8 reasons why Sweden is a great country for web startups

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.

Good infrastructure
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.

A handy list of major tech and social media events in Europe

Flickr/LeWEB10, CC licence BY 2.0

The Twingly team enjoys attending tech events and conferences across Europe. Meeting hundreds of great people working with or being interested in the fields of social media, startups and digital culture is the best way to get inspiration, to learn, to collect feedback and to simply have lots of fun.

For our own purpose as well as for you we compiled a list of major startup, tech and social media conferences/events that we either usually travel to, feel that we should attend (but haven’t) or where we know other’s who are enthusiastic about it.

That means this list is probably far from complete (and there might be a slight emphasis on the Nordics). In case you want to recommend an annual major event with focus on the topics mentioned that takes place anywhere in Europe feel free to let us know in the comments.

Please note that some of the events on this list have already taken place for 2011 or won’t happen this year at all. But we figured that this overview could come handy even next year, and those events pausing 2011 might have a huge comeback in 2012.

January
DLD Conference
January, Munich, Germany
Website

February
Lift
Geneva, Switzerland
Website

March
GeeknRolla
London, UK
Website 

Plugg
Brussels, Belgium
Website

Social Media World Forum Europe
London, UK
Website

April
re:publica
Berlin, Germany
Website

SHiFT
Lisbon, Portugal
Website

SIME
Vienna, Austria
Website

The Next Web
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Website

May
GeekGirlMeetup
Stockholm, Sweden
Website (only in Swedish)

Next Conference
Berlin, Germany
Website

SIME
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Website

June
reboot
Copenhagen, Denmark
Website

SIME
Barcelona, Spain
Website

July
TEDGlobal
Edinburgh, Scotland
Website

August
Media Evolution – The Conference
Malmö, Sweden
Website

Sweden Social Web Camp
Tjärö, Sweden
Website (only in Swedish)

September
Arctic15
Helsinki, Finland
Website

PICNIC
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Website

The European Pirate Summit
Cologne, Germany
Website

October
Future of Web Apps Conference
London, UK
Website

SIME
Helsinki, Finland
Website

November
NOAH
London, UK
Website

SIME
Stockholm, Sweden
Website

The TechCrunch Europas
London, UK
(no official event website, coverage on http://eu.techcrunch.com)

December
LeWeb
Paris, France
Website

You can find additional information about most of those events on Lanyrd.

Reloaded: Europe’s 50 most popular startups according to the blogosphere

Photo (CC): Tomas Fano

In the beginning of August last year we published a ranking of Europe’s 50 most popular startups according to the blogosphere. We took this list from the TechCrunch Europe Top 100 index and analysed the buzz these startups were able to create within the global blogosphere based on Twingly blogsearch data.

About half a year later it’s time to for an updated version of our ranking. This time we focused on the time frame between November 20 2010 and February 20 2011. We also updated our list of European startups that were included in our analysis (and removed a few former startups that have recently been acquired).

So here we go again: Twingly presents Europe’s 50 most popular startups according to the blogosphere (with the last ranking’s position in brackets):

01 Spotify (1)
02 Dailymotion (3)
03 Miniclip (16)
04 SoundCloud (5)
05 Tuenti (4)
06 TweetDeck (6)
07 DailyBooth (11)
08 Shazam (10)
09 Netvibes (7)
10 Twingly (8)
11 fring (9)
12 Netlog (19)
13 Stardoll (2)
14 Trigami (17)
15 Jolicloud (42)
16 Tweetmeme (12)
17 Nimbuzz (14)
18 Prezi (-)
19 eBuddy (13)
20 Qype (20)
21 Deezer (22)
22 Jimdo (15)
23 Bambuser (27)
24 Zemanta (33)
25 ShoZu (24)
26 Skyscanner (41)
27 Wonga (37)
28 Swoopo (35)
29 sevenload (23)
30 eRepublik (34)
31 Plastic Logic (31)
32 zanox (26)
33 Fon (43)
34 Layar (21)
35 Voddler (18)
36 Vente-Privee.com (29)
37 We7 (50)
38 Trovit (25)
39 Twenga (46)
40 Zoopla (-)
41 simfy (-)
42 Rebtel (41)
43 Zopa (39)
44 Songkick (-)
45 Huddle.net (-)
46 FigLeaves (30)
47 Doodle (40)
48 Modu (44)
49 Wooga (-)
50 MyHeritage (28)

Notes
Being able to make users and journalists blog about a web startup does not necessarily mean that its products or services are good. Furthermore, consumer oriented web tools and blog centric services usually get more coverage on blogs than business-to-business companies, which is why the list is dominated by these kind of apps. Having said this, publicity is a requirement for succeeding as a tech startup, so the startups in this list seem to be on track regarding user awareness!

In some cases the search results were interfered by Spam and pure SEO postings or articles mentioning the same word, meaning something else. We then had to remove a part of the findings, which led to a lower ranking. When you study the list keep in mind that this is not the one and only, definite ranking, and there might be some startups missing. But it for sure gives you some useful insights into which services are being discussed the most in blogs all over the world.

