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Skolar Award judge Nicklas Bergman: “Science is the future of everything”

The Swedish investor talks taking risks and why you shouldn’t mix scientific facts with opinions.

Text: Kristiina Markkanen

It’s the morning after the United States’ Presidential Elections and investor Nicklas Bergman is in a hurry. He needs to be at the airport in a matter of time and the call gets cut off several times because he keeps driving into tunnels. Every time he calls back, though. On a day like today it feels necessary to talk about rational stuff. Like science.

“Science is the future of everything”, Bergman says. This might sound unusual coming from an investor, but Bergman has a niche. He’s known for investing specifically in tech startups and science-based businesses. Science has fueled his curiosity since he was a teenager: in high school he wrote essays on chaos theory and fractal geometry, and when it came to picking university majors, he was torn between physics and business.

”Slush Science Track feels like my home turf more than a general startup conference would.”

Bergman chose business, and essays have turned into investment portfolios. However he still approaches scientific research with the same interest he did as a high schooler. He’ll bring this enthusiasm to Slush as well, where he has several jobs to do: At the Science Track opening event he participates in a panel discussion on accelerating risk-taking between science and business. Later he will serve as a judge at the Skolar Award science pitching finals.

“Slush Science Track feels like my home turf more than a general startup conference would. I’m really looking forward to this event, it’s an extremely interesting setup.”

You can’t build a business without taking risks

Nicklas Bergman knows a thing or two about risks and taking them. He spent the time between the beginning of the 1990’s up to 2006 in Romania where he and his father founded and established Volvo’s retail presence ranging from sales offices to workshops.

”When you think you’re ready to start commercializing, wait some more.”

“The inflation was ridiculous, there was no legal framework, no information on anything. But we felt we could do it, we had the know-how, so we risked it. The outcome ended up being really good. In 2006 we had a turnout of almost 280 million euros”, Bergman recalls of his Romanian venture.

That is one of the biggest risks he’s taken this far, and the end result was one of the more successful ones. As Bergman puts it, he has had a fair share of epic failures as well. But let’s not dwell on those right now. There’s definitely room for risks in the field of science, especially when it comes to combining research and business. One of the main challenges in commercializing research is timing, Bergman says and comes up with a handy rule of thumb. When you think you’re ready to start commercializing, wait some more.

Bergman, however, has no time to wait. He’s now reached the airport and has to go through security. You can almost hear the metal detectors as he hurries to get one last point across.

“As the Brexit discussion proved, people are fed up with experts. Climate change, GMO, whatever it is – people get opinions mixed up with scientific facts. We have to get rid of that. If something is scientifically proven, it’s true, regardless of opinions.”

BIO

Nicklas Bergman is an entrepreneur and technology investor, public speaker and published writer. He focuses mainly on investments and business development in emerging markets, nanotechnology and computing, to mention a few. He’s been the founder, co-founder and/or first investor in roughly ten companies and a seed investor in roughly 20 more through a venture capitalist company. Out of all these around 10 companies are research-based. Bergman holds several board memberships and advisory positions in the tech field, such as the positions of Strategic Advisor of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and Senior Advisor at research-based tech think tank TechCast Global.

Bergman will be talking more about research and risk-taking at Slush Science Track's Opening Event on November 29th.

Read more about the Slush Science Track

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