With so much innovation and ingenuity coming out of Stockholm, it's a bit of a challenge to even recall all of the numerous 2018 success stories, let alone boil them down to a top ten list. But embracing the capital's can-do ethos, we're going to give it a shot. In no specific order, here are our picks for the top ten tech stories to come out of Stockholm in 2018.
1. Stockholm: where innovation is in our DNA
Just a few weeks into 2018, the international accolades for the Swedish tech scene began rolling in with Bloomberg declaring Sweden the second most-innovative country in the world and the World Economic Forum naming Stockholm one of the world's most innovative cities. The latter nodded to the Swedish capital's reputation as Europe's “unicorn factory” as home to more $1 billion-plus companies per capita than anywhere outside of Silicon Valley.
The list of unicorns founded in Stockholm continues to grow and includes globally-recognized names like Skype, Spotify, Klarna, King, Mojang and iZettle.
2. Spotify redefines the IPO
After successfully disrupting the music industry, was it any surprise that the Stockholm-based Spotify would approach its initial public offering in an equally innovative way? The streaming music company “disrupted Wall Street” with its decision to go public via a direct listing that put roughly 90 percent of its shares available for immediate trade without an intermediary.
The bold move paid off, with prices opening at $165.90 per share at the start of opening day trading and finishing the day at $149.60, well above the original $132 reference price. At the end of its unorthodox debut on the stock market, Spotify was valued at $26.6 billion. Quite the feat for a company that's only been around for a dozen years.
3. Stockholm's FinTech sector goes from strength to strength
The FinTech sector continued its transition from global disruptor to the mainstream in 2018, and much of the action was centered in Stockholm. Financial technology innovations are no longer seen as merely an alternative to the existing financial system. Indeed, the FinTech sector is quickly becoming the existing financial system.
The strength of Stockholm's FinTech sector was exemplified by the May purchase of Swedish startup iZettle by PayPal for $2.2 billion. At the time of the transaction, the iZettle platform for handling retail transactions was being used by nearly a half million merchants. The purchase was PayPal's biggest acquisition to date and immediately expanded the US-based company's reach into Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
4. Stockholm businesses declare their commitment to gender equality
In February, The Economist published its annual ‘Glass Ceiling Index' and named Sweden the best country in the world for working women. Despite the accolades, there is always room for improvement. That's why more than 100 of Stockholm's best-known businesses publicly declared their commitment to gender equality in 2018.
In Stockholm, we firmly believe that A Woman's Place is wherever she wants it to be. That's why Invest Stockholm launched its gender equality initiative in March, urging companies to collaborate, contribute and strive towards a future free from gender discrimination.
This commitment to gender equality puts Stockholm ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing a main takeaway of 2018 State of European Tech report, which warned that “Europe urgently needs to fix its diversity and inclusion problem."
5. In Stockholm, the future of transportation is now
Before the year's first month was out, driverless buses were cruising Stockholm streets. Two self-driving buses began running between Kista mall and Victoria Tower along a 1.5 kilometre pre-recorded path at a speed of 20 kilometres an hour, using GPS and sensors to ensure they do not divert from the path. Their debut generated international attention, inspiring Forbes to write that “possibly no-other European nation loves technology as much as the Swedes.”
"By testing cars and not buses we were able to shift focus to urban development and more specifically urban mobility," Kista City Development director Åke Lindström tells The Local. "The self-driving buses that were tested this year was maybe our most covered story ever - and, of course, a success story. Today, we are already on the way to the testing more mobility solutions, both on-ground and in-air."
The buses were just the beginning. A few months later, the world's first electrified road for charging vehicles opened just outside of Sweden's Arlanda Airport. The 2km stretch is currently being used by an electric truck working for the logistics company PostNord as it shuttles deliveries between Arlanda and its distribution centre. A road map is already drafted for national expansion.