If your Europe based startup is getting a lot of buzz and is missing in the ranking, or if you know a service that could be popular enough to appear on this list, please let us know in the comments, so that we can include it next time!

30 Startups And The Buzz They Are Getting From the Blogosphere

On Tuesday TechCrunch published a list of “30 Startups People Care About The Most”. It was based on a new service called StartupFollower which allows people to signup for email notifications if the popular (and recently acquired blog) covers a specific startup. After StartupFollower itself got covered on TechCrunch the day earlier, the founder sent the distribution list of startups people have signed up for on the new service to TechCrunch, which created a ranking of the most requested tech startups from it.

Now obviously the TechCrunch ranking is far from official, since it is only based on readers of the blog who opted to signup for notifications on StartupFollower. We decided to do a little reality check and to compare the TechCrunch ranking based on StartupFollower subscriptions with the buzz in the blogosphere.

So we checked the 30 startups from the list with our Twingly Blog Search and compiled a new ranking based on the number of mentions the different web companies got within the past 30 days. As you can imagine the result looks a bit different, even though there are some similarities and some key players which are leading the pack in both lists.

Let’s have a look at the Top 30 Startups and at how many people in the blogosphere mentioned each of them. You find the rank from the TechCrunch list in brackets:

1. Google (5)
2. Amazon (29)
3. Facebook (1)
4. YouTube (17)
5. Twitter (2)
6. Apple (7)
7. Yahoo (27)
8. Digg (15)
9. LinkedIn (11)
10. Evernote (24)
11. Scribd (28)
12. TechCrunch (10)
13. Spotify (26)
14. Foursquare (3)
15. Groupon (6)
16. Zynga (9)
17. Dropbox (21)
18. Yelp (16)
19. Zazzle (25)
20. Gowalla (12)
21. SCVNGR (19)
22. Tumblr (20)
23. Square (23)
24. Quora (4)
25. Yammer (18)
26. OpenTable (30)
27. Qwiki (14)
28. LivingSocial (13)
29. RockMelt (8)
30. Gilt Group (22)

Anything that especially surprised you?

/Martin Weigert

Twingly nominated as one of Sweden’s 25 top technology startups

Deloitte, the largest professional services organization in the world, publishes once a year a ranking called Fast 50 – which is the one and only ranking focusing solely on technology companies from Sweden. Together with the Fast 50 companies Deloitte also acknowledges the 25 fastest growing tech companies from Sweden which were launched between 3 and 5 years ago. This sub-category is called “Rising Stars”, and in this year’s edition – which is the 8th in total – Twingly is one of the nominated companies!

The criteria for the Rising Stars are the same as for the Fast 50, with the only difference being the years of existence. Hence you could call the Rising Stars a ranking for Swedish tech startups, whereas the candidates for Fast 50 are rather well established companies.

Of course we are very proud to be among the top 25 young technology companies from Sweden competing for the number one spot – especially considering many of the other well-known Swedish tech startups nominated by Deloitte: There we have the EpiServer Group, makers of the popular Episerver CMS system, elskling, an up and coming website for price comparison between Electricity providers, or Oxify, which develops Internet access solutions for the public transport sector.

On November 2 Deloitte will host an event at the Modern Museum in Stockholm to present the Fast 50 and Rising Stars ranking and to announce which 2 companies will be Swedens top technology stars! If you want to attend and give us applaud you can register here (Website in Swedish). Martin, Anton, Marcus & Kristoffer will be there from Twingly – make sure to say hi!

Europe’s 50 most popular startups according to the blogosphere

Photo (CC): Eneko

In February, TechCrunch Europe published the latest version of its TechCrunch Europe Top 100 index, a list of most innovative and promising European/EMEA web and tech startups. The list which was compiled together with startup tracker YouNoodle Scores is based on a score for each startup which was created using a “sophisticated algorithm using information from thousands of online sources” such as traffic, mainstream media coverage, funding etc.

While waiting for an update of the list, we thought it would be cool to see how these companies rank considering their buzz in the blogosphere (similar to what we did with Twitter clients recently). By using data from our Twingly Blog Search, we measured the buzz these startups were able to create within the global blogosphere from May 1 to July 31. Here is the result with the rank of the TechCrunch Europe Top 100 in brackets – we only publish a top 50 list because the number of blog mentions of some of the other services was not significant enough to create a sound ranking.

