exchange at the end of 2015. The next year, Imint landed its first major account with Huawei, the Chinese telecoms equipment giant that was playing aggressive catch-up on smartphones at the time.

“It was a turning point for us because once we could work with Huawei, all the other guys thought, ‘Okay, these guys know what they are doing,’” the founder recalled. “And from there, we just grew and grew.”

Working with Chinese clients

The hyper-competitive nature of Chinese phone makers means they are easily sold on new technology that can help them stand out. The flipside is the intensity that comes with competition. The Chinese tech industry is both well-respected — and notorious — for its fast pace. Slow movers can be crushed in a matter of a few months.

“In some aspects, it’s very U.S.-like. It’s very straight to the point and very opportunistic,” Lifvendahl reflected on his experience with Chinese clients. “You can get an offer even in the first or second meeting, like, ‘Okay, this is interesting, if you can show that this works in our next product launch, which is due in three months. Would you set up a contract now?’”

“That’s a good side,” he continued. “The drawback for a Swedish company is the demand they have on suppliers. They want us to go on-site and offer support, and that’s hard for a small Swedish company. So we need to be really efficient, making good tools and have good support systems.”

The fast pace also permeates into the phone makers’ development cycle, which is not always good for innovation, suggested Lifvendahl. They are reacting to market trends, not thinking ahead of the curve — what Apple excels in — or conducting adequate market research.

Despite all the scrambling inside, Lifvendahl said he was surprised that Chinese manufacturers could “get such high-quality phones out.”

“They can launch one flagship, maybe take a weekend break, and then next Monday they are rushing for the next project, which is going to be released in three months. So there’s really no time to plan or prepare. You just dive into a project, so there would be a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up in four or five weeks. You are trying to tie hundreds of different pieces together with fifty different suppliers.”

High-end niche

Imint is one of those companies that thrive by finding a tough-to-crack niche. Competition certainly exists, often coming from large Japanese and Chinese companies. But there’s always a market for a smaller player who focuses on one thing and does it very well. The founder compares his company to a “little niche boutique in the corner, the hi-fi store with expensive speakers.” His competitors, on the other hand, are the Walmarts with thick catalogs of imaging software.

The focused strategy is what allows Imint’s software to enhance precision, reduce motion, track moving objects, auto-correct horizon, reduce noise, and enhance other aspects of a video in real-time — all through deep learning.

About three-quarters of Imint’s revenues come from licensing its proprietary software that does these tricks. Some clients pay royalties on the number of devices shipped that use Vidhance, while others opt for a flat annual fee. The rest of the income comes from licensing its development tools or SDK, and maintenance fees.

Imint now supplies its software to 20 clients around the world, including the Chinese big-four of Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo as well as chip giants like Qualcomm and Mediatek. ByteDance also has a deal to bake Imint’s software into Smartisan, which sold its core technology to the TikTok parent last year. Imint is beginning to look beyond handsets into other devices that can benefit from high-quality footage, from action cameras, consumer drones, through to body cameras for law enforcement.

So far, the Swedish company has been immune from the U.S.-China trade tensions, but Lifvendahl worried as the two superpowers move towards technological self-reliance, outsiders like itself will have a harder time entering the two respective markets.

“We are in a small, neutral country but also are a small company, so we’re not a strategic threat to anyone. We come in and help solve a puzzle,” assured the founder.

#artificial-intelligence, #asia, #china, #computer-vision, #hardware, #imint, #sweden, #tc, #tiktok, #video, #vidhance


What Do Sweden and Mexico Have in Common? A Feminist Foreign Policy

Six years after Sweden adopted a feminist foreign policy, several other countries are following its lead, raising pressure on the U.S. to do the same.

#international-relations, #international-trade-and-world-market, #sweden, #united-states-politics-and-government, #women-and-girls


She Found Her Voice in a W.N.B.A. Locker Room, Then Used It in Sweden

Amanda Zahui B. wanted to rush back to the U.S. after George Floyd’s death. But she realized there was work to be done back home.

#basketball, #black-lives-matter-movement, #black-people, #cash-swin, #charles-tina, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #new-york-liberty, #race-and-ethnicity, #sweden, #womens-national-basketball-assn, #zahui-b-amanda-1993


Sweden’s Ex-Ambassador to China Is Cleared of Wrongdoing

Anna Lindstedt was found not guilty of overstepping the boundaries of her role when she arranged secret meetings over the fate of a Hong Kong bookseller and Swedish citizen who remains detained in China.

