Have you ever wondered why there are so many Internet startups with roots in Sweden – a country with a rather small population (only 9 million)? For being relatively few people, the country in the north of Europe has been giving birth to a huge number of online services and is home to a lot of innovation in the digital space. And yes, even Twingly has its base in Sweden.
In this post we’ll try to highlight a few of the factors that might have helped to make Sweden become a country that you need to count in when searching for potentially disruptive tech startups.
Global approach from day one due to small population
Many Swedish web services in the consumer business target an international audience from day one. The Swedish market is often simply to small for big ambitions.
Cluster due to a centralized state
Sweden has only three big cities with more than 100.000 inhabitants: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. That means that a relatively huge part of the daily business and innovation process takes place in those three cities, with the greater Stockholm area – where almost 20 percent of the Swedes live – being the center and a cluster for IT and technology companies, business angels, VCs and talents. Clusters usually have a positive impact on the quantity of companies founded (as the Silicon Valley has proved).
Sweden, country of inventors and entrepreneurs
Inventing things that help to improve the quality of life has always been an area Swedes have put an effort on. That led to a bunch of globally well known Swedish companies such as Ericsson, IKEA, Volvo or Tetra Pak. Inventing things and creating businesses based on those inventions gives you a high social status in the Swedish society, thus it is not a surprise that launching a startup is not the least prioritized option for young (and old) Swedes.
A nation embracing IT
Like other Nordic countries, in Sweden IT is mainly being seen as something positive that can make people’s life better, and you find this insight in most levels of society. For instance, 6 out of 10 companies in Scandinavia have at least one technical person in the management team. That’s 10 percent more than the worldwide average (source, translated). Naturally that mindset has a positive impact on the number of IT and Internet startups being founded.
Internet in Sweden is pretty ubiquitous, affordable, and the average speed for both down- and upload is good (and one of the highest in the world).
Availability of Venture Capital
Even though the situation for Venture Capital in Sweden is far from perfect, the amount of Venture capital available in relation to the GDP is higher in Sweden than in the rest of Europe (source; translated).
High quality of life and open society
Sweden is one of the countries with the highest quality of life. Add that to the fact that most Swedes are skilled English speakers and it gets obvious that even though it can be pretty cold in the winter, it’s not too difficult to attract talent to move to Sweden. And that sooner or later benefits any Swedish startup and company expanding and needing more people.
Swedes pick up trends quickly
Many Swedes are paying a lot of attention to trends, which can be picked up extremely quickly. The same goes for new markets and technology. As soon as some new concept, idea or business case appears, it won’t take long until someone wants to try to built something with that, instead of thinking too long about the possible risks.
There are probably many more aspects. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. And we don’t deny that Sweden has its challenges as well. Not everything is perfect, and there are exceptions to every rule. But simply judging from the quantity (and quality) of the Swedish entrepreneurial outcome, it seems as if the climate for starting your own Internet company seems to be pretty good here in the north.
You forgot free education – lots of qualified people when you are hiring. 🙂
Education + that we dont sleep all day because of the heat. And its dark all the time so when we dont chop wood we sit infront of the internet and consume.
There are 13 swedish cities with more than 100 000 inhabitants.
1 Stockholm 847 073
2 Göteborg 513 751
3 Malmö 298 963
4 Uppsala 197 787
5 Linköping 146 416
6 Västerås 137 207
7 Örebro 135 460
8 Norrköping 130 050
9 Helsingborg 129 177
10 Jönköping 127 382
11 Umeå 115 473
12 Lund 110 488
13 Borås 103 294
(2010-12-31, SCB, http://www.scb.se/Pages/TableAndChart____228197.aspx)
Though, cluster in Stockholm region have most sertainly boosted the swedish IT sector. And our early adaption of computers in the 80s and 90s, the hacker community, the gamers now grown old.