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Is this the most Swedish startup on the planet?

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Is this the most Swedish startup on the planet?
The founders of coffee company Karma, Pontus Rosberg (left) and Martin Grewin (right). Photo: The Local
07:37 CET+01:00
Swedes love coffee, are addicted to exercise and can count themselves among Europe's keenest charity donors. The Local meets two entrepreneurs from the Stockholm startup scene who are combining all three passions.
Make no mistake, Pontus Rosberg and Martin Grewin, both 30, are completely obsessed with premium coffee.
 
Their company, Karma, brings wild beans directly from the mountainous region of Caffa in Ethiopia, believed to be the original source of coffee, to Sweden. The beans are picked, dried and washed by hand, before being slowly roasted.
 
"The coffee is completely organically grown and it has this non-bitter more rounded taste – it's quite sweet," explains Rosberg.
 
"Only the top 15 percent of coffee in the world is able to be called speciality coffee, like this (...) We could sit and talk for hours about what makes it so special."
 
The pair say they are hoping to tap into a growing network of "real coffee nerds" in Sweden, which is one of the world's leading coffee consuming countries, topped only by neighbouring Finland.
 
"More and more people are following what's called the third wave," Rosberg says.
 
"Just like some people have their favourite wine, now you know what kind of bean you like, or what mix or what blend. So this coffee is basically an easy way of attaching yourself to the third wave."
 


The coffee beans are grown in Ethiopia. Photo: Karma

The product comes at a price, costing 120 kronor for just 250g. But the twist in the business is that a chunk of the company's revenue goes directly towards helping fund charity projects by Girls Gotta Run, an organization seeking to empower girls and their communities through exercise.
 
Rosberg spent a month in Ethiopia speaking to more than 20 non-profit groups before deciding to back the initiative, which he says is having a major impact on both health and education in the area. School children in the town of Sodo have been given running clothes, shoes, water bottles and access to a new wooden outdoor gym (just like the ones very popular in Swedish towns and cities). Some of the girls are good enough athletes to become professionals, while others are inspired to get fit, stay in school and avoid early marriage.
 
"We want to promote the right connection to the buyer – the happiness that we have helped to create [in Ethiopia] and the happiness and love that we have for coffee," smiles Rosberg.
 
"Ethiopia could be a country in war if they don't get the right education. We are trying to work to prevent Ethiopia becoming a failed state like Syria or Afghanistan for example, because it could easily happen with the wrong leaders and the wrong people around," adds the Stockholmer, who previously spent three years in the Swedish army, including postings as a squad leader in Afghanistan and Kosovo.


Some of the girls using the gym, a project run by Karma and Girls Gotta Run. Photo: Karma


Professional athletes are likely to emerge from the project. Photo: Karma

Meanwhile, Grewin says he hopes to use his background in digital communications to create innovative, impactful marketing campaigns, rather than "wasting money" on expensive public relations strategies.
 
A former trainee at Redbull, he says he was inspired by how the drinks company developed a strong brand image through promoting creativity linked to the extreme sports world, building an support base through YouTube videos and other online platforms.
 
"For us, the coffee is the central drink, but we promote innovation and creativity through more social work," he explains.
 
Two years since the duo first came up with the idea, Karma is starting to sell well online and in several Stockholm coffee shops and the pair are planning to take home a salary for the first time in 2016. But they insist that money is not their main motivation for the project.
 
"I'm not popping champagne at the clubs and I don't drive a lamborghini. I just want to listen to music, have a beer and pay my rent," says Grewin.
 
"Our lifestyle isn't that expensive. But because we want to focus on this 100 percent then we must get some money for our jobs," he adds.
 
The pair are currently seeking advice and mentorship from within Stockholm's startup scene, having already recieved strong support from Tictail, a free Swedish e-commerce platform that has recently been promoting physical pop-up stores.
 
But they are yet to receive any outside investment for their project and are on the hunt for a coffee company to partner with, as the business expands.
 

Pontus Rosberg (right) and Martin Grewin (left) on a visit to Ethiopia. Photo: Karma
 
"I suppose you could describe it as quite Swedish," laughs Rosberg, when quizzed about the firm's unique combination of coffee, sport, charity work and innovation.
 
But he argues that the business also taps into a far more serious trend in Sweden – a need to find significance in an increasingly materialistic culture.
 
"People are actually feeling less meaning in life (...) people don't see themselves as part of something good, or something important or something positive for the world. They are just say working in an ad agency trying to make as much money as possible all the time, and screwing competitors."
 
It is a message that's strongly connected to the startup's name.
 
"We believe in just doing a little bit every day to help someone else, and then you're gonna feel better and then maybe somebody's gonna do something nice for you the next time you're sad. We want to promote karma in Sweden," concludes Grewin.
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