Highlights of 2022: Top five Stockholm tech stories of the year

As a new year dawns, we take a look back at some of the exciting innovations, new initiatives, strategic developments and creative uses of technology that made 2022 yet another successful year for the Swedish capital.

Highlights of 2022: Top five Stockholm tech stories of the year
  1. The rise and rise of femtech

Women’s health has long been overlooked in medical research and clinical trials in favour of men’s. In 2019, for example, The Guardian newspaper reported that five times more research was carried out into erectile dysfunction, which affects 19% of men, than into premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which affects 90% of women.

But interest in women’s health products has increased exponentially in recent years, not least among investors, especially in Sweden. Consequently the global femtech market size is projected to grow to €96.5 billion (1 trillion Swedish kronor) by 2030, from €48 billion (520 billion Swedish kronor) in 2021.

It is not only venture capitalists who understand the importance of more focus on women’s health – the Swedish government also declared as much in the Statement of Government Policy in October – “A greater emphasis will be placed on more equitable health care, women’s diseases and research on women’s diseases and health. Young women should not have to accept that it is normal to live with pain.” 

One of the most eye-catching femtech (the term was coined in 2016 by the Dane, Ida Tin, founder of the menstrual health app Clue) startups is Stockholm-based Pharmista Technologies, whose innovation is to establish a reusable pregnancy test to reduce women’s spending on their reproductive health, increase convenience, convey clearer test results, and reduce the use of single-use items made of plastic. Alice Mattsson, the co-founder of Pharmista, has said, “It feels good to be creating a product that should have been on the market decades ago.”

Alice Mattsson of Pharmista
  1. Female-led driven venture capital

Leading on from the surge in interest in femtech, BackingMinds, a women-led Stockholm-based venture capital fund, has been investing in high-performing founders outside the networks of traditional venture capital. Its recently launched €50 million fund will target companies with high potential outside of Europe’s capital cities and the types of entrepreneurs, such as women and immigrants, often overlooked by traditional investors.

BackingMinds founder, Susanne Najafi, recently said, “Sweden is far ahead in terms of demographic and digital transformation and we can apply many insights when looking for overlooked opportunities.” BackingMinds, which launched in 2016, is currently investing in 12 companies. BackingMinds finds and backs high-performing founders outside the networks of traditional venture capital.

“It’s not about charity or diversity investing – it’s about driving societal change and evening out injustices by making good returns,” says co-founder Sara Wimmercranz. “We go straight to the solution, challenging bias and putting focus on blind spots by delivering returns in companies where traditional investors see nothing but risks.”

  1. Frosty economy sparks wave of Klarna alumni-led startups

According to a study by Accel and Dealroom, Stockholm-based Klarna takes the crown for the most fintech startups founded by ex-staff in 2022 (15). The data comes from a study of startup creation from existing unicorns in Europe and Israel. The study emphasises how the ecosystem’s fintech unicorns are producing the next generation of startups, with companies such as Klarna providing many successful founders.

Former staff of Klarna are responsible for a whacking 23 new startups, 15 of them in fintech. This report comes as tech companies in Stockholm lean into a global economic downturn. However, the high number of highly-skilled laid-off tech workers this year could create fertile soil for a new generation of startups to emerge, as suggested by the Klarna alumni figures.

  1. Stockholm’s growth as the home of impact startups continues

In 2021 the Nordic countries raised €5.5bn (60 billion Swedish kronor and 26% of all startup funding) in impact startups, which was more than three times the amount in the US. In Sweden, and specifically in Stockholm, the increase was far higher, growing from €1.3bn (14 billion Swedish kronor) in 2020 to €3.6bn (39 billion Swedish kronor) in 2021, with Sweden surpassing even the UK and Germany. As a result, at the end of 2021, there were 460 impact startups in Sweden and this year, Stockholm even launched an official campaign to recognise the city as the “home”, as opposed to the “capital”, of impact.

Despite global finances being squeezed by recent world events, Stockholm continues to significantly invest in impact startups. One avenue for this investment is through nonprofit organisations such as the Norrsken foundation in Stockholm, which runs an accelerator program for impact startups, in addition to raising three venture capital funds, managing three co-working spaces and hosting more than 200 events each year.

