Stockholm - What a night!


Thank you Stockholm for a warm springtime welcome.  

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead as quoted by Stina Ehrensvärd Founder of Yubico

As part of saying thank you to everyone who gave their time and effort, I wanted us to take a moment to reflect.  Each new event brings a new launch of relationships started, communities built, new learnings given, and of course inspiration felt!  If you want to follow along and join us on our Ladies Who Launch journey, check out our website for more information on upcoming events - next up Denver. We’re also actively building out content with the hopes that we can be a small part of helping to get women across the globe launching successfully!

So back to Wednesday evening, and I’ll start with a huge thank you to Goldman Sachs and Nordea Bank for sponsoring - the first time we’ve worked with partners. Wow, what an outcome!

Stina Ehrensvärd Founder of Yubico started us off with the amazing Margaret Mead quote above.  She founded Yubico with her “geek” husband and they quickly realized they needed a big vision - to secure the world’s Internet!  She also dug into the importance of getting close to your customers. In her case moving countries and continents to be close to the ones that mattered. If you want to secure the Internet you need Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to be bought in and buying.  We also learned how parenting made the difference for her - from climbing trees as a kid - her parents never wanted her to shrink back from taking risks, to making her kids a part of the build of her company. Yes, women balance it all, but I believe we have it right - you need that work life integration to stay healthy and stay in flow.

Word of the night - going with “need”.  It is clear that Stockholm/Sweden and I’d broaden that to the Nordics, don’t have much of this type of female networking and female connectedness in place today. It’s always interesting to see and feel the vibe of the night. In events from just the past year, St Louis honed in on authenticity while Dublin talked about advocacy.  San Francisco, finding purpose, Belfast you are enough.  

For the Marketing Hustle panel, we brought together Sophia Bendz, part of the founding team of Spotify and now a partner at Atomico, Hanna Lindblad from Houdini Sportswear, Nina Wennerstrom founder WeSport Sports Management and Stina Andersson Founder and CEO of StinaaJ.  In all cases, a big and often very personal mission was the starting point. In many cases, it was because of a lack of women that a product was born.  For example. Nina is the first woman to represent athletes in hockey, and now soccer. Her grit to push through in such a male-dominated arena was apparent. “We know that every inch, every fraction of a second, every last little detail, will make a difference in the end.”  She also suggested a business coach (not that surprising from someone in the world of sports!), and a number of others agreed.  Stina’s story of shoes designed by men, but never worn by men, became the push for her to think differently and reimagine glamorous but chic shoes.  Kelly and I are testing our new StinaaJ shoes right now….will keep you all posted! Hannah spoke to no ads for marketing, just working with influencers who live your brand. We love Houdini’s current “Power to the People” campaign. She also spoke to the power of sustainability in the product as a means for differentiation in the market. Sophia’s path at Spotify often lead them to be scrappy on how to get the app into the hands of their customers. Her example of the ice cream man going from concert to concert, and also persuading bands to record something unexpected that only Spotify had access to.  In all cases telling the background stories of the brand was vital; stories that are authentic and translate the uniqueness of the product.

For the Show me the money: Business and Financing Strategies for Founders panel, Stephanie Cohen from Goldman Sachs moderated Aurore Belfrage, Entrepreneur and Investor, Nina Adam from Nordea Bank’s Start Up & Grow Unit, and Anna Wretling founder of Power Woman. Anna started us off in style, again talking about how deeply personal Power Woman is - the authenticity of the beginning and how she had financed this business from a prior business outcome had everyone on the edge of their seats. She also spoke to how hard it is to build and grow a business, even when you have had prior success. Her comment on “angels truly are angels!” had everyone nodding.  Perhaps a good nugget for us in the Ladies Who Launch community on how we could help each other with early financing. Stephanie drew upon her experiences with Launch with GS to tease out Aurore’s stories on the “theatre” of financing.  Her advice was clear and concise - the decision is made in the first 90 seconds - make sure you have a good pitch!  Aurore also reminded us all not to take it too seriously - it’s rarely brain surgery! Again good to be reminded that in the end we have to remember the why, and not overthink what we are striving for. Nina offered tangible advice on trading off bank debt versus equity or friends & family funds.  Essentially noting that banks are often much later in a company’s financing journey.