#china, #communist-party-of-china, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #gui-minhai, #hong-kong, #lindstedt-anna, #politics-and-government, #sweden, #xi-jinping


Sweden Has Become the World’s Cautionary Tale

Its decision to carry on in the face of the pandemic has yielded a surge of deaths without sparing its economy from damage — a red flag as the United States and Britain move to lift lockdowns.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #deaths-fatalities, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #international-trade-and-world-market, #labor-and-jobs, #sweden, #unemployment, #united-states-economy


European VC firm Pale Blue Dot plans to fund 40 ‘planet-positive’ startups

Pale Blue Dot, a newly outed European venture capital firm focused on climate tech, announced this week the first closing of its debut fund at €53 million.

Targeting pre-seed and seed stage startups, the firm says it will consider software and technology investments with a strong positive climate impact. Current areas of focus include food/agriculture, industry, fashion/apparel, energy and transportation, with plans to back up to 40 companies out of fund one.

Founding partners Hampus Jakobsson, Heidi Lindvall and Joel Larsson are stalwarts of the Nordic tech ecosystem and beyond: Jakobsson co-founded TAT (The Astonishing Tribe), which was sold to Blackberry in 2012, and is a prominent angel investor in Europe, most recently a venture partner at BlueYard Capital . Lindvall is the former head of accelerator and investment team at Fast Track Malmö, with a background in human rights and media. Larsson was previously managing director at Fast Track Malmö, with a technical background and prior fund management experience.

I put questions to all three, delving deeper into Pale Blue Dot’s remit and the firm’s investment thesis. We also discussed the macro trends that warrant a fund specializing in climate tech and why Europe is poised to become a leader in the space.

Pale Blue Dot is a new VC fund specializing in climate tech, but in a sense — and to varying degrees — isn’t every venture capital fund a climate tech fund these days?

Heidi Lindvall: We think all funds should be “planet-positive” and working for a better world, but it will take time until it is a focus. Still, most funds look at a potential positive impact late in their assessment and will not decline the deal if the startups wouldn’t be significantly pulling the world in a good direction.

Hampus Jakobsson: Focus has both upsides and downsides.

The negative part with being niche is that we won’t do investments in amazing people or startups that we don’t think are “climate-contributing enough” or that the founders aren’t doing it in a genuine way (as the risk of them to paying attention to the impact might lead them to become a noncontributing company).

#agtech, #blueyard-capital, #business-incubators, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #extra-crunch, #fundraising, #greentech, #seed-stage-startups, #startups, #sweden, #tc, #venture-capital


Fears for Volvo Expose Sour Turn in Sweden’s Ties With China

When a Chinese manufacturer swept in to save the Swedish car marque, it was warmly welcomed. A decade later, plans for a fuller merger are being debated in a frostier atmosphere.

#automobiles, #china, #defense-and-military-forces, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #foreign-investments, #li-shufu, #mergers-acquisitions-and-divestitures, #politics-and-government, #sweden, #volvo-car-corp, #zhejiang-geely-holding-group


After 34 Years, the Killer of Olof Palme Is Finally Named

A prosecutor said it had been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the man who shot the Swedish prime minister was Stig Engstrom, a graphic designer, who took his own life in 2000.

#lockerbie-scotland, #murders-attempted-murders-and-homicides, #palme-olof, #politics-and-government, #pretoria-south-africa, #sweden


BlackRock backs Trustly, bank transfer payments platform now valued at over $1B

Online payments are often synonymous with card payments, but today a startup that’s built a profitable alternative, based around making and taking payments by way of a bank transfer, is announcing a round of funding amid a surge of growth.

Trustly, a startup from Sweden that has built a platform to make it as easy (and competitive) for merchants to accept bank transfers as it is to take card payments to complete online transactions, is today announcing that it has raised a significant round of funding from a group of investors led by BlackRock.

In an interview, Trustly’s CEO Oscar Berglund said the company and its investors are not disclosing the exact amount of the investment, but we understand from reliable sources that the deal values the company — which is profitable and had revenues of over $150 million last year — at over $1 billion, and that it will give BlackRock and others participating in the investment (including Aberdeen Standard Investments, funds managed by Neuberger Berman, the Investment Corporation of Dubai and RSIC) a minority share in the business.

