But when he finally decided to invest in Sweden, “Everything just fell into place.”
“The entire structure of doing business is simplified in Sweden. As a result, you are able to accelerate what you are trying to achieve.”
Ten reasons to choose Sweden
This time the concept was data centers. Murphy is Chairman of DigiPlex, which provides large scale, high-powered, energy-efficient data centers to house mission-critical equipment for companies and government agencies.
“We started in Norway, and when it was time to expand we actually looked at Finland first, and then Denmark. But we came quickly to the conclusion that Sweden was next.”
As the company pondered its next endeavor, Murphy received encouragement from all sides to enter the Swedish market.
“On the one hand we had help from Business Sweden,” Murphy says. “They were proactive, friendly, cooperative, and very helpful in getting us all the information we needed. I highly recommend them.”
Meanwhile, Murphy visited a friend in Switzerland – the US ambassador. “We went over to the Swedish ambassador's residence for a party, and when he found out I was considering Sweden he pulled me aside and gave me ten reasons I should choose Sweden,” Murphy recalls. “It made sense. After speaking with the ambassador, I never went back.”
'We saw the opportunity'
And indeed, Murphy saw a demand in Sweden for services which no one was delivering. As the country with the largest IT services industry in the Nordics, Sweden was going to be in desperate need of wholesale data centers – i.e. data centers that can tailor large scale IT housing solutions.
“We saw the market opportunity and grabbed it.”
The team selected a site in Upplands Väsby north of Stockholm – a location which had “everything we need”.
Today, DigiPlex operates a 20,000 m2 facility which houses customers such as NASDAQ OMX and Netnod, Sweden's internet exchange in what is considered one of the largest commercial data centers in Sweden – and the most energy efficient.
“I come to Sweden every three to four weeks,” Murphy says. “Everything is going well. The welcome that I receive from everyone in Sweden, my own team, the business community, the township, the designers – it's all working well.”
Murphy has 25 years of experience working in 18 countries across Europe – but he says there's no place like Sweden for business development.
“It's easier to have a successful development project in Sweden than the majority of other countries where I have worked,” he confides. “I am by far the happiest being in Sweden.”
The Nordic nations have ideal conditions for hosting data centers – cool air being an obvious benefit.
“In any data center you have to cool the servers, and in the Nordics you can just open the windows,” Murphy laughs, but adds seriously, “that can reduce the bill for power by up to 25 percent.”
Keeping it simple
Access to enormous amounts of renewable energy and the new tax cut on power makes the cost very competitive. “An international company deploying 12 megawatts a year 10 years will save more than $100 million by placing their data center in Sweden vs in the UK – just based on the difference in the cost of power.” Murphy says.
“That's huge. And that's why the biggest tech companies in the world – Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft – either already have massive data centers in Scandinavia, or are in the process of developing them.
“The Nordics present directness and simplicity in doing business,” Murphy says. “Swedes say what they mean and mean what they say, and they keep it simple.”
Transparency of legislation and behaviour in general means it's easier to know what needs to be done, he says. Legal documents are much shorter and there are very few “obstructionists” – partly due to an efficient, problem-solving, family-orientated culture.
“The Nordics have a very good work-life balance. People here do not live to work. They do work hard, but they mostly live well.”
And that's one of the best parts of business in the country. Although getting accustomed to a new business culture can be frustrating at first, Murphy said it's definitely a key to success.
“If you're going to be a foreign investor abroad, you have to remember that it may be your concept, but it's their country. And that context matters a lot, a whole lot.” But in general, what goes around comes around, Murphy says.
“If you take the time to appreciate the Swedish working culture, which is based on consensus decision making, the dividends will come back to you tenfold.”