Finally we closed with two old friends in conversation.  Such an honor to have my friend and partner at Goldman Sachs, Anna Skoglund interview me!  We couldn’t have had a better lead in from the prior panels, where Aurore and Stephanie had talked about how women often didn’t ask each other for help because they worry about damaging the friendship.  When Anna asked me what she could do to help with Ladies Who Launch the answer was Stockholm! And she really brought it, alongside her friend Annika Sigfrid of Nordea.  The final question on what I’m reading brought out Trillion Dollar Coach and the entrepreneurial quote I think of frequently and how “the marvelous is as permissible as the matter-of-fact” in launching a business.

“Walk on Air Against Your Better Judgement”.

Seamus Heaney is the poet and here’s how he described his thinking. A person from Northern Ireland is naturally cautious. You grew up vigilant because it’s a divided society. My poetry, on the whole, was earth-hugging, but then I began to look up rather than keep down. I think it had to do with a sense that the marvelous was as permissible as the matter-of-fact in poetry.

One of the superpowers of LWL is helping women see that they are not alone in their entrepreneurial journey. We seek to provide a safe and authentic space to share ideas, failures, future hopes, and tough lessons.  Business challenges are rarely novel, and the power of mentors is that they have usually walked in your shoes. So while they may not have the answer, they can at least provide perspective.

Finally, we had numerous night of moments were the women of Stockholm embraced this idea of networking more and creating shared spaces and shared experiences. Here are some comments in their own voice.

“Thank you for having me at yesterday’s Ladies Who Launch, an initiative truly lacking and needed in Stockholm. It was such a privilege to hear your stories, realise that there’s so many life experiences I share with you, and understand that the best way forward is to be supportive and help others where possible.”

“I met a remarkable woman tonight and I'm excited by the network possibilities that she presented, and it was fantastic to be in the company of ALL women. That makes a huge difference.”

“Thanks you for supporting female entrepreneurs. Left with a feeling that anything is really possible yet calm “it’s not rocket science after all!”

"The event was flawless and the speakers were fabulous. I left my job a month ago to join an entrepreneurial accelerator program (<10% women!!) and this event couldn’t have been more timely. I left the event feeling so inspired."

Thank you all – especially those who volunteered their time and made it all seem so seamless and simple.  A big shout out to the women, and the man, from Nextdoor who in the midst of a country launch embraced another community and volunteered night of.  Onwards to Denver and likely Toronto and finally Belfast. Still top of mind is our own scaling and ways to create more ongoing and long lasting conversations between all of the amazing women we’ve met along the way - we’d love any great ideas or advice you have to build and support this community!

Sarah, Kelly, and Nuala



Stina Andersson

Stina Andersson is the founder and CEO of the Swedish shoe brand Stinaa.J. Stinaa.J combines design and European craftsmanship with orthopaedic innovation to create shoes that takes care of the woman walking in them.

The patented inside is a result from hundreds of thousand of 3D scanned feet, 30 years of experience and the world's most cushioning material, invented by NASA. 

Anna Wretling

Anna Wretling took her first running steps at age 38. These steps encouraged her to keep challenging herself all the way to a first-place finish in the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon – the world's toughest one-day race. 

Her exclusive sports brand PowerWoman was created out of the same determination. By women – for women. This is a brand where style and glamour aren’t sacrificed for extreme challenges, but rather add to the strength and power you need to face them. 

Nina Adam
Relationship Manager, Nordea Start Up & Growth

Nina has worked in Nordea since 2009 and within Business Banking since 2012. Nordea's Business Banking unit helps their clients with financing investments, investing access liquidity, automating processes, hedging interest, fx, and other risk etc.

 Previously she worked with companies of the more traditional sense within real estate, industry, retail etc. In May 2018 the Start up & Growth unit was founded in Nordea. Nina is passionate about helping startups and fast growing company’s within tech with their banking.

