‘People come before the product these days’

Startup success has more to do with the people running a company than the product itself, according to new research. And the man behind the study has told The Local that means Nordic businesses should invest in more diverse, global talent.

'People come before the product these days'
Spotify is Sweden's most successful startup. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT
It is an argument that many investors have made for years: having the right people working at a company is crucial to its success.
A new in-depth study of Sweden's startup scene argues that the strategy is more important than ever in 2015, as it becomes progressively easier to start a business.
“People are the most important thing (…) and a diverse team helps you have global vision,” Jonathan Bean, who carried out the research tells The Local.
“It has never been so cheap and quick to market a product, so innovation in other areas will get you ahead,” he adds.
Bean is currently Chief Marketing Officer at Swedish PR and marketing software provider Mynewsdesk but studied Sweden's tech sphere as part of his MBA. His project is designed to provide up-to-date analysis and advice for Sweden's next generation of entrepreneurs seeking international success.
The British-born businessman spoke to both founders, investors, early leadership team members and the current CEOs of some of the 13 most successful Swedish startups launched over the last 15 years, including Spotify, iZettle and Klarna.
During his in-depth qualitative research, he asked his interviewees to rank some of the most critical factors to their businesses going global.
'Entrepreneurs and their initial teams' got the highest overall score, while the 'culture', 'financial conditions' and 'innovation' at the firms were also listed as among the most vital company attributes alongside developing a strong network.

Jonathan Bean. Photo: Private
Bean concludes that while plenty of entrepreneurs have visions, they need to surround themselves with people who can guarantee their goals are reached and boast a range of complementary skills, from marketing and sales to development and financing.
He argues that in order to achieve international success, Swedish startups should look to introduce English as a company language as early as possible and seek to hire at least one non-Swedish employee within the first 12 months.
“If you want to be international then why don't you bring that flavour into your company?” he questions.
But the Briton has some strong advice for Swedish startups launching in new markets or expanding overseas.
“Recognize that you always need to communicate more,” he says, arguing that strong and well defined methods that keep all staff informed about global business development are vital.
“Your communications are going to be poor (…) so overcommunicate rather than under communicate.”
He also suggests that companies should reconsider their decision-making strategies as they grow, so that employees feel included.
“Everyone wants to be involved in Sweden, which is actually great (…) so then the decision can't just be two people in a hallway like it used to be [when the company first started out].”
While Bean's research is not statistically significant, it follows a string of recent studies that have also put Sweden's successful tech scene in the international spotlight.
Last week, the European Digital City Index for 2015 rated the Swedish capital third best in Europe for startups and second best for scaleups – the next step after the first phase, when a company has figured out a good business model and wants to expand.
A separate report released by Industrifonden, tracking funding flowing into the Nordic country, revealed that more than one billion dollars has already been invested in Sweden's tech scene in 2015.
“The Swedish startup sector is booming and continues to punch above its weight in terms of global winners,” the report concluded.


Malmö games start-up wins Supercell backing

The Finnish mobile games giant Supercell has invested 35 million Swedish kronor ($2.6million) in a Malmö games startup, in a further sign the city's games incubators are attracting international attention.

Malmö games start-up wins Supercell backing
Some of the Bouncy Tins designed by Luau. Photo: Screen Grab/Luau Games
Malmö's Luau Games, based in the city's Minc Incubator, has so far developed just one game, the as yet unreleased platform game Bouncy Tins. 
The game, which features “tiny robots trying to make their way to freedom”, is designed to be easily played with a single finger on a mobile phone. 
“I am super proud that we have gained the attention of the world's absolute best mobile games developer,” Luau co-founder Stéphane Stamboulis told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. 
“The plan is to develop a new mobile game, which will probably be on the market in around a year.”
Stamboulis and his co-founder Michel Savariradjalou, so far the company's only employees, plan to hire ten colleagues over the next six months. 
The two Frenchmen previously worked as art directors at the Malmö offices of the Swedish games giant King.