Read Invest Stockholm’s report on the surge of impact investing in the Swedish capital

Jacob Felländer erecting his most recent exhibition, NowNowNowland
  1. Technology almost catches up with the creative mind

Stockholm artist Jakob Felländer may have gained a modicum of fame as the artist who sold several works to Hillary and Bill Clinton, but he’s becoming more widely known as the artist who is best at incorporating high tech into his work. And there are many challengers in the creative industries, as evidenced by the Stockholm Creative Tech Week in November.

Felländer’s most recent exhibition, NowNowNowLand in the Slakthusområdet area of Stockholm, consists of 200 square metres of images and digital augmented reality (AR) works, displayed on buildings in the area. Felländer has photographed major cities all over the world and the idea is to connect the Slakthusområdet area with the rest of the world. Through the The Great Escape app, and with advanced AR technology, visitors can interact with the works, which come to life while music pours out over the Slakthusområdet area.

His previous exhibition, The Great Escape, was a multi-dimensional ­project including photography, painting, sculpture, fashion, music, and education, all connected through his augmented reality app, The Great Escape. “I had a parallel virtual reality (VR) universe where you travelled through my images,” says Jakob. “Since the shapes in there were 3D, I could extract them and 3D print them as if they were sculptures.”

“There was also an augmented reality (AR) element where the image came out into the room. It was almost as though you could walk through the images and through the different layers. Which means that you were walking through my process and the images made with my hundred-year-old camera, charcoal, and paint. It was a combination of everything, of old and new technology, of time, space, and dimensions, and virtual and physical.”

This all sounds like the future. But that was just 2022 in Stockholm!

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Swedish stereotypes: The residents you’ll meet in Stockholm’s districts

Curious about the cultural ins and outs of the Swedish capital? Well, look no further! This is writer and marketing professional Mikael Barclay's insider’s guide to central, and quite central, Stockholm.

Swedish stereotypes: The residents you'll meet in Stockholm's districts
Inner-city Stockholm and its adjacent districts may seem like they're all "the same", but there are different nuances of posh, semi-posh and we're-just-pretending-to-be-posh. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Östermalm: Posh people 

This is “the right side” of Birger Jarlsgatan. If you sport a coat of arms on your Sunday china or want to declare that you have made it, this is your go-to area. A comfortable labradoodle stroll from the Royal Game Park, Djurgården, it is as close to Mayfair or le 16e that you will get anywhere north of Berlin. Another perk for the true Östermalm resident is that one will constantly bump into aunts of one’s old school chums who will tell one that they saw one’s mother just the other day. 

If you feel that good park benches are the hallmarks of any first-rate local entertainment scene, and are confident that your surname won’t dilute the prominence of the nameboard in your building’s entrance, Östermalm might just be the perfect neighbourhood for you.

Gärdet: Poor posh people 

Gärdet is somewhat of a natural child of Östermalm, and although part of the same district, local etiquette has residents specify Gärdet or Östermalm “sort of”, whenever asked where they live. From being lower middle-class, Gärdet is now the home of Dowager Countesses and cash poor children of polite society. The former will invariably insist that a modest ceiling height is no reason not to keep hefty family heirlooms such as chandeliers and large ancestral portraits. 

If you feel that vast open fields are about as exciting as it gets, then surely this is the ideal neighbourhood for you.

Vasastan: The middle class 

With its imposing buildings and chic parks, Vasastan is the bourgeois version of its aristo’ neighbour Östermalm. If the latter is an elderly colonel, the former is a multitasking young career mum, living the middle-class dream. With a well-groomed husband, Instagram-friendly  breakfasts, smart looking children, a holiday home near the sea, regular yoga sessions and a beautiful kitchen, this is everything one needs to be happy, it really is! 

If you love Swedish minimalist clothing brands and go “deliiish!” when you think of overly complicated lattes-to-go, Vasastan might be your perfect match. And, oh come on, it really is! 

Vasastan. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

City/Klarakvarteren: Youths 

Untouched by the Second World War, it was decided that the centre of Stockholm nevertheless ought to be demolished to make room for a more modern and bold architecture. To this very day the new buildings continue to be admired and cherished by tens of people, most of whom are architects living in Södermalm. Others have abandoned the area in favour of tourists, pickpockets and youths in tracksuits. 

If you are one of the people who believe that eventually all architecture will look good, this area might be your ideal pick.

