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GLOBALOUTLOOK RISINGECOSYSTEMS


TECHNOLOGY


Stockholmtech scene hitshousinghurdle


THE SWEDISH CAPITAL’S BUMPER START-UP COMMUNITY FACES ISSUES WITH ATTRACTING GLOBAL TALENT. ALEX IRWIN-HUNT REPORTS


S


tockholm’s start-up stories are well documented. Home- grown giants such as Spotify


and Klarna transcend Sweden’s capi- tal, have brought global notoriety to the city and spawned new genera- tions of entrepreneurs. The city even has the enviable


claim of creatingmore ‘unicorns’ per capita than any other region out- side Silicon Valley, according to ven- ture capital (VC) fund Atomico, being home to seven start-ups valued at more than $1bn. In absolute funding terms,


Stockholmlags behind othermajor European tech hubs, such as London, Paris and Berlin, yet sawan impres- sive €8.2bn poured into its start-ups between 2015 and 2020, according to PitchBook data. But even as serial entrepreneurs


have fed capital, inspiration and expertise back into the ecosystem, the city could become a victimof its own success. Prominent investors say that the housingmarket, visa schemes and start-up remuneration packages need improvement for the capital’s tech scene to grow and keep attracting talent.


Early computerrevolution The city’s roots as an entrepreneurial hub are often attributed to a policy in the 1990s that democratised access to technology through a tax break for residents to buy personal computers. “I didn’t grow up with a lot of


money and still had a PC at home,” says Jessica Schultz, a Stockholm- based general partner at Northzone, an early-stage VC fund. This early adoption ledmany Swedes to become tech savvy and attracted companies seeking to test ideas in a digital-friendly environment. With the stage set, several tech


success stories – such as Skype, which was co-founded by Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennström, ‘buy nowpay later’ fintech Klarna and globalmusic streaming plat- form Spotify – emerged. Tove Larsson, the general partner


at Norrsken VC, an early-stage impact fund formed as part of a foundation set up by Klarna co-founder Niklas Adalberth, believes these unicorns and their founders had a “big ripple effect” and inspired a future genera- tion of entrepreneurs.


STOCKHOLMRANKSAMONGST LARGEST EUROPEAN TECHHUBS BY FUNDING


VENTURE CAPITAL FUNDING, €M, 2015-2020 “Being an entrepreneur is being


encouraged across Swedish society,” she says, noting that when she gradu- ated in 2007 most ambitious Swedes instead wanted to become bankers or management consultants. In 2020, the Global


Entrepreneurship Monitor found that 62.5% of Swedes aged between 18 and 64 think there are good opportunities to start a business where they live, outstripping the global average of 50.5% and coun- tries such as the US and UK. Sophia Bendz—the globalmar-


keting director at Spotify up until 2014, and nowan active angel inves- tor and partner at European early- stage fund Cherry Ventures—has witnessed this transition. “When I joined Spotify back in


2007, it wasn’t popular to join a start-up,” she says, adding Stockholm lacked start-up infrastructure at the time and there was not a single female partner at Swedish VC funds. But today is a very different story. Ms Bendz describes Stockholm as


having a “flourishing ecosystem”, where talent, capital, knowledge, conferences and accelerators are “fuelling the next generation of founders on their journeys.” The city’smayor, Anna König Jerlmyr, has set a goal to have half of Stockholm’s unicorns founded by women within the next decade.


Mission driven Alongside Stockholm’s high-profile fintechs, which include iZettle, Trustly and Tink, the open banking


platformthat was acquired by Visa for €1.8bn in June, the ecosystemhas seen a surge ofimpact-focused start-ups. “Stockholm is one of the best


Source: Pitchbook 18


places to start a business as a mission- driven founder,” says Lars Jörnow, a Stockholm-based partner at EQT


www.fDiIntelligence.com August/September 2021


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