Mathias Wikström and Johan Pihl – full transcript of podcast

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Marcel Klimo [01:13]

Welcome gentlemen. Can you please introduce yourselves for the audience and let’s get started.

Mathias Wikström [01:17]

Thank you so much for having us today, Marcel. So my name is  Matthias and I’m currently the CEO of Doconomy.

Johan Pihl [01:24]

My name is Johan. I’m head of innovation at Doconomy.

Marcel Klimo [01:28]

Many people might not have heard about Doconomy. What is the elevator pitch or what’s the explanation to your six year old daughter or son? How do you explain  what Doconomy does.

Mathias Wikström [01:38]

Doconomy aims to provide digital solutions to help us all live in a more sustainable way. And the bottom line is, we believe that people want to contribute to solve the climate crisis, to save the planet. And most of us are sometimes hindered by insufficient tools to do so.

Johan Pihl  [01:55]

It’s almost we connect your financial life to the impact on the planet. And we think that type of awareness understanding, especially how your consumption impacts the planet is a very good starting point for change. We think that individuals, especially consumers, have a opportunity to accelerate, the shift towards a sustainable future.

Marcel Klimo [02:17]

All right. So basically what you’re doing is you’re looking at people’s financial history and financial behavior and trying to match that to  their aspirational goals of sustainability and really keeping the planet alive for future generations. Is that a fair summary?

Johan Pihl [02:32] .

The insight is that everything you buy has impact on the planet and , you need to understand that impact and you need to understand. your carbon footprint linked to consumption, to make more informed purchase decisions over time. That’s what we want to achieve.

Mathias Wikström [02:47]

So basically the way we do it today is in three legs. So one leg is our mobile banking service in Sweden. That’s called, Do everyday climate action, which is a mobile banking service in part similar to many others with one very important point of difference.

And it is that the climate is as relevant in everything, in every transaction and your savings account, in the way you can offset, in the way you can calculate your impact. And these calculations we use in the mobile bank, cooking service , we also sell our secret source to others because we understand that to tackle this problem, we need to engage many people in a lot of organizations. So we enabled any bank, in the world to use our methodology, to also engage an explain to their clients, the impact of every purchase. And on top of that,  we have enabled every brand to calculate the carbon footprint of their products which is an extremely important an d  cmponent, if we are to enable carbon labeling on products, which would be a way to also educate consumers around the impact of their lifestyle choices already on the shelf.

That’s the short pitch.

Marcel Klimo [03:58]

Was that the initial plan? to be  provider to others, to other banks, to other suppliers? Or did you just start off with do or the first bank product and figure it out as you went?

Johan Pihl [04:08]

We started with a concept. Mathias and I, we have a background in marketing and advertising. So we were very convinced on a conceptual level of the type of service that we wanted to provide.

But we realized that  one and two years ago, we were. pioneers  in an undefined market space. So, realizing that we also felt the need to accelerate, and help expand the very market where our service was supposed to be relevant. We decided, early on that, developing a business to business offering was very much in line with our longterm strategic, goal. Basically building the very market that we, try to be part of.

Mathias Wikström [04:47]

I think  it’s a very interesting question. because  the feedback we’re getting and to build on what you are saying is that,  per se, we are  creating the market. We’re creating the space.

But we’re also enabling competitors to enter into the same space. But we choose to see it rather as collaborators than competitors. And sometimes we meet people out of a financing perspecitve that say why aren’t you crazy? You’re giving away your secrets to others. They will compete with you. And by saying that we understand that these are not the investors we should talk to because they think that we can save e verything through one component, one solution, one platform, one company. And that’s not the case. It has taken a long time and many companies and many people to get into position we are with the problem we’re facing in order to tackle that we need to engage a lot of energy and  a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of knowledge to enable the insights needed for people to understand the impact that they have. But also the opportunities that a change of lifestyle or other purchase decisions can lead to out of a positive perspective. We’re not here to judge, we’re here to help.

Johan Pihl [05:57]

And I think there’s a great sense. Going back to this decision of actually developing a business to business offering and per se, inviting competitors, you have to realize  the long term purpose there addressing climate change is a huge undertaking requires, a multitude of, companies, brands, governments coming together. So for us to, offer this ability to measure climate impact on transaction level and also creating a standard around that is what we felt was needed.