For some further background, private equity group Nordic Capital essentially acquired Trustly in 2018 for €700 million ($794 million at today’s rates). This deal represents a partial exit. From what we understand the base valuation also rose with this transaction.

That’s both on the back of growth — both organic and also inorganic, as it merged with US rival PayWithMyBank, last year, to expand its network to touch 600 million consumers — and Trustly’s impressive list of customers. That list has more than 6,000 merchants today and also includes Facebook, where you can find its logo to let people buy ads and pay via Trustly; AT&T, which lets people pay bills using the network; Alibaba.com for making purchases in Europe; topping up PayPal accounts in a number of countries; and sending and receiving money via TransferWise.

This also essentially puts this investment in the hundred/hundreds of million/s range.

Trustly’s growth comes amid a bigger picture of how e-commerce is evolving as it continues to mature and become more ubiquitous — a trend that has been accelerated in the last several months as many have turned away from physically making purchases because of social distancing measures.

When many of us think of online payments, we usually associate the process with using credit or debit cards, or maybe logging into a mobile wallet to complete a transaction. But the reality is that payments are a much more fragmented business, with consumer and merchant preferences changing with each region and including a wider range of options than simply Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and PayPal or some other wallet.

Bank transfers as a method of payment are not at all common in some markets, especially those where cards have become ubiquitous. For example in the UK only about 5% of transactions online are made this way.

But in other markets, this is a very common and well-used route. In Austria, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland, a majority of consumers prefer to pay via bank transfer — respectively the rates are 50%, 50%, 40%, 60%, 45%, Trustly tells me, basing its figures on a number of data sources including some of its payment partners, Adyen, PPRO, Global Data and Worldpay.

And Berglund said that the picture is a positive one for Trustly — and other companies that it competes with, including Klarna (another startup ‘unicorn’ from Sweden, as it happens) — because it seems that bank-based transfers as a payment method is on the rise.

There are multiple reasons for that shift. Perhaps most obviously, we’ve seen a lot of security issues around card usage, including too many stories of malicious hackers breaching businesses’ network security and stealing data and card numbers, and other kinds of card fraud. Even as more watertight procedures are put into place (such as mandatory chip-and-pin transactions in many countries), there remain loopholes and also general unease among consumers.

On top of that are changing tides in consumer-focused financial services. Specifically, thanks to the rise of mobile apps and a plethora of startups that have built “challenger banks” to provide more user-friendly banking, consumers today want and expect more control over their finances.

Using credit cards for many represents a departure from that, given that they are designed to help you spend more than you might actually have to spend, so that you can pay back in increments with interest. And, I’d argue, even debit cards can be a departure from transparency, since you are still not seeing your account balance in real time when you make purchases, and many people have overdrafts in place to again spend more than they actually have to spend.

“I think that bank transfers plays into the younger generation of millennials who just consciously don’t want to get into the debt trap, while also  being used to everything being done in real time,” Berglund said. 

If the story for end users — be they the consumers doing the buying or the merchants doing the selling — is all about transparency, easy user interfaces and simplification, it’s because the work under the hood remains very complex and fragmented. Such is the case here as well.

Trustly’s network, Berglund explained, is based around Trustly itself setting up its own business accounts across a wide range of banks around markets where it is active.

When a user elects to pay by bank transfer, it essentially goes through whatever interface his/her own bank uses when interacting with it directly, which then routes the payment through Trustly’s network to be paid into a merchant’s account.

The system is as secure as an individual’s own online banking interface, which typically will use two-factor authentication to complete a transaction, unlike most card transactions. Berglund says that for this reason, the company has not experienced any of the kinds of of breaches or frauds that you see in card payments.

In terms of Trustly’s business model, it is a customer of the banks, while the merchants are its customers: it charges a transaction fee to merchants who use the Trustly network to receive payments, and Berglund said that the percentage varies but is essentially lower than what they would pay for card-based transactions.

But because payments are complex, this is not the full story. In addition to working with merchants directly, Trustly also integrates with a number of third parties like Worldpay, PPRO, Rapyd and others that use these latter services to integrate a number of payment options through a single API (rather than multiple APIs or integrations) into their check-out stack.

