Founder and CEO of STING (Stockholm Innovation & Growth)
Pär Hedberg is the founder and CEO of STING (Stockholm Innovation & Growth). STING is the longest-established technology accelerator and incubator in Sweden, and has coached 274 tech companies since its inception in 2002, helping them grow and compete internationally. At the start of 2019, STING alumni companies had collectively received nearly £419 million in private capital, made over £219 million in revenue, and created 2,639 jobs. Eight STING companies are publicly listed on the Nasdaq OMX.
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Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.
Today, Sweden’s capital Stockholm boasts the highest number of unicorns (seven) per capita of any city outside of Silicon Valley. In 2018 alone, the Stockholm startup ecosystem saw two of Europe’s largest exits, with Spotify’s IPO and iZettle’s acquisition by PayPal.
Not only in Stockholm, but across the whole of Sweden, technology companies in our country of around 10 million people have seen a disproportionate level of success in exporting products and services internationally.
Something we see in Sweden currently is a widespread emergence of impact technology startups which, across a variety of fields, are developing products and services that have a positive effect on our society. We see a strong interest in this field from Swedish VCs that wish to invest in such companies. There’s also a growing interest from all actors to change the gender balance.
Most small countries will face the challenge of attracting international talent, and so does Sweden. What makes our country unique, however, is its good reputation when it comes to quality of life, gender equality, work/life balance, generous holidays, and extensive parental leave, which certainly does help convince talented workers to come, live, and work in Sweden.
Recent exits of companies such as the aforementioned Spotify and iZettle have led to a large influx of capital in Sweden, much of which is being reinvested into the startup ecosystem. This, combined with the emerging market for impact technology, will make the next three to five years an exciting time for our startup community. Just like we’ve seen with early startup successes like Skype, Yubico, Stardoll and Spotify, it is likely that we will also see current employees of the Swedish startups making waves internationally, moving on to set up their own businesses.
To become globally competitive as a startup ecosystem, we need to continue our work to attract and retain international talent, and this I predict will remain a key challenge over the next few years.
Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.
Big Data, Social Network
Lifestyle / Wellness
Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligene
Edtech, Artificial Intelligence
3D Printing, Advanced Manufacturing
Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.
Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.
Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.
Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.
The public schooling system in Sweden dates back to the 13th century, when free education was offered to aspiring pastors. This long history of free education, which is offered all the way through college (with higher education offered at no cost even to residents of other EU countries) has meant that company founders in Sweden have always had good access to educated and skilled workers.
After the Second World War, political reforms were introduced aimed at providing social and financial security to all Swedish residents. These reforms laid the foundation for ‘The Swedish Model’ and our current welfare system.
The welfare system has provided a healthy safety net for those wanting to start a business. Minimizing the negative implications associated with potential failure for those who dare to take the risk has bred innovation in our country, and this I believe has had a significant, positive impact on the startup ecosystem of today.
The historic agreement between unions and employer federations for high minimum salaries, has “forced” corporations and the public sector to be very active with digitalization to stay competitive.
Interested in becoming more involved in this ecosystem and connecting with local ecosystem leaders? Let us know.
Alfvén & Didrikson (Stockholm): Alfvén & Didrikson is an active and long term backer of passionate entrepreneurs and teams with international growth ambitions. Since 2010, the Alfvén & Didrikson team has made investments in fast growing Northern European companies such as Trustly, Quinyx, Glue, Acast, Offerta, Sympa, PE accounting and PingPong. (Source: Alfvén & Didrikson)
Almi Invest (Stockholm): A public sector independent venture capital company is to be a bridge to private capital and contribute to a functioning venture capital market throughout the country. Over the years, Almi Invest has co-invested with over 1,000 business angels and institutional investors. Almi Invest is owned by Almi Corporate Partners and ultimately by the Swedish state. Almi Invest is part-financed by the EU, Almi Corporate Partners and regional organizations. The fund makes about 50 new investments per year and manages about SEK 3 billion total. (Source: Almi Invest)
Atomico Sweden (Stockholm): Atomico partners with ambitious tech founders at Series A and beyond with a particular focus on Europe. They’re based in London, but have an office in Stockholm. (Source: Atomico)
Bonnier Ventures (Stockholm): Launched as Bonnier Growth Media in 2013, Bonnier Ventures is the venture arm of the Bonnier Group. As a financially driven corporate venture investor, it makes minority investments in fast growing digital technology companies across multiple growth stages with a stronghold in the Nordics and ambition to scale globally. (Source: Bonnier Ventures)
Butterfly Ventures (Stockholm): Butterfly Ventures is a seed stage fund founded in 2012. It has offices in Stockholm, Oulu, and Helsinki. (Source: Butterfly Ventures)