Kungsholmen: Practical people 

People who live in Kungsholmen enjoy stressing that Kungsholmen is part of inner Stockholm, a notion underlined by the naming of the anonymous shopping mall Västermalmsgallerian*. This is an island where tendencies of any particular neighbourhood character are deemed unnecessary or pretentious. Instead residents emphasise the closeness to nature and how convenient it is to live so very very close to the city centre (did we mention that Kungsholmen is part of inner Stockholm?). 

If you have yet to come to terms with not wanting to live in a city in the first place and love interior design magazine inspired done up kitchens, this could very well be the island for you.

* The name Västermalm refers to the western inner Stockholm district, harmonising with the already established names of its southern, eastern and northern counterparts.

Stora & Lilla Essingen: Sturdy islands upon which a motorway rests 

No one really cares.

The motorway on Lilla Essingen. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Gamla stan: Tourists 

At some point it was decided that this historic gem would be best used for the vending of historically inaccurate miniature Vikings and bad coffee. A predicament that has skewed the tourist-to-local ratio, making it nearly impossible to stereotype its residents (who most probably exist… most probably). 

If you love history and are no taller than a 17th century cobbler, an apartment in Gamla Stan might just be for you.

Södermalm: Journalists 

This former working-class district is long since gentrified. Cockneys will still come over for the weekend pint although most of the island now caters for middle-aged journalists and young hipsters. While some residents secretly pretend to live in Berlin, others will swear on their vintage Vespas to be living in Palermo. Solidarity is a hallmark to this island and locals would gladly consider inviting members of the poor into their homes (just not this weekend when the parquet floor is being refurbished). When in the neighbourhood, why not swing by the local Farmers Market, an event yet to be visited by an actual farmer. 

If you think “what is that supposed to mean?” when you hear the expression “liberal elite”, you too might want to consider moving to Södermalm.

Södermalm. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Danderyd: Business class passengers 

This prestigious suburb is the dream of CEOs and other members of the mercantile classes. In fact, it is so prestigious that young people growing up in its crown jewel, Djursholm, regularly state that they live north of the city, in an attempt to avoid getting judged. And who could  blame them? Apart from its exclusive golf club, stables and huge villas, the area has its own country club, called Djursholm Country Club, in English!

Solna: The common man 

Trying to characterise Solna is like trying to characterise the Swedish cheese hushållsost. It’s not so much a particular kind of cheese as a cheese. But despite not being able to articulate exactly why, locals remain highly sentimental about their borough. A predicament that has led it to be not only Stockholm’s premier producer of common men and women, but also of football hooligans.

Solna, home to venues like the Friends Arena football stadium and shopping centre Mall of Scandinavia. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Bromma: Petite bourgeoise & bourgeoisie 

This is suburbia. Lush, idyllic, conveniently close to the city and during the winter months filled with branded down jackets. Houses range from large seaside bourgeoise to small formerly working class but now shut-up-mortgaged-middle class. Unlike people from Danderyd, residents will take every opportunity to mention where they are from. They are from Bromma and they are homeowners. 

Söder om Söder (south of Södermalm): The Marimekko middle class

This down-to-earth type area is ideal for everyone from subtenants from the north who put down “craft beer” under “interests” in job applications, to ordinary families and homeowning bobos (bourgeois-bohèmes). The common denominator being a profound appreciation for teak furniture and the modest lines of Scandinavian 50s design, a style invariably referred to as “good taste” (god smak), by Swedish architects. 

Nacka: People in sailing shoes 

It simply doesn’t get more New England than this in Stockholm. People in leisure class Nacka strive to look like they just got off their sailing boat. And if they are from Saltsjöbaden, or “Saltis”, they might actually just have. Good to know is that local regulation stipulates ladies to wear crisp pastel canvas sailing shoes and men worn down leather ones. 

Nacka is close to the water. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Lidingö: Homeowners with premium priced watches 

With its characteristic French sounding i-vowel, the name Liiiidingö has become synonymous with Swedish wealth. Just like Danderyd, Bromma and Nacka, Lidingö, residents prefer local trains (bana), running on separate tracks from the rest of Stockholm’s commuter trains and underground system. This keeps family members’ watches safe. As an extra precaution, Lidingö is surrounded by water.

Mikael Barclay is a marketing professional, keen social observer and serious dabbler in writing. Born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and a British Jamaican father, he felt destined to have a go at living abroad for himself. After venturing to Milan, Tokyo and London he is now based in Stockholm.