And Berglund added that it’s looking like it might be taking on another new wave of customers going forward. Banks themselves are exploring ways of providing more services to merchants who bank with them, and so Trustly is talking to some of them about the potential of a white-label version what Trustly offers so that they can provide the service directly.

The reason it’s not replicated is the same reason it’s hard to build any financial service from the ground up: Trustly has put in place not just a banking network but the integrations around it, plus the customer service it provides to merchants around the business of payments. That makes it hard to replicate, he added. “You have a huge platform here in the middle of this business, not unlike the platforms that exist for card payments,” he said. “It’s a big system all in all.”

#blackrock, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #recent-funding, #startups, #sweden, #tc, #trustly


What’s up with Sweden?

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden has admitted that the pandemic response he promotes hasn't worked out as well as he hoped.

Enlarge / State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden has admitted that the pandemic response he promotes hasn’t worked out as well as he hoped. (credit: ANDERS WIKLUND/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, Sweden’s government epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, admitted that his plans for how the country should handle the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic hasn’t quite worked out as he hoped, saying there’s “quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done,” according to one translation. There are probably very few public health officials on the planet who couldn’t say the same. But Tegnell’s admission made headlines, largely because Sweden has charted its own path, starting with relatively light restrictions compared to other European countries in the hope that the pandemic’s economic impact would be blunted.

That approach has turned Sweden into a political talking point far from the Baltic Sea, with many people who would be horrified by Sweden’s taxation levels and social safety net suddenly adopting it as a model of minimal government intervention. The role of Sweden in Internet arguments grew increasingly large as opposition to social distancing measures became organized in a number of countries. So, with the country’s coronavirus plan architect saying mistakes were made, it’s worth taking a look at how Sweden handled the pandemic—and what the results have been.

The plan and its economics

Some countries in Europe, like Italy and Spain, were faced with a rapid surge in cases early in the pandemic; others had the examples of Italy and Spain to guide their policy. The end result was that most European countries imposed pretty severe social distancing regulations, banning large gatherings, closing schools, and limiting access to a variety of businesses. In most cases, this has limited the spread of the pandemic, or at least it started to bring an out-of-control situation back into something more manageable.

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#biology, #covid-19, #epidemiology, #infectious-disease, #sars-cov-2, #science, #sweden


Sweden’s Ex-Ambassador to China Is Tried Over Secret Meetings on Detainee

The diplomat, Anna Lindstedt, is accused of overstepping her role in arranging meetings between the daughter of a detained Hong Kong bookseller and two businessmen who said they could help free him.

#china, #communist-party-of-china, #gui-minhai, #hong-kong, #international-relations, #lindstedt-anna, #politics-and-government, #stockholm-sweden, #sweden


Relaxing the Rules of Social Distancing

When it’s time to invite people over, would-be hosts face tough conversations with friends and family on their standards for avoiding coronavirus infection.

#atlanta-ga, #california, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #france, #ohio, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #sweden


Cake brings a Swedish take on e-motorcycle design to the U.S.

Cake has crafted the Swedish edition of electric motorcycle design starting in the dirt.

The Stockholm based mobility startup’s debut, the Kalk OR, is a 150 pound, battery powered two-wheeler engineered for agile off-road riding and available in a street-legal version.

On appearance, Cake’s Kalk has a minimalist stance and doesn’t evoke “motorcycle” in any conventional sense.

That was intentional, according to the company’s CEO, Stefan Ytterborn — a design aficionado and serial founder — who was more of a mountain biker and skier than a motorcyclist, before launching Cake with is two sons Karl and Nils.

“I wasn’t a motorcycle geek…I actually learned how to ride a motorcycle,” he explained on his foray into the business.

Ytterborn has worked in design development his entire career, leaving Sweden for Milan in his early days, developing product lines for IKEA in the ’90s and founding several design oriented companies over the years.

His last venture — outdoor sporting gear venture POC — supplied Olympic gold medalist Bode miller and the U.S. Ski Team with helmets and optics before it was acquired by Investcorp in 2015 for a reported $65 million.

Cake Motorcycles

Cake’s Kalk OR, Image Credits: Cake

Ytterborn’s current company shares some similarities with POC, namely creating products for natural forward motion in the outdoors.

The direction for Cake — according to its founder — was to design a motorcycle from a clean slate, harnessing the advantages of what voltage power could offer to the form.