September saw the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) grant permission to Swedish auto giant Volvo to begin real-world testing of its self-driving cars, boosting the company's chances of meeting its goal of bringing the technology to market by 2021. That same month, German automaker Mercedes chose to launch its electric EQC in Stockholm.
And did we mention electric car sharing service aimo and electric scooter companies VOI, blinkee.city and Lime also established themselves in the city this year? With these types of advancements happening in Sweden, it's no wonder Stockholm was ranked second in Arcadis' 2018 Sustainable Cities Index.
6. Who needs an office? Co-working spaces spring up across Stockholm
Stockholm area entrepreneurs looking for an affordable, high-energy working space they can share with like-minded people received some very good news in 2018. Swedish venture capital company Wellstreet announced plans to build what will be the largest tech hub in the Nordics. Dubbed The Factory, the suburban facility will open in spring 2019 with space for upwards of 100 startups along with larger tech companies and venture capital firms.
Just a few months later, the American shared workspace company WeWork will open its doors in the hip downtown neighborhood Urban Escape with desks for more than 1,000 members.
“Stockholm is home to one of the leading tech scenes in the world and has an incredible innovation power and pioneering spirit. Our mission is to give our members the space, community, services, and flexibility they need to bring energy and inspiration to their work, while fostering collaborations with like-minded people who can help their businesses grow and succeed,” Wybo Wijnbergen, WeWork's general manager for Northern Europe, said.
7. Stockholm is a magnet for global tech talent
All of those new co-working spaces are likely to fill up quickly, considering Stockholm's continued ability to attract tech talents from around the world. According to Insead's 2018 Global Cities Talent Competitiveness Index, Stockholm is the world's second best city for attracting global talent.
Techies flocking to Stockholm shouldn't have too much trouble finding work on arrival. The city is bursting at the seams with tech companies looking for skilled workers and demand only looks set to continue growing.
8. Stockholm Tech Week reaches new heights
Whew! With 14 major tech conferences, over 50 events and around 40,000 people, we've barely caught our breath from September's Stockholm Tech Week. Whether it was the Gather Festival, the DreamHack Masters, the me Convention, Sthlm Tech Fest or the Music Tech Fest, the week-long event proved that Stockholm is still unquestionably one of the world's most prolific and innovative tech hubs.
9. Truly life-changing tech starts in Stockholm
Sweden has set itself the ambitious goal of becoming “the best in the world” at utilizing the health advancements ushered in by “digitalisation and eHealth” and 2018 saw a number of positive steps towards achieving that distinction.
While government initiatives include Stockholm County Council's new digital platform for electronic health records, patient access to digital test results and doctor's notes, and the development of an app for the online health portal ‘1777 Vårdguiden', some of the most promising developments can be found in the private sector.
Stockholm is home to around 130 health tech companies that are at the forefront of some truly exciting health tech developments. Examples include the telehealth startup KRY, which created an app to connect patients with doctors for digital consultations and treatment and in which has received investments to the tune of €53 million from companies including Accel, Creandum and Index Ventures, and Coala Life, which developed a heart monitor that can record users' heartbeat and ECG in just one minute and send the results to an online care portal where they can be assessed by a doctor. In June 2018, it was reported Coala Life has received several rounds of investment totalling over 100 million SEK (€9,752,000) from investors including venture capital company 20 North Street and chairman of Elekta Laurent Leksell.
10. Microsoft buys 130 hectares of land in the Stockholm region
Ending the year on a high, tech giant Microsoft sealed the deal on 130 hectares of land in Gävle and Sandviken. The details of the deal, worth SEK 269 million (€26 million), are currently hush-hush although the local mayor has said that what they have in store could lead to hundreds of jobs.
"Microsoft's interest in buying industrial land in two neighbouring municipalities in the Stockholm Region confirms our attractiveness and global competitiveness," says Anna Gissler, acting CEO of Stockholm Business Region.
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio in partnership with Invest Stockholm.