Startup & Growth has specialized in banking for tech companies and thus they are able to provide relevant and qualitative advice as well as a deep understanding of their business models.

Aurore Belfrage

Tech entrepreneur, political advisor and investor Aurore Belfrage spends her time in the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and international affairs.  She’s an Industrial Advisor to Europe’s leading PE house EQT, she’s a syndicated columnist with leading Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) and a contributor to Politico, she writes, vlogs and hosts a podcast on pressing issues like the environment, geopolitics, ethics, governance and labor/future of work.

Born in London, raised partly there as well as in Saudi and Sweden, with previous lives in venture capital with EQT Ventures, scrap dealing at Stena Metall, speechwriting and attempts at stand up comedy.  Follow her on Twitter @aurorebelfrage or her blog

Stephanie Cohen
Executive Office New York, Goldman Sachs

Stephanie is Goldman Sachs’ chief strategy officer and an ex officio member of the Management Committee. She is also a member of the Partnership Committee, Global Diversity Committee, Firmwide Enterprise Risk Committee and Firmwide Finance Committee. Stephanie leads Launch With GS, the firm’s first for-profit investing initiative with a gender lens. Prior to assuming her current role, she was global head of Financial Sponsor Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) in the Investment Banking Division (IBD).

Before that, Stephanie was sector captain for General Industrials in the Global Industrials Group and a member of the M&A Group in IBD. In 2008, she managed Conflicts and Business Selection for IBD in the Americas.

Prior to that, Stephanie was a vice president in the Industrials and Merger Leadership Groups in San Francisco. Earlier in her career, she worked in New York in the M&A department. Stephanie joined Goldman Sachs as an analyst in 1999, was named managing director in 2008 and partner in 2014.

Stephanie serves on the National Board of Directors of CollegeSpring and as a member of the Board of Stephanie earned a BS, summa cum laude, in Finance from the University of Illinois in 1998.

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Stina Ehrensvärd
CEO and Founder, Yubico 

Stina is the CEO and Founder or Yubico, co-creator of the YubiKey authentication device and a driving force behind the FIDO/WebAuthn security standards to enable a safer internet for everyone.

The company's technology secures access to computers, servers and online services for nine of the top ten internet brands, including Google, Facebook and Salesforce, and is loved by millions of users in 160 countries.

She is a speaker on internet security and entrepreneurship, recognized with numerous international awards, and regularly featured in leading tech media. Born in Seattle, USA, Stina grew up in Sweden, studied industrial product design at college and have since 2011 lived in Palo Alto, California, with her husband and three children.

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Sarah Friar
CEO, Nextdoor and Co-Founder, Ladies Who Launch

Sarah is Chief Executive Officer of Nextdoor, the world’s largest private social network for neighborhoods and Co-Founder of Ladies Who Launch.

Prior to Nextdoor, Sarah served as Chief Financial Officer at Square. Under Sarah’s leadership, the company launched its initial public offering in 2015 and added $30Bn in market cap.

Before her tenure at Square, Sarah served as Senior Vice President of Finance & Strategy at Salesforce. Sarah also held executive roles at Goldman Sachs, as well as leadership positions at McKinsey in both London and South Africa. Sarah sits on the boards of Walmart and Slack, and is currently the Board Vice-Chair of Spark, a nonprofit serving at-risk middle school students through mentorship. Sarah is a Fellow of the inaugural class of the Finance Leaders Fellowship Program, a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, and co-founder of Ladies Who Launch, a network that mentors and inspires women entrepreneurs and business owners.

 Sarah grew up in Northern Ireland and earned her MEng in Metallurgy, Economics, and Management from the University of Oxford and her MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where she graduated as an Arjay Miller scholar.


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Annika Sigfrid
Equity Capital Markets, Nordea Bank

Annika is responsible for Equity Capital Markets globally at Nordea Bank. She is a managing director and part of the diversity initiatives and discussions at Nordea Bank.

Annika graduated from the Stockholm School of Economics in 1997 and has since then worked for 22 years in the financial industry within Investment Banking / Equity Capital Markets.

