Kim Nilsson

CEO, Pivigo


Kim is the co-founder and CEO of Pivigo, a data science hub. Pivigo accelerates data innovation in organizations by connecting them to a global community of freelancing data scientists. Pivigo also runs Europe’s largest data science training program, S2DS. With her team at Pivigo, Kim brings businesses and scientists together to harness the value and opportunities in data, by bridging the gap between the two fields. Since the launch of Pivigo, Kim has been named a Rising Star among the Top 100 Influencers of Big Data in the U.K., and she was recently awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Women in IT Awards. Kim has a background in science, with a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA from the Cranfield School of Management.

1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given

Be confident and passionate, and don’t be afraid to show it! As a female entrepreneur, I have many times been accused of not seeming passionate about my business – which is so far from the truth. What is true though is that women, myself included, often feel we need to be more humble and downplay our emotions and abilities. This is not right, and unfortunately it gives us a disadvantage compared to men who will appear much more confident and passionate. I had to train myself to be more bold in my statements about my business, and about myself, but with time it gets easier as you also start to get recognition for what you do, and with that your confidence naturally grows. But you have to fake it until you make it!

2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given

To change my business model radically to suit an investor’s interests. When you go out to pitch for funding, it’s like kissing many frogs to find the prince. You will have multiple conversations with people who will know exactly what is right for your business, even better than you yourself. Imagine that. If you take their advice, you would be pivoting twenty times during a pitch season. The most radical case I experienced of this was meeting an investor who immediately took out a black marker pen, crossed out about 80% of my pitch deck, circled the rest and declared that that was the only part of the business worth keeping. Whereas I do find pitching to investors useful as a market test and as a way to stress test your plan, and I always do end up making little tweaks to my plans following these conversations, you must stick with your own plans and what your own instincts tell you – no matter how confident the investor sounds in their complaints!

3. What would you tell your younger self?

Life is a rollercoaster. There will be times when nothing seems to work; you feel like you are failing and that no one appreciates your work. But going through these times will only make you stronger; you will learn resilience, you will learn how to avoid failures in the future, and you will grow as a person. And in between these dips, there will be incredible highs when everything works and you can feel an incredible pride in your work and achievements. Don’t be afraid to also ‘pivot your life’. I loved my science career, but leaving academia was a great decision that led to a whole new career and a whole new set of invaluable experiences. Change is hard, but will always lead to something new, different, and exciting.  

4. What excites you most about the future of your industry?

I can see so much good for society come out of better use of data and technology. I imagine a day when my house wakes me up in the middle of the night because it noticed something irregular about my vital signs, sends me out the front door where a self-driving car is waiting to take me to hospital, where the doctor already has my full medical history and a set of predicted diagnoses to test. Not that I dream of being ill, but the idea that we can save lives, for example, by predicting and/or detecting conditions much earlier. That is only one new potential benefit data science can bring, and there are many many more…

5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Believe it or not, but I am actually a fourth generation female entrepreneur. My previous three generations all started businesses either to survive, or to have the life they wanted. They were lifestyle businesses, but they were brave to go against the grain and set these businesses up at times when they were supposed to stay at home and look after the children. I take enormous strength from that. Another figure, this time fictional, that inspired me a lot when I grew up was Captain Kathryn Janeway of the starship Voyager (Star Trek)! She was an incredible role model for a teenage girl; she was a great leader, she looked after her people, but she also made tough decisions when she had to. I loved the Voyager series and have watched it all multiple times. I am very happy to see that the entertainment industry is now bringing out much more content with strong female characters, as I really do think it makes a difference in young minds. I think we still have a very long way to go until we have parity between men and women in our professional lives, especially in entrepreneurship, but I think we are at least going in the right direction, and sharing inspirational stories and role models is a big part of that.

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