Why Swedish startups are results-oriented

In the next part of our series on Swedish startups, we explain how companies use the concept of 'lagom' and harness creativity into amazing results.

Why Swedish startups are results-oriented

Creativity demands an end product. Otherwise it’s just ‘ivity’. Swedish start-ups focus their creativity on results.

You may have heard of the culture-defining Swedish concept of lagom. Lagom is just right – not too hot, not too cold; not too big, not too small; not too much, not too little. Just – lagom. 

It's the Goldilocks standard of the north. And it applies to creativity too.

If you just want to be creative for the hell of it, buy some oil paints and a guitar. But if you see creativity as a fundamental element of a broader goal then you have to keep your creativity optimal. Don't get carried away.

“We are trying to come up with good solutions for specific problems,” says TicTail co-founder Kaj Drobin.

In Tictail’s case that means finding the best way to develop a streamlined e-commerce platform.

“It's not about finding new ways to do it per se; it's about making it as easy and fun as possible.”

Klarna’s Niklas Adalberth also cautions against hopping blindly onto the creative train.

“Creativity is a very important component of start-up success, but it is not a goal every single day in everyday life,” he explains.

The problem is, it’s often hard for creative people to turn off the torrent of ideas and get down to delivery. And the more brilliant the mind, the harder it is to stem that flow. The Swedish solution is to be pragmatic about the blend of people in your start-up.

“It can be good to have some people who are a little more negative in their mindset, to kill off the craziest of ideas,” Adalberth says.

“A mix is the perfect way to do it.”

Klarna was founded by Adalberth along with Viktor Jacobsson and Sebastian Siemiatkowski – “the creative guy”.

“It was good that Viktor and I were less creative and more focused on getting stuff done,” he remarks wryly.

Volumental is another advocate of mixing things up to stay focused on the goal. The company was founded by PhDs who like to get nerdy about printing – but when it comes to hiring, they needed a mix.

”The rest of us are technical, and now we have Julia, who studied art and designed stage clothes for Lady Gaga,” comments founder Caroline Walerud.

“Having diversity in the company means that in the end we get a better decision and a better product.”

How to do it the Swedish way:

  •   Value creativity, but don’t over-value it. Not too little, not too much. You say optimal – Swedes say ‘lagom’.
  •  If your in-house creative genius (that’s you) can’t focus, make sure your team is balanced with ‘doers’.