Annika joined Nordea Bank in 2013 as head of Equity Capital Markets Sweden. She was named managing director in 2016 and took over the global responsibility for Nordea’s Equity Capital Markets division. During the first 5 years of her career she worked as an investment banker focusing on the TMT sector (Technology, Media and Telecommunications) both in Stockholm and in London. In 2002, she moved over to Equity Capital Markets and has since then done numerous Initial Public Offerings, sell-downs and capital raisings with Nordic and European companies. Annika is one of very few female senior Equity Capital Markets bankers in Europe.

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Hanna Lindblad
Head of Global Sales, Houdini Sportswear

Hanna is the head of Global Business Development and Sales of Houdini Sportswear, a progressive and rapidly growing Swedish outdoor brand and a trailblazer in corporate responsibility.

Since 2001, Hanna together with a team of likeminded, have been redesigning business to become a force for good – providing state-of-the-art circular products, offering product-as-a-service solutions and building a co-creative community for open-source innovation, sharing knowledge and inspiring to reconnect to nature.

Rather than focusing on Houdini's outstanding track record in sustainable development, Hanna emphasizes the journey ahead and the untapped opportunities and abundant value in designing attractive and regenerative lifestyle solutions.

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Anna Skoglund
Investment Banking London, Goldman Sachs

Anna is responsible for covering private equity clients in the United Kingdom for the Financial and Strategic Investors Group (FSIG) within the Investment Banking Division (IBD). She is a managing director ally of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Network. Anna is also an investment champion for Launch With GS, the firm's first for-profit investing initiative with a gender lens.

Anna joined Goldman Sachs in 1996 as a financial analyst in the Credit Department in London. She moved to the Communication, Media and Technology Group in IBD in 1998, working on equity, debt and mergers and acquisitions transactions for telecommunications and media clients throughout Europe. In 2002, Anna transferred to the Consumer Retail Group to cover a number of consumer and retail sectors and spent time in the Consumer Retail Group in New York in 2008. She moved to FSIG in 2012. She was named managing director in 2007 and partner in 2018.

Anna earned a BA in International Business Administration from the European Business School in 1996.

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Nina Wennerström
Founder and CEO, Wesport

Nina founded Wesport in 2014 and currently serves as the company's CEO. Nina has over 15 years of experience within the international sports management industry and has throughout her career recruited and represented some of the best athletes in the world.

Further Nina is the first Swedish licensed hockey agent in the history and also the second female licensed football agent in Swedish history.

 Nina graduated from Stockholm School of Economics in 2005. As a tennis player, Nina was the Swedish Champion for women twice (2000 and 2002).

In 2005 Nina joined one of the biggest sport management firms in the world, American firm Octagon.

After nine years in the business Nina started her own sports agency, Wesport.

At Wesport Nina could run her own business with a rentless focus on helping athletes reach their maximum potential. Today Wesport represent 50 clients in tennis, hockey MMA and football.

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Sophia Bendz

Sophia is an Partner at Atomico focusing on Nordic sourcing activities. Based in Stockholm, she advises founders on communications and marketing strategy and scaling their brand. As an active player in Stockholm’s startup scene, Sophia also helps with sourcing and the evaluation of new investment opportunities.

Sophia was the Global Marketing Director at Spotify from 2007-2014, where she built out a strong consumer brand from scratch, while launching and marketing the service globally. Today she is an active angel investor and advisor to startups, and serves as a Board Director at Avanza, Kindred Group and non-profit organization Race For The Baltic. She is also a co-founder of non-profit foundation and has invested in start up’s such as Tictail, Clue, DogBuddy, Shim, Joints Academy, Search Inc, Bokio, DigiExam,, Scout, Brighten, Prion, Simple Feast, and Sana Labs.

With hands on experience from building a brand, launching a product in 56+ markets and growing a team across different continents Sophia can relate to the joy and stress of life as an entrepreneur. The insights and experiences from her years at Spotify is something she’s happy to share as well as insights from the VC world on how to go about raising funds.

Sophia believes in working with people who share the same set of values and want to improve the world through innovation.