Top 50 Emerging Leaders 2021 continued (in alphabetical order by CVC unit): Mark Johnson, vice-president of corporate venture capital, and Björn Axling, vice-president of accelerated innovation and venturing, Husqvarna Ventures

Mark Johnson serves as vice-president (VP) of corporate venture capital (CVC) and Björn Axling as vice-president (VP) of accelerated innovation and venturing at Husqvarna Ventures, Sweden-based outdoor robotics product supplier Husqvarna Group’s corporate venturing arm.

The unit targets developers of robotics technologies focusing on outdoor platforms, sharing economy and sustainability, artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, and urban gardening. “We are a big company, but we do have an entrepreneurial spirit. We are curious, fast-moving and willing to try out things that we believe will challenge and move our industry forward,” said Axling.

Husqvarna Ventures’ portfolio companies include Franklin Robotics, creator of gardening robot Tertill where Axling holds a board seat; Soil Scout, developer of soil-moisture sensor technology; and MowBot, a supplier of robotic lawnmowers.

Johnson joined the unit in November 2018, after nearly three years as managing director at boutique investment bank Stella, overseeing tech investment and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions.

“My professional experience is as an M&A adviser, CEO of an IT company [Activio], venture capitalist [at Nordic Venture Partners], IT management consultant [at MicroMenders] and naval officer [at the US Army].

“The red thread throughout my career has been IT, its commercialisation and its applications towards improving business effectiveness.”

Axling, on the other hand, had been VP of product lifecycle management (PLM) and development for nearly three years at Husqvarna before he joined the unit in September 2018.

Regarding his role, Axling said: “I lead the Husqvarna Group accelerated innovation activities specifically aiming at creating new market growth and spearhead new solutions in robotics and AI.

“I also lead the strategic direction, scouting and engagements with startups in Husqvarna Group’s CVC unit. We invest in and partner with leading startups in robotics, AI, digital services and IoT.”

Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.