The founders of Spotify, Skype, Klarna, and more were onstage at Sthlm Tech Fest this week, where people from around the world came to celebrate the startup capital and discuss the future of tech.
It's no coincidence that the event takes place in the capital of Scandinavia. After Silicon Valley, Stockholm is the top tech hub in the world judged by number of billion-dollar startups (unicorns) per capita.
The first Stockholm Tech Fest took place in 2014, and was attended by more than 3,000 people, including many startups and investors.
This year was even bigger. Spotify founder Daniel Ek, Klarna founder Sebastian Siematkovski, Skype founder Niklas Zennström, and iZettle founder Jacob De Geer were just a few of the big names onstage, including other business world stars like Atif Rafiq, digital manager at McDonald's; SEB bank CEO Annka Falkengren, and editor of Dagens Nyheter, Peter Wolodarsk.
Stockholm Tech Fest was arranged by Tyler Crowley, an American tech guru from LA who has now made Stockholm his home.
The programme a the event covered all aspects of the future of tech, with sessions such as The Future of Retail, The Future of Gaming, The Future of Media, and The Future of Finance.
Finance was one of the hottest topics at the event, as panelists got into a heated debate about the future of banking.
American mobile bank startup Card.com was present on stage to argue that banks should not be trusted, prompting audience members to stop giving their money for free to the organizations and instead put it unto a free service – or even keep money under their pillows.
— Maral (@maralkalajian) September 2, 2015
Many panelists were unimpressed with the rough rhetoric, which included “let's eat the bankers” and “stop working with those jerks”. The moderator aptly pointed out that while American banks have become notorious after the Wall Street Crisis, Swedish banks are not necessarily as “bad”.
Nevertheless, finance and banking continued in the spotlight. Financial tech, dubbed 'fintech', is one of Sweden's – and Stockholm's – fastest growing sectors.
But what is FinTech really?
In a recent report from the Stockholm School of Economics, it has been described this way:
“FinTech is a difficult “sector” to define. . . but it includes those firms that use technology in lending, personal finance, payments, retail investments, institutional investments, equity financing, remittances, consumer banking, financial research and banking infrastructure.”
As it happens, Stockholm is one of the EU’s biggest hubs for Fintech investments, and it is the city in Europe that has attracted the second most investments over the last five years.
— Invest Stockholm (@investstockholm) June 23, 2015
The country has a rich history in financial technology innovations, from installing the world’s first online ATM in 1968 to pioneering internet banking in the mid-1990s, just as the internet itself was taking off.
“Financial technology is a growing sector not just in Stockholm, but also globally,” Torbjörn Bengtsson, Business Development Manager at Stockholm Business Region, has said.
And indeed, now Sweden is home to not just Klarna and iZettle, but also the budget app Tink, payment services Qliro and Mondido, Seamless, Behaviosec, MPS, Qapital, KnCMiner, Trustly, Toborrow, Trustbuddy, Btalo, Swish, Wywallet, and more. The financial tech sector is positlvely booming.
A new startup on the FinTech scene is Dreams, an upcoming app which presented itself at Tech Fest as a fun and social way to save up towards certain goals.
And as the digital Financial Tech sector rises, cash in Sweden is falling, quickly. Many have argued that Sweden is close to being a cashless society, and no one minds.
What do you think? Is a cashless society a good thing or a bad thing?