Forget Berlin, Stockholm’s startup scene has come of age
Time to move beyond the hype
Not a day goes by without discussions about which city will become Europe’s answer to the Silicon Valley.
In fact, the very title of the feature is inaccurate, as Stockholm was crowned capital of Europe’s tech back all the way in 1998 when the city made the front cover of Newsweek for its contribution to the Web 1.0 boom days.
Today Stockholm is home to the world’s most successful music startup (Spotify), a number of leading games studios (King & Mojang) as well a legacy of talent from Ericsson’s expertise in mobile networks.
Aside from the hype, the hard figures speak for themselves: 6.5% of the world’s billion dollar exits between 2005-2012 were companies from Sweden.
All the ingredients for a successful cluster are here, from a wealth of engineering talent from nearby universities to experienced serial entrepreneurs like Martin Lorentzon, co-founder at both Spotify and Tradedoubler.
The jante factor
So why aren’t we hearing more about the so-called capital of Scandinavia?
One reason could be culture. James Pember [pictured right] an Australian expat in the city blames ‘Jante’, a Swedish term which roughly translates as ‘don’t stand out’.
James recently founded Swedish Startup Space (the Tech City News of Stockholm) and is a pivotal part of the community, documenting the many unsung heroes of the startup world.
In Sweden you have to think and aim globally to succeed, because our home market is just too small
When asked why the Swedes aren’t making more noise about their startup successes, Sebastian Knutsson founder of King.com told me many believed it was better to be globally branded, but perhaps now is the time to shout about being Swedish.
Click to see our pick of Stockholm’s startup scene
New set of challenges
Tyler Crowley [pictured right], is an US expat who’s been instrumental in bringing the community together through regular tech meetups.
He believes the dot-com bubble hit the startup scene in Stockholm hard. But the recent revival of startups here could benefit from the kind of work the UKTI put in with the Tech City initiative to brand it as a global tech hub.
UKTI did a fantastic job of branding the UK as an attractive place for both investment and talent
There’s an acute housing shortage in the city which many of the entrepreneurs I met cited as a major problem for bringing new talent in.
Even though the country’s economy has largely avoided the global financial crisis, Stockholm’s startups haven’t been immune to the funding crisis across Europe.
Pivotal moment for Stockholm’s scene
Living costs are clearly an issue for entrepreneurs here. Up until now there have been smaller co-working spaces but none specifically tech focussed nor on the scale of the Trampery or Shoreditch Works in London.
But that’s all about to change. We were lucky to get a very early preview of an exciting new space right in the heart of the city. SUP 46 (Startup People of Sweden 46) will officially launch in the autumn, but looks to be replicating much of the success of Google Campus by combining workspace with a dedicated area for events and networking. We’ll report more on this next month.
Lessons for the rest of Europe
Södermalm, Stockholm’s answer to Shoreditch, may not be as buzzing as East London but behind all of it lies a legacy of successful tech businesses that have gone on to take over the world.
The Swedish approach to being humble and thinking global is something that many of the competing clusters should take notice of. Instead of focussing on hype and marketing,
In Stockholm the Swedes have built a solid base of talent and profitable businesses, a lesson we could all learn from.