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Claudia Olsson

“I’m an entrepreneur who does research, helps shape policy and who does her best to turn knowledge into value and positive impact in the society.”

What’s your favorite word, and your definition of it?
Exponential. The word is important because it describes how our world can change very fast in areas which are impacted by exponential developments. Many technological areas are experiencing accelerating growth and will redefine various aspects of our everyday lives. We need to challenge and educate ourselves to understand these exponential trends – we are not used to thinking in exponential terms, but rather linearly, and the digitalized future requires a higher level of adaptability from us.

You were named one of the top 40 leaders under 40 in Europe and appointed a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. How do you feel about the future of humanity?
I feel hopeful about our future, as technology is helping society move forwards, improving living standards and helping humans’ to fulfill their potential. I believe that the next 25 years will truly show humanity in a better light as we work to better our planet and vastly advance our previous capabilities. This, of course, requires that we also address the risks of rapid technological change, that we update our education system and our skills and that we start planning for an updated global social contract for the digital era.

To whom or what do you most attribute your success so far?
I am very grateful to all of the mentors I have had as well as colleagues and people I have worked with during all these years. I also attribute much of my success to the education I have been fortunate to receive, both formally and through informal sources. Both my Master of Sciences degrees from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) have contributed to my understanding as an engineer and economist.The program at Singularity University (where I’m now an Associate Faculty) helped me understand more about how exponential technologies can be leveraged to solve global challenges, and Bucerius School on Global Governance trained me to better understand global coordination, collaboration and international affairs. In combination with the hands-on education I’ve received as an entrepreneur, analyst and manager, it has helped me prepare for current and future opportunities.

At what point in your journey did you realise you were entrepreneurial?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial, whether it was organizing projects, student union engagements or businesses. I fully understood my drive to create and build new solutions when I was the Managing Director of ACCESS Health in Singapore, establishing our headquarters in the region. I love seeing plans turn into action and come alive.

What do you think makes you different than other entrepreneurs?
I do believe I share many traits with other entrepreneurs who see problems and work to find solutions to fix them. I also share the passion to build, create and to change status quo. What perhaps differentiates me is my interdisciplinary approach, combining technology, governance and business. I’m an entrepreneur who does research, helps shape policy and who does her best to turn knowledge into value and positive impact in the society.

 

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial, whether it was organizing projects, student union engagements or businesses. I love seeing plans turn into action and come alive.”

What’s the biggest opportunity for you right now?
The biggest opportunity for me is to help companies, governments and organizations navigate the digital transformation and to adapt to the new skills, infrastructures and organizational requirements that the exponential technology development requires. We translate our research and knowledge into workshops, strategy programs and online educational programs for companies who want to prepare their leaders and employees to adopt more digital practices. As an example, we recently launched the Digital Executive Program Decoding X and we are developing internal training modules in digital transformation for our partners.

What’s more important for a startup: cash, culture, or talent? Why?
Culture, because it clearly defines who you are! Having a good and strong company culture contributes towards achieving business goals, helps you on the path to profit and it attracts and keeps the right talent. I’m proud of the culture we’ve formed in our companies Exponential and Swedish for Professionals.

What’s the most important personal or professional trait you look for in an employee or co-worker?
Reliability and trustworthiness is very important – if you can speak openly about success and failures and trust your team, it will take you a long way. In a world where we are moving from more traditional hierarchies to more network-based organizations and decision making, trust will often replace control. Another important aspect is a positive and initiative-taking mindset – if you see a problem, believe it can be fixed, and preferably, don’t wait for anyone to allow you to address it, just try to fix it. That’s what I believe true leaders do.

You’re an SSES alumna. Has SSES influenced or affected your journey? If so, how?
SSES provided me with a creative and constructive environment that helped me to develop and to believe in myself as an entrepreneur and doer. SSES also supported me when I first attended Singularity University in 2010 and has since been an important focal point for the Stockholm entrepreneurship community.

What’s one trend you’re most excited about in the next 5 years?
The incorporation of exponential technologies such as AI, VR, AR, blockchain technology, additive manufacturing and biomedicine into our everyday activities. Imagine for example, how much easier it would be to move across borders for work and education when your credentials and certificates are stored in a decentralized blockchain system- based system and they are universally recognized and verifiable. Or when people-literate-AI reaches a state where it can better understand us and our needs. The opportunities in for example AI and Blockchain technology are vast and we have not even seen the beginning of the adoption yet.

You’re stranded on a desert island with the one thing you need to found a successful startup. What is that one thing?
Tricky question. Can a startup be successful if it doesn’t have any clients on a desert island? I would probably answer that I would bring at least one client to ensure the success of my company. I would also really like to bring a partner or a colleague to help develop the idea and build the infrastructure with me. If none of these classify as a thing, a raft seems wise. I’d open “Claudia’s transportation AB” and take myself off that island to a larger market where I could scale up our impact.

You find yourself suddenly walking up on stage to your own TED talk, without any preparation. What do you talk about?
I would talk about how to embrace new technologies to fulfill our human potential. I could tweak it towards one of the topics on my speaker website,

How can our readers engage with you and your companies?
I keep in touch with many entrepreneurs through LinkedIn, so you can connect or follow our work there. It’s a good platform for professional networking. For students, who are looking for a rewarding extra job, I’d recommend checking out Swedish for Professionals. Exponential AB is currently recruiting a Project Manager for one of our educational programs and we’re also open to engaging interns from the SSES community. If you or any of your senior colleagues are interested in taking part of the Nordic’s most exciting Executive Education Program on digital transformation: check out Decoding X. Looking forward to staying in touch!