01 Spotify (8)
02 Stardoll (5)
03 Dailymotion (2)
04 Tuenti (11)
05 SoundCloud (14)
06 TweetDeck (53)
07 Netvibes (17)
08 Twingly (75)
09 fring (26)
10 Shazam (28)
11 DailyBooth (54)
12 Tweetmeme (37)
13 eBuddy (10)
14 Nimbuzz (98)
15 Jimdo (84)
16 Miniclip (38)
17 Trigami (see here) (79)
18 Voddler (48)
19 Netlog (4)
20 Qype (27)
21 Layar (56)
22 Deezer (21)
23 sevenload (30)
24 ShoZu (57)
25 Trovit (67)
26 zanox (9)
27 Bambuser (51)
28 MyHeritage (19)
29 Vente-Privee (1)
30 FigLeaves (59)
31 Plastic Logic (16)
32 Skyscanner (41)
33 Zemanta (55)
34 eRepublik (45)
35 Swoopo (42)
36 brands4friends (77)
37 Wonga (52)
38 MobyPicture (58)
39 Zopa (40)
40 Doodle (62)
41 Rebtel (36)
42 Jolicloud (93)
43 Fon (29)
44 Modu (25)
45 Mendeley (61)
46 Twenga (47)
47 uberVU (66)
48 Markafoni (49)
49 amiando (88)
50 We7 (78)

Notes
Being able to make users blog about a web startup does not necessarily mean that its products or services are good. Furthermore, consumer oriented web tools and blog centric services usually get more coverage on blogs than business-to-business companies, which is why the list is dominated by these kind of apps. Having said this, publicity is a requirement for succeeding as a tech startup, so the startups in this list seem to be on track regarding user awareness!

In some cases the search results were interfered by Spam postings or articles mentioning the same word, meaning something else. We then had to remove a part of the findings, which led to a lower ranking. When you study the list keep in mind that this is not the one and only, definite ranking, but it for sure gives you some useful information about which services are being discussed the most in blogs all over the world.

We might start to publish this ranking regularly. If your Europe based startup is getting a lot of buzz and is missing in the ranking, or if you know a service that could be popular enough to appear on this list, please let us know in the comments, so that we can include it next time!

/Martin Weigert

From Stockholm to Berlin: Interview with SoundCloud CEO Alexander Ljung

As you already might know, here at Twingly we like to support our fellow Swedish startups and Internet founders. And not only those with a great taste for colours. Even those who decide to leave Sweden and to start a web company somewhere else in the world, like Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss who created Berlin-based SoundCloud.

SoundCloud is a platform for DJs, artists and producers who like to connect with colleagues and friends and to present and discuss their latest tracks and releases. Founded in 2007, SoundCloud is now very close to one million registered users and has become a significant player in the digital music business.

At last week’s Next Conference in Berlin, I had the chance to talk to Alexander about why they left Stockholm to start SoundCloud, about the differences between Swedish and German web culture and about why it can be pretty difficult to be productive in a city like Berlin.

Hi Alexander. Spotify, one of the most talked-about music start-ups in the world, is based in Stockholm. How come you didn’t choose the Swedish capital for starting SoundCloud?
Since SoundCloud was part music platform and part social network, we didn’t want to launch the site only with our Swedish friends as the first registered members. So we thought it might be good to move to another city and to leverage the contacts we make there for creating an international platform from start. We had several cities in mind but in the end we chose Berlin, mainly because of the good music and club scene, but also since it was and still is affordable to live and work there.

How long did it take you and your co-founder Eric Wahlforss to plan the move to Berlin?
Actually less than a week. Everything went pretty quickly. In the beginning we stayed at and worked from friends apartments or cafes. It was really helpful that we already had some people in Berlin we knew, and a lawyer supported us with the administrative work.

What was the biggest challenge after you had started the company?
There was a lot of paper work and bureaucracy involved in starting the business, and in the beginning we had some trouble with our broadband operator – which can be a huge problem when you are running a web start-up. But otherwise, most things worked out fine. Berlin was a great choice, since we were so close to our main target group – DJs, producers, artists. We went out clubbing almost every weekend, tried to increase the size of our network and asked people on the dance floor to start using SoundCloud. That was fun.

What are the differences between the Swedish and German start-up scene?
I think everything is less centralized in Germany, since there are several big cities with strong web companies. This might also be the main disadvantage for the German market from a global perspective – what’s missing is a central hub where resources, talents and knowledge is concentrated. Another difference is that here in Germany there is much more secretiveness surrounding the web business. People don’t want to talk about what they are working on. And of course (corporate) people are a little bit formal. Something that a Swede has to get used to 🙂

Even after many years, Berlin is still extremely popular among young urban people from all over the world. Why is that?
The atmosphere and culture in Berlin is very unique. Since the costs for living are still low, people can afford to only work a few hours per week, and do the stuff they want the rest of the time. Some folks are like professional club goers. And the consequence is that people in the creative, media and Internet world are much more understanding and tolerant when someone comes to a meeting a little bit later, and with a hangover. Nevertheless, if you want to create a company, you have to work hard, which means that you need a lot of discipline here not to get tempted too often to enjoy the Berlin nightlife.

Still, some people say Berlin needs to become Europe’s Silicon Valley
It is definitely cheaper to start a company here than in most other cities. And recently many web start-ups are either moving to Berlin or launching here. So maybe one day Berlin will become an important European hub for Internet companies…

/Martin Weigert

Photo: Jyri Engeström