• Sweden edition
 

The Swedish E-Vikings are back

Published: 23 Oct 2007 16:57 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Oct 2007 16:57 GMT+02:00

Something is really bubbling below the surface of the Swedish entrepreneurial scene, with a new generation of young companies bursting with world-changing ideas in IT, biotech and a whole range of other areas. For anyone who recognizes this in time, there is big money to be made.

Back in the mid-nineties, Swedish e-Vikings swamped the world's IT industry with innovative products and new companies. You could even argue that Sweden had a central role in the whole development of the internet as we know it today. But what happened then?

Let's take a step back. Despite - or because of - the large number of multinationals in Sweden (more per capita than in any other country in the world), there hasn't been an entrepreneurial climate here for hundreds of years. All the country's many innovations have been developed by huge corporations such as Ericsson, Volvo, SAAB, ABB, Electrolux and others.

Swedish innovation, in other words, has not produced new corporate stars for ages. But don't mistake this for a lack of competence or creativity. On the contrary, many Swedish multinational brands have a reputation for leadership in terms of excellence, design, quality and creativity.

Sweden has the highest average level of education in the world, and Stockholm has the highest concentration of highly educated people of any capital or large city. It is also worth noting that Sweden has always had the highest density of high-tech gadgets - most telephones per capita, most video recorders per capita, most cellular phones etc and some of the best IT infrastructures in the world - both at the general level and at the corporate level.

The lack of Swedish entrepreneurship has actually been due to a lack of political willpower, understanding and competence. The miserable effects of this include insecure citizens who believe they need a strong state to take care of them and provide them with secure employment.

But during the mid nineties there was a minor revolution in which young, talented people started to question the assumptions of a job for life, large corporations and governmental control. With the sort of self confidence and self esteem usually associated with Americans, they challenged the international IT markets with their entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.

For a while this was tremendously successful and the world was amazed by the strength of Swedish IT entrepreneurs, but they were easily struck down when the IT Bubble burst. There was no experience of how to deal with failure, no acceptance and no forgiveness – just as might have been expected in Japan.

This played right in to the hands of the left-wing politicians, who happily cemented and defended the old systems. Everything went back to normal – no entrepreneurship, no innovation unless you were a giant corporation.

But self-confidence has gradually returned and the visionaries' forecasts from before the crash have all been fulfilled. Slowly, very slowly, venture capital is returning and the success of a number of Swedish startups is reinstating confidence in young entrepreneurs.

The election of a centre-right government in Sweden has led to more measures to simplify and encourage entrepreneurship. As I write this article, the force of ideas whose time has come is about to be released in a wave of entrepreneurship that will again astonish the world. IT companies and mobile services are leading the way, but remarkable clean tech companies, biotech companies, Nanotechnology companies and various design, gaming, gambling and media companies are not far behind.

Talented, well-educated and international entrepreneurs are back, with high ambitions and fighting spirit. What is still missing, however, is access to capital and the guidance of venture capital firms with international roll-out experience.

It is interesting to see how a small country such as Israel, with 2/3 of Sweden's GDP per capita hosts 50 American VC companies. Sweden, a world leader in high tech, does not have a single one. The domestic Swedish venture capital market for early stage investments is still immature and insufficient. For foreign VC companies, this is an open market ready for entering.

My guess is that that foreign VC companies are already set to start setting up here over the next couple of years. The potential is simply too big not to be exploited.

There are already lots of great new companies in the pipeline. They are innovating in areas as diverse as digital ID and mobile email. Take Elucidon, for example, which has created a super smart search engine, giving meaning and structure to unstructured qualified information.

New ground is also being broken in creating revolutionary new digital IDs and global policies for digital trade (Global Trust Centre or Domain Trust Server). New internet operating systems such as Xerion are being developed here in Sweden.

At IQube, the company I founded to foster and encourage Swedish entrepreneurship, we've seen dozens of ideas come forward which have the potential to make it big internationally. One such company is Momail, which has developed a service that will change the way we use our mobile phones. Momail provides the cheapest and fastest email to mobile phones in the world. If users and parents only knew how much money and time this MMS killer would save them.

In a similar vein, another young, entrepreneurial Iqube company has developed a new browser for mobile internet. With Squace , mobile internet gets a whole lot easier, faster and cheaper.

Swedish ideas could even change the way the world falls in love: First Date First Date, a new Swedish dating service, will challenge Match and the American giants - but will be better and smarter.

I'm just mentioning companies in my sphere - there are lots more out there. The message these companies are sending to the world is clear: the Swedish E-Vikings are back.

Johan Staël von Holstein is founder and CEO of IQube, a Swedish incubator that focuses on helping early-stage companies and entrepreneurs to grow and achieve commercial breakthrough. IQube is a shareholder in The Local Europe AB, publisher of The Local.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
National
Sweden Democrat led biker gang chapter
Photo: TT

Sweden Democrat led biker gang chapter

A senior Sweden Democrat in Svenljunga municipality in western Sweden has a long criminal past and has previously served as a chapter head in the notorious criminal gang Bandidos. READ  

Swedish rockers dice with death in coach fire
Photo: Deathstars

Swedish rockers dice with death in coach fire

Swedish industrial rock band Deathstars narrowly avoided a serious tragedy in the early hours of Saturday morning when the tour bus in which they were travelling caught fire in the Austrian alps. READ  

Winter
Clocks go back for Swedish winter time
Photo: Charlie Rydell/AP

Clocks go back for Swedish winter time

Sweden switched over to winter time in the early hours of Sunday morning meaning that you just enjoyed an extra hour of sleep. READ  

National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Photo: TT

Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains

Torrential rains in western Sweden have left some towns submersed as water levels have risen to 1.5 metres above normal for the season with forecasts indicating that is worse to come. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund
Photo: TT

Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund

Sweden has offered a new sizeable contribution to the fund set up by UN chief Ban K-moon to fight the Ebola outbreak. READ  

Society
'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme
Photo: Lars-Göran Thuresson/Älgriket

'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme

The Swedish hunting association runs a project to encourage young asylum-seekers to learn about hunting, a move which has proved controversial among some far right groups. READ  

Business & Money
American sales squeeze Ericsson profits
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg presents the third-quarter earnings report at the company's headquarters in Kista. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

American sales squeeze Ericsson profits

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson reported a decline in net profit in the third quarter despite an increase in sales, boosted by business in emerging markets. READ  

Interview
'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar

'Too many concerts feel the same'

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden calls off suspect submarine search
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden calls off suspect submarine search

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. The armed forces said they remained convinced foreign underwater activity had taken place but had not identified an intruder. READ  

Business & Money
US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks
Ed Carbaugh prepares to install parts on a truck engine on an assembly line at Volvo Trucks' powertrain manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2014. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, said Friday it saw a spike in profits in the third quarter, boosted by thriving sales in the US and Japanese markets. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
Blog updates

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 

24 October

Is darkness weather? (Blogweiser) »

"I try very hard not to talk about the weather. This has come after a decade..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

976
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN