Revealed: Spotify Founder Daniel Ek’s Secret Health Tech Startup

Spotify founder Daniel Ek is no stranger to stealth work. At the start of their industry-changing music company, the team created hype by denying beta access to media.

Now he’s involved in another project shrouded in the same secrecy: a health-tech start-up. The project, called HJN Sverige, also involves Hjalmar Nilsonne, the founder of Swedish energy start-up Watty.

It’s not a surprising decision – in 2013, Daniel Ek spoke openly about his passion for healthcare when he told the Financial Times about the hours he spent thinking about how to fix a healthcare system ” fucked up”.

According to company documents and a quickly deleted webpage, the company appears likely to deploy a non-invasive diagnostics program. It would be a response to calls from doctors and policy makers for more preventative medicine to keep people healthy and reduce future health care costs.

Since late 2018, Ek has invested around 6 million euros in the new startup but has not spoken publicly about its existence. HJN Sverige declined to comment for this article.

Based on documents and a trip to the startup’s first physical location, Sifted pieced together a picture of Ek’s vision for the future of healthcare.

Enter the atrium

On a quiet street in Kungsholmen in central Stockholm, opposite the offices of construction company Skanska, it’s possible to visit the startup’s first physical location: a primary care facility that opened last month. It is called Atrium – Latin for “entrance hall” and a name for one of the chambers of the heart.

When Sifted entered the renovated clinic last week, there was no sign of other patients, but a mix of some new furniture, unpacked boxes pushed against the wall and a few carpenters at work.

This is probably the only primary care clinic in Stockholm where you can get a next day appointment – the website is currently taking bookings.

The Atrium primary care clinic in central Stockholm

Besides operating this newly opened clinic, what exactly do HJN Sverige and sister company HJN Proaktiv Hälsovård do [Proactive Healthcare] do?

Recent legal documents filed with the Swedish Companies Registry state that the company will sell “diagnostic products and services as well as carrying out examinations and health checks on the private market”, suggesting that the company will have both B2B and B2C branches.

The startup’s website, which Sifted viewed last week, suggests that on the consumer side – along with its clinic – it wants to offer patients an advanced health checkup that can be part of regular preventative care, as well as health services. on a daily basis with certain services available online.

Scientific research programs

On the B2B side, the startup is looking to sell machine learning and diagnostic tools to other healthcare providers, as well as hardware. But it needs to test its technology and capture data to make machine learning work — and for that, the company needs staff.

According to information on the website that has since been deleted, he will launch a series of non-invasive scientific research collaborations, starting with a program on whole-body scanning this month – and research people, not just his own patients, to volunteer. Early next year, the company will launch research programs in advanced skin imaging, heart health and preventive care.

Screenshot of Atrium's website showing available programs.
Programs available to enroll according to Atrium’s website: Whole Body Screening, Advanced Skin Imaging, Heart Health, and Preventative Care.

Sifted accessed information about these programs on the website before contacting the company. The next day, these web pages had been taken down.

Two separate people with direct knowledge of the company told Sifted that it was building a device similar to an airport security scanner – sources suggested it was arc-shaped – to scan in a noninvasive blood pressure, blood flow irregularities and skin conditions and provide accurate medical diagnoses.

Diagnoses on the rise

Digging deeper into HJN Sverige’s paperwork at the Swedish Companies Registry Office, Sifted discovers that some of Ek’s shares have been allocated to his investment company Prima Materia, through which Ek plans to invest. 1 billion euros in “moonshots”. Ek has also invested in the business from his private investment firm Antheia Investments. Ek owns approximately 60% of the shares and Nilsonne was allocated 38%. A small percentage of the shares is owned by British startup Spectroma, based in Oxfordshire.

Spectroma, founded in 2020, describes itself as a deep tech company building an advanced medical imaging device using radio frequency imaging. To this layman, that sounds like a good fit for what Ek and Nilsonne are trying to achieve. Sifted has contacted Spectroma for comment.

Photo of the interior of the Atrium Primary Care Clinic
Inside the Atrium Primary Care Clinic – could this be ‘the arch’?

Startups in the preventive care sector have mainly focused on manufacturing small devices or software. For personal use, there are technologies such as the Oura ring, various smart bands for use during sleep, smart bracelets, home tests, blood tests, etc. When it comes to preventative medicine software, most focus on tools that accompany other medical equipment like Idoven’s heart disease prediction AI.

But there is room for more. According to Dealroom, VCs have invested nearly $18 billion in European biotech startups since the start of 2020, roughly the same amount they invested in the previous six years. The pandemic opened VC’s eyes to the possibilities of health technologies and has shown no signs of slowing down since.

So what’s next for the company?

One of Sifted’s sources says Ek handpicked people to work at the startup. Documents show the staff includes a former Spotify employee who took on the role of CTO and a former employee of eye-tracking company Tobii who is now vice president of hardware R&D. The startup has also been successful in recruiting medical staff who often provide commentary on Swedish television, according to LinkedIn.

It’s not Ek’s only bet on healthtech in Sweden – the entrepreneur has also invested in Swedish healthtech startups like blood testing company Werlabs and digital health provider Kry, of which he owns 3%.

A spokesperson for HJN said Atrium is not what it will be called in the end. And whatever Sifted found, “it’s just a small piece of the puzzle of what’s to come.”

An intriguing piece nonetheless.

Mimi Billing is Sifted’s Nordic correspondent. She also covers health tech and tweets from @MimiBilling