Marcel Klimo [06:29]

Yeah. So this sort of reminds me of how now governments around the world are trying to establish infrastructure to support a sustainability. So it’s not really about just competitors in the market space, trying to, who’s going to build the best solar panel, but it’s rather about the governments around the world trying to build the systems, the energy grids to support a more democratic and more distributed system of infrastructure, which it doesn’t rely on a singular player and how you’re describing your system or the way you’re classifying things, it reminds me a bit of that. You’re not obviously a government institution, but  there’s an infrastructure play here. Very much like we’re seeing with open banking around the world where banks are not almost the having to become more open to integrate others or to enable the creation of backs that weren’t possible in the past. I obviously have read up a lot on Doconomy when we started working together I learned a lot, but can you give a bit of a description of how that calculations works and how you do it?

What the, maybe they’ll just say, the secret sauce is, but how it’s all put together?

Mathias Wikström [07:36]

We try to make the most out of the data at hand and, our ambition is threefold.  firstly, we wanted to provide a  calculation that everyone could use and everyone could understand and in a very broad perspective. So it’s a very wide horizon where we can engage many people in understanding that every action has a reaction. In order to do that and to scale that seamlessly, we use the data that is within the transaction. And the transaction data tells us a few different things: who you are, where you’ve been shopping, how much you’ve been spending time and date and so forth.

With that data in mind, which it’s the category data, we graded each category making use of leading financial market data and in collaboration with the standard and poor, we put a carbon score on every transaction you made. So we know that it should have been in a floral shop. We can address that transaction with the impact by floral shops and dispense that you have done.

Or if you are the gas station, we know that as well. What we don’t know is if you’ve been buying gas in the floral shop, Then you would have to recategorize that yourself, otherwise you would get the for the carbon score on that specific transaction. Next level of course would be to connect the individual companiesTcarbon score to the very transaction at that specific company, which is, short term, of course product development. And the third layer would be to calculate the carbon footprint for the products, the line item data on the receipts. However, then we’re entering into another data stream.

Then we’re leaving the transaction data and entering the receipt data. And there is also a few other challenges around that in regard to integrity and so forth. But that’s going to happen as well. So we’re very hopeful about that development. And, to enable that we developed the 2030 calculator. What is important to understand is that we’re trying to make use of existing the efficiencies in the existing systems too to care for the fragilities in the ecosystem. So we’re rewiring, what’s already out there, we’re taking the financial system and instead of putting a limit on your credits,  we’re putting a limit on your credit using CO2 emissions, just as an example. And the 2030 calculator, which we had tremendous support from you guys at Vacuumlabs and working around, is the very key to unlocking the potential of carbon labeling on product level. Which would then be the third step out of connecting your consumption to your impact

Johan Pihl [10:06]

Just to add to that, I think we startew With the credit card, knowingly understanding that, there was a restricted access to, granular data, it’s meant only to provide data on category level. But we thought as a vehicle or tool that you use every day, that it was a great starting point for, establishing a dialogue with the user. We took the opportunity to reshape the credit card to something that would enable, the card holder to become more responsible.

Now we’re adding layers. The next big step for us is, receiving, receipt data, which means that you received it on product level. Now, what we realized when we start discussing that was that very few brands actually have these calculations in place. Being pioneers in this market space, we saw that we had no responsibility to provide a tool for brands to calculate the impact on product level. Which is now what we’re doing with the 2030 calculator, which is, something we, we built together with you guys.

What’s astonishing is that, honestly, we, couldn’t imagine the type of response we’re getting. So we’re having companies from all around the world, calling in, not only using the calculator, but, interested in  co-creating an even bigger, stronger platform enabling brands to calculate on product level.

So it’s an extremely interesting situation. Now, as I said before, this is in line with our longterm business strategy  so it becomes a more granular carbon footprint for each individual. Not only on transaction level.

Marcel Klimo [11:49]

What I really liked about your approach from a business strategy perspective is you’re not trying to boil the ocean.

If you will add  immediately. Often when we speak to companies, when they come to us, they have a  grant idea that they want to achieve. And when we ask about what’s the MVP, what’s the first thing that you need to build to move to the next step in your grant goal. And if that answer is well, all of it, all of it is the MVB that doesn’t really help because that doesn’t move anybody.

Even if you have the funding to build something massive, it takes a tremendous amount of time to build it. And by the time you build it, the market might’ve already got in front of you. So what I really loved about the fact that you did build the calculator,  it was a piece of the Lego puzzle that you guys wanted to build that fills in some of the gaps that you’re seeing now.