Creandum (Stockholm): Known as the leading Nordic venture capital firm, Creandum is investing in startups focusing on consumer internet, software, and hardware sectors. With a total of €435 million raised, 75 investments in their portfolio, in seed, Series A and later stage rounds, Creandum is the first stop for any entrepreneur. Notable investments include Spotify, Wrapp, Cint, Edgeware, iZettle, Vivino, Videoplaza, and 13th Lab. (Source: EU-Startups)
Creathor Ventures (Germany): Invests in European tech and healthcare startups. (Source: Creathor Ventures)
DHS Venture Partners (Stockholm): DHS, which stands for Diplomerad från Handelsögskolan i Stockholm, is an exclusive network founded by a group of Stockholm School of Economics alumni dedicated to supporting the next generation of great entrepreneurs. (Source: DHS Venture Partners)
Eight Roads (London): A global proprietary investment firm backed by Fidelity. (Source: Eight Roads)
EQT Ventures (Stockholm): EQT Ventures is a multi-stage €566 million VC fund, part of EQT, a leading investment firm. It typically invests in tech companies for amounts between €3 million and €75 million, with a geographical focus on Europe and the US. Notable investments include Oden Technologies, Holidu, Riskmethods, Min Doktor, Wolt, Verto Analytics, Unomaly, 3D Hubs, Watty, and more. (Source: EU-Startups)
Gullspång Invest (Stockholm): Invests in technology startups across the Cleantech, Foodtech, and Healthtech. (Source: http://gullspanginvest.se/en/)
Inbox Capital (Stockholm): Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Inbox Capital is a family-owned investor with a main focus on disruptive and scaleup tech companies. It invests in various verticals, such as Fintech, Medtech, E-sports, B2B SaaS and Deep Social Networks. (Source: Inbox Capital)
Industrifonden (Stockholm): Founded by the Swedish government in 1979 to support industrial development but switched to venture capital investments in 1996, Industrifonden is one of the larger venture capital firms in the Nordics, with US$600 million in assets. Placing focus on technology and life science sectors, its portfolio currently consists of 25 companies, including Barnebys, Soundtrack Your Brand, Fishbrain, AMRA, BONESUPPORT, and Oncopeptides. (Source: EU-Startups)
Inventure (Finland): A Nordic technology fund backing early-stage entrepreneurs. (Source: Inventure)
Keiretsu Forum (Stockholm): Keiretsu Forum Nordics is a Nordic based investor network covering the four Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The founding chapter in Stockholm was opened in the beginning of 2016. (Source: Keiretsu Forum)
Kichi Invest (Stockholm): Kichi Invest is a private investment company owned by Fredrik Wester, CEO and founder of Swedish gaming company Paradox Interactive. It primarily invests in Nordic unlisted companies seeking growth capital. The company has a broad investment mandate and is open to any discussions with passionate entrepreneurs or owners seeking an active partner to grow their business. (Source: Kichi Invest)
Kreos Capital (Stockholm): Europe & Israel's leading growth debt provider for high-growth companies. (Source: Kreos Capital)
Luminar Ventures (Stockholm): Provides professional seed stage financing to early stage technology companies throughout Sweden that are looking to disrupt or transform major industries with digital technologies and innovations. (Source: Luminar Ventures)
Monterro (Stockholm): Based in Stockholm, Monterro is a hand-on growth investor targeting software companies in the Nordic region. Unlike other firms, who only invest other people’s money, the Monterro partners have a personal stake in each and every investment. (Source: Monterro)
NFT Ventures (Stockholm): Established in 2014, NFT Ventures wanted to capture the opportunity in the transformation of banking and financial services. It therefore invests in the fintech sector including banking products and loyalty programs, and in services where fintech is part of the solution, such as proptech, insurtech, regtech, and e-commerce. So far more than 40 companies in the Nordic and the UK markets are backed by them. (Source: EU-Startups)
Nordic Makers (Stockholm): An angel network typically investing in seed rounds, with an investment size above US$500,000 and below US$2 million, Startups need to have a solid team, and at least half a good product, and some traction regarding numbers. (Source: Nordic Makers)
Northzone (Stockholm): Northzone is an early stage venture capital fund. Founded in 1996, it has invested in over 130 companies, including Spotify and iZettle. (Source: Northzone)
Oxx (Stockholm): Oxx provides scale up capital for B2B software companies with great traction. (Source: Oxx)
Propel Capital (Stockholm): Linked to accelerator program Sting is Propel Capital, which, with about 100 companies in the portfolio, is an active private seed investor in Swedish tech startups. Propel Capital invests only in Sting companies and the investment size is normally SEK 400,000 (Sting Accelerate companies are guaranteed an investment and a selection of Sting Incubate companies receives an investment after evaluation). (Source: Propel Capital)
Qalora Capital (Stockholm): Qalora Capital is a tech-focused investment bank that helps entrepreneurs with financing and M&A. (Source: Qalora Capital)
SEB Venture Capital (Stockholm): The corporate venture capital arm of Swedish bank SEB. (Source: SEB Venture Capital)
Spintop Ventures (Stockholm): Founded in 2009, Spintop Ventures is a venture capital firm backed by a network of successful tech entrepreneurs who have invested in Spintop alongside institutional investors, family offices and some of the most experienced private investors in early stage growth companies. (Source: Spintop Ventures)
Standout Capital (Stockholm): Standout Capital is a private equity firm investing in growing Nordic tech companies, with a typical investment size of SEK