“I was stoked by the idea of what an electric drive-train could bring,” Ytterborn told TechCrunch . “But then I started realizing nobody is really optimizing the performance of the electric drive-train. Everyone’s trying to imitate what the combustion motorcycle does,” he said.

One of the first things Ytterborn took from that view was engineering a lighter platform with a better power to weight ratio.

A distinguishing characteristic of most e-moto offerings, including the few oriented toward off-road use, is they are heavier than gas motorcycles. Even one of the lightest choices out there for street and dirt use, Zero’s FX, weighs nearly 100 pounds more than Cake’s Kalk OR.

The $13,000 Swedish e-motorcycle has a 2.6kWh battery, charges to 80% in an hour and a half using a standard outlet, and offers up to three-hours of off road ride time, according to Cake. The Kalk has 30 ft-lbs of torque and a top speed of 50 miles per hour.

The street legal version, the Kalk&, has similar specs with a mixed city/highway range of 53 miles. Both have capability for quick battery swaps and a second battery goes for $3,000.

Cake introduced an additional model in 2020, the $8,500 Ösa+, which the company characterizes as an urban utility moped with off-road capabilities.

Cake’s Ösa+, Image Credits: Cake

As a startup, Cake has raised $20 million in VC, including a $14 million Series A financing round led by e.ventures and Creandum in 2019.

The U.S. is a prime market for the company. Cake has a subsidiary in Park City, Utah, a U.S. representative — Zach Clayton — and is poised to open a sales store in New York City this quarter. 

The company has sold 300 motorcycles in the U.S. this year and America makes up 60% of its sales market, according to its CEO.

On where the Cake fits into motorcycle market, “We’re much more Patagonia than Kawasaki,” said Ytterborn,

He described Cake as something developed for a far from static mobility world, where everything about how people move from A to B is being redefined, including the concept of the motorcycle.

That entails creating something that captures the exhilaration of riding off-road for an eco-conscious market segment, put off by the noise and fumes of gas motocross bikes.

“What really got me going was the intuition that we could flip the market upside down [with Kalk],” said Ytterborn.

Cake’s street legal Kalk&; Image Credits: Cake

“It’s silent, it doesn’t disturb, it doesn’t pollute and is the opposite of what non-motorcycle people associate with motorcycles,” he said.

The U.S. motorcycle market could use some fresh ideas, as it’s been in pretty bad shape since the last recession, particularly with young folks. New sales dropped by roughly 50% in 2008 — with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40 — and have never recovered.

At least one of the big gas manufactures — Harley Davidson — and several EV startups, such as Zero, are offering e-motorcycles as a way to convert gas riders to electric and attract a younger generation to motorcycling.

It’s notable that Harley Davidson acquired a youth electric scooter maker, Stacyc, in 2019 and has committed to produce e-scooters and e-mountain bikes as part of its EV pivot. The strategy is to use these platforms to create a new bridge for young people to motorcycles in the on-demand mobility world.

HD’s moves could provide some insight on where Cake might fit in that space. On one hand, the startup’s models could become premium electric motorcycles for the eco-friendly, Outside Magazine and action sports crowd. On the other, Cake could fill a new segment on the mobility product line — somewhere between e-scooters, e-bikes and traditional motorcycles.

“We want to establish a new category where people with an active lifestyle, whether they’re motorcycle people or not, can proceed with sustainability, responsibility and respect,” said CEO Stefan Ytterborn.

One challenge for this thesis could be Cake’s price and performance points compared to the competition. Zero Motorcycle’s FX, while heavier than the $13,000 Kalk, starts at $8,995 and has a top speed of 85 miles per hour.

#america, #cake-motorcycles, #ceo, #e-bike, #e-moto, #e-motorcycle, #e-motorcycles, #e-scooters, #electric-bicycle, #europe, #harley-davidson, #ikea, #investcorp, #moped, #motocross, #motorcycle, #new-york-city, #patagonia, #scooter, #stacyc, #stockholm, #sweden, #tc, #techcrunch, #transport, #united-states, #utah, #zero-motorcycles


Why a ‘Strange and Nerdy’ Book About Eels Is Making Waves

Patrik Svensson mixed natural history with memoir for his debut, which has become a surprise best seller and award winner in his native Sweden.

#books-and-literature, #eels, #fish-and-other-marine-life, #malmo-sweden, #sargasso-sea, #svensson-patrik-1972, #sweden, #the-book-of-eels-our-enduring-fascination-with-the-most-mysterious-creature-in-the-natural-world-book, #writing-and-writers


Is Trump Challenging Mother Nature to a Duel?