And you’re obviously moving towards the receipt level, but you’re not there yet. So you’re building sort of the frameworks and the Legos for it.

Johan Pihl [12:45]

You talked about the infrastructure needed and  this is all about the infrastructure. we cannot only look at our short term business, strategy. We need to look at how to accelerate the whole market. Because once we do that, our service becomes more relevant. So it’s an interesting way, I think, you could see this type of situation with the front runners like Tesla or any   company that’s, first ones out actually, define that market space needs to have a responsibility on infrastructure level as well. So  it’s not the typical business model. It’s purpose driven.

Marcel Klimo [13:26]

Yeah. So  the calculator is out now, it’s going to be growing, it’s going to have the support of more brands and more companies.   What’s gonna happen next? Without revealing the stuff that you don’t want your competitors to know.

Mathias Wikström [13:38]

I think that, It all comes down actually to a lot of brands engaging and more and more will do And that’s in a way , proving our point – it’s a whole infrastructure that needs to be rewired. And you already has the saying early on in the process. We were discussing some people, around the general ability to redirect the efforts of many.

So where do you think is the best place to be if there is a car speeding off a cliff, where is the best place to be to stop that car? Of course, it’s inside the car because we can pull the brakes. And that’s exactly the same rationale for the infrastructure. You need to be in the infrastructure.

You need to be the infrastructure in order to direct it elsewhere. And that infrastructure consists of many stakeholders and brands are key components and drivers in that change. So the future of the 2030 calculator has two crucial components. At the time right now, we’re blown away by the success of it.

But there’s two components. One is of course  the increase of data, the precision in the data and the richness in different  data points. The other is the number of brands using the calculator to get results out of it. The results are all good, but the effects of the results is carbon labeling. And  carbon labeling basically turns every product into the textbook for sustainable change.

So from the inside of the infrastructure, more and more components in the very infrastructure are getting engaged around this. And by doing so it’s increasing the hit rate, the efficiencies and the relevance of the very calculator they use to drive this change. So it’s a good spiral. I was also, I think that

Johan Pihl  [15:22]

A big potential is offering certifications on different levels. So I would say that’s something we’re looking into. We’re also looking into different new aspects of measuring recycling policies or warranties and so on which is a really interesting potential. So things are happening.  Honestly, it’s all about co-creating very dynamic and strong platform to help brands perform these calculations.

Most of the ideas is from feedback from brands, they are very eager to contribute to this platform. And that was the really, the initial idea was to get out there was something that would inspire others to help build.

Mathias Wikström [16:03]

Given the feedback we’ve had, we are attempted to rebrand it from the 2030 calculator to the 2030 collaborator, because basically that’s what it is. A platform for collaboration where different brands help each other to communicate carbon footprint in precision to every user, to every consumer.

And that is being at the very core of the infrastructure of consumption. We’ve been there with the transaction data out of a credit card perspective which is a very good vehicle for change, but we can also get on the price tag. Communicating not only the monetary value on the goods but also the impact on the planet of its production.

Marcel Klimo [16:41]

So looking at this from the perspective of a founder who’s  now just jumping onto the journey of starting something in the sustainability space. How would you see that they would start collaborating with you? Whether that’s a fintech or a, sustainable,\ merchandise or product business, fashion business.

How would they get started with you? How would they start collaborating with you as part of 2030 collaborator?

Johan Pihl [17:06]

I think that there’s definitely room for improving our platform, and I think there’s many startups and people out there that could think of ways of developing this.

The most important part is that any collaboration is to align well with the overarching purpose this, which is it’s for free,  it cuts down on the times band or calculating on product level dramatically. We’re talking about a few minutes compared to many weeks per product. We have really stepped away from any business model that would think of making money on the calculation level, because, so that’s core to us. I think anyone that wants to contribute needs to understand that, we’re trying to create a standard. We’re trying to create a mutual understanding of how we could accelerate the capability of carbon labeling. That’s the most important issue,  but there’s definitely room to develop, services that could, be part of this project, I’m quite sure .There’re also ideas around offsetting, obviously. That’s really interesting. We noticed also that there’s a really interesting connection to traceability. In terms of specifying traceability and those types companies that are really developing services around that could be really interesting. Once again, just to repeat myself, You need to align with the purpose.

You need to understand that it’s not about making money. in providing the tools for the calculation. You could definitely think of layers on top of that which could  be profitable, but, not on creating the very standard.

Marcel Klimo [18:46]

Switching gears ever  so slightl,. you mentioned that  we as Vacuumlabs helped you build out the part of the 2030 calculator. What was the thinking from you from an organizational perspective to start collaborating with an external partner like ourselves instead of potentially building this in house.

Johan Pihl [19:03]

We’ve known about you for quite some time and you have been on top of our list, based on your experience in financial services. And I think that this type of project was actually perfect to be handled by an external partner. You have to understand that we are very much busy building our core service, which is especially the app that is connected to the credit card which is a huge undertaking in itself.

And we’re also developing our API for our business to business offering. So we identified early that this platform or this calculator would be an excellent project to partner up with Vacuumlabs. And that was a perfect match, I think.

Mathias Wikström [19:44]

And I think it’s important also to remember, we have with several providers over the time, but Vacuumlabs is actually the first one that we regard as a partner, because  in this project, which is a very tough task,  it’s a hard nut to crack, it’s not as much about the challenge we have in front of us in trying to solve this and enable brands to do this, as it’s important who we have by ourselves, trying to resolve this issue.  In all fairness, Without the skillsets and the capabilities of Vacuumlabs, we wouldn’t be  in such a good place that we are now.

So we are extremely grateful for the collaboration and we are super excited about what’s to come. Because once you find some partner that understands, your needs and your ambitions and the challenges ahead someone that fully understands that and commit to addressing them together with you, you should really cling on to that partner because that partnership itself has tremendous value even before addressing the next challenging issue.

Johan Pihl [20:47]

Yes to add to it, I think that for us, we believe that it’s a question of speed. and quality. And we worked with many external developers and it’s either or.   And with Vacuumlabs, we believed that we have, speed and quality. And speed is essential here.

When building something like this, for us, if it took a year, it would be useless. We need to act now,  We’re building it because we’re the first ones to do it.  We entered the market early, we used to do it in a bit of face or prototype and we built from there. So we’re not afraid of launching concepts that then go into further development.

But for that, you need to find a partner that understands  the rules of the game so to speak. A dn dn we, we are definitely doing that. And, for that unit speed.

Marcel Klimo [21:37] 

Thank you very much for that. We’re so happy that we really just brought the value you needed.

And I’m really so happy about the fact that you guys really wanted to go a gradual approach. Like really build it out, get it out in the market, test it out and move on from there. As opposed to trying to go to a grand vision that will take years to achieve and potentially be late. As you said.

Johan Pihl [21:59]

Yeah. You never know. I mean,L Like I said, this is an interesting market space because it’s not defined, everyone is eager to, highlight the potential, but we are definitely the ones that putting services out there first.  That’s why it’s so important to have a sense of clarity when working on projects together because it’s all about spirit.

Marcel Klimo [22:21]

Yes. So for those who would like to know more about the 2030 calculator and about what you’re doing or potentially would want that a credit card that you offer, how could they sign up? How can they become a part of it?

Mathias Wikström [22:33]

We have on the website to begin with, you can connect with us out of a brand perspective. That is one way. Out of a media perspective if you would like to extend the reach of these opportunities and abilities, that’s another way. And of course, in regards to data contribution, and if there is other points of contact where we can collaborate, we’re super happy to do There is a lot of companies out there.  A lot of good people on board that want, to drive positive change that wants to enable their consumers to understand their impact or want to use your dat, on behalf of others to make  this calculator more granular. Just reach out and visit or visit We’ll find the context there. So  we’re sitting by our computer is waiting for someone to get in touch.

Marcel Klimo [23:17] 

So all of these links will be in the description of the podcast. So anybody who sees this can directly link to it. Johann and Matthias thank you very much for your time today.

This has been very fun and exciting.  Of course, if anybody’s interested they will reach out and I look forward to more collaboration in the future with us, Vacuumlabs.

Johan Pihl [23:35] 

Thank you so much for talking to us.

Mathias Wikström [23:38] 

Thank you Marcel 

About Vacuumlabs

Vacuumlabs provides teams of flexible software engineers and designers with years of experience building fintech, online marketplaces, and digital products. Every step of the way, Vacuumlabs experts collaborate with clients, so that they can move fast, learn and iterate as they build world-class products together.