Sweden may have a fast-growing reputation as one of the best places on earth to launch a startup, but most businesses still need capital to get off the ground.
That's why some 170 startups battled it out in the first investment round of 2016 by leading Stockholm incubator Sting last month.
The results are in and eight new entrepreneurial ventures have been selected to receive funding and for the first time, these include four firms led or co-founded by women.
Their companies include a digital platform to book and manage professional models, a subscription service for perfume lovers and an interactive events calendar for long-distance runners.
Peo Nilsson, programme manager and business coach at Sting Accelerate said he was “very excited about the diversified teams this spring”, adding that there was also a “good spread of age and origin” that would help promote a strong group dynamic.
Each winning startup is set to receive an investment of 300,000 kronor (around $35,500) from Sting's angel-backed investment company Propel Capital. They'll also get 20 weeks of intensive coaching and the chance to move into one of Stockholm's leading co-working hubs for digital startups, SUP46.
“We are really looking forward to working closely with Sting during the spring, to increase the speed of growth in Sweden and globally,” said Laura Lilja, CEO and co-founder of YouModels.
Laura Lilja, CEO and co-founder of YouModels. Photo: Sting/private
Sting's investment in female entrepreneurs comes amid a government push to encourage companies to boost the number of women on boards in Sweden and efforts to persuade more girls to pursue careers in tech.
Despite the country's image as a leading nation when it comes to gender equality, three quarters of all board members in the Nordic nation are men.
“We don't have any quotas or so, we simply try to select the best companies (…) it is usually about two out of eight that have women co-founders,” he said.
“But I think that you could argue that we are pretty conscious when it comes to finding startups where at least one of the co-founders is a woman. We do that in a range of ways from sponsoring different events to word-of-mouth (…) getting into the right communities and events to tell women we are here to help.”
The latest coaching programme from Sting is its sixth similar bi-annual initiative. Half of the startups selected in an earlier round in spring 2014 also had female founders, but were not offered any capital.
According to Startup Hubs Europe, Stockholm is home to roughly 8,000 startups, employing around 52,000 people.
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, where a company has figured out a good business model and wants to expand.
Stockholm also boasts the largest number of billion dollar companies per capita outside of Silicon Valley, according to investment firm Atomico.
Here is how Sting describes its winners
Gaddr makes it up to 25 times faster to add and follow a friend, business, influencer or other person’s social media profiles.
CEO: Francisco Andreasson
Marqts.com makes it easier for investors to understand financial information so they can make better investment decisions.
CEO: Joakim Höglund (co-founded by Linda Kvarnström)
Match2One makes it easier for advertisers to make automated and hyper-targeted purchases of ad inventory – also called programmatic marketing.
CEO: Mikael Kreuger.
Mi.tv is the fastest growing online/mobile TV guide in Latin America.
CEO: Fredrik Hellström.
Sniph is a smart subscription service for perfume, which makes it easy to discover new scents.
CEO: Lisa Kjellqvist.
Teleguru is a fast-growing telecommunications website that is targeting the Polish market (58 million active SIM-cards).
CEO: Filip Wisnander.
Worldsmarathons.com is the starting place for all long-distance runners from beginners to elite. In the comprehensive event calendar, runners can discover new challenging marathons and exciting destinations.
CEO: Charlotte Melchert.
YouModels.com is an online platform for booking and managing models with agency contracts. YouModels’ unique search engine allows advertisers to easily find and “book the look” without multiple contact points at different agencies.
CEO: Laura Lilja.