He can’t beat her coronavirus.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #fox-broadcasting-co, #germany, #sweden, #trump-donald-j, #university-of-minnesota, #vaccination-and-immunization


Coronavirus Is Making Us Nostalgic for 1999

So is Michael Flynn. Strange things happen when you spend a couple of months in lockdown.

#fauda-tv-program, #nineteen-hundred-nineties, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #saturday-night-live-tv-program, #seinfeld-tv-program, #social-media, #sweden, #united-states-economy, #united-states-politics-and-government


I Live in Sweden. I’m Not Panicking About the Coronavirus.

Time will tell if my country’s coronavirus plan was wise.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #epidemics, #herd-immunity, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #scandinavia, #shutdowns-institutional, #stockholm-sweden, #sweden


As States Rush to Reopen, Scientists Fear a Coronavirus Comeback

Officials are under pressure to restart the economy, but many states are moving too quickly, researchers say. The costs may be measured in lost lives.

#centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cuomo-andrew-m, #deaths-fatalities, #epidemics, #national-bureau-of-economic-research, #resolve-to-save-lives, #shutdowns-institutional, #sweden, #united-states, #wuhan-china


How to Make the Coronavirus Pandemic Even Worse

The president brings instability and confusion to a crisis.

#centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #democratic-party, #politics-and-government, #presidential-election-of-2020, #sweden, #tests-medical, #trump-donald-j, #united-states


In conversation with Icebreaker, Finland’s most active pre-seed VC

Icebreaker claims to be Finland’s most active pre-seed VC. The firm, which also invests in Estonia and Sweden, has backed 38 companies in the last three years out of its first fund, with a 65% success rate so far for companies that have been able to raise follow-on funding.

Two weeks ago, Icebreaker announced the launch of Fund II, with an initial close of €50 million. That’s more than twice the size of its first fund, which topped out at €20 million.

Its remit remains largely the same, however. The company typically invests between €150k and €800k in teams that have “deep domain expertise” and are building globally competitive tech companies according to Icebreaker co-founder and partner Riku Seppälä.

Noteworthy, this goes right to the top of the funnel and includes backing and helping to connect “pre-founders,” defined as individuals with over 5 years of work experience in their domain who are aiming to start or join a tech company. As part of this effort, Icebreaker operates an online and offline community to act as a catalyst for new companies to be founded.

Meanwhile, I’m told that Fund II was signed just as the coronavirus crisis began to take hold and includes the majority of LPs from Fund I in addition to new investors. Lead LPs are Tesi, KRR III, Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company and Elo Mutual Pension Insurance Company, together with 41 other entities consisting of institutional investors, family offices and founders.

To find out more about Fund II and what’s it’s like to launch a new pre-seed fund at a time of such uncertainty, and to understand how Icebreaker thinks about startup life during and after lockdown, I put questions to Icebreaker co-founder and Partner Riku Seppälä.

TechCrunch: What does it feel like to close a new fund right at the start of a pandemic?

Riku Seppälä: Of course, we have been distracted by the mounting health crisis and how the world economy will recover, so the feelings are mixed.

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #estonia, #europe, #extra-crunch, #finland, #fundings-exits, #icebreaker, #market-analysis, #startups, #sweden, #tc


Coronavirus and the Sweden ‘Herd Immunity’ Myth

The country’s approach to the pandemic sets a seductive example. But the United States shouldn’t copy it.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #quarantines, #shutdowns-institutional, #stockholm-sweden, #sweden, #united-states


How Sweden Is Dealing With the Coronavirus

The Swedes aren’t battling the coronavirus with broad lockdowns.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #medicine-and-health, #quarantines, #sweden


U.S. Coronavirus Cases Cross 113,000: Live Updates

A hospital ship heads to New York, and more than 17 states now tally over 1,000 cases. Deaths have surged in Italy and Spain, and Russia is closing all its borders, including maritime boundaries.

#africa, #connecticut, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #cuomo-andrew-m, #health-and-human-services-department, #italy, #kenya, #lamont-ned, #murphy-philip-d-1957, #new-jersey, #new-york-metropolitan-area, #politics-and-government, #quarantines, #spain, #sweden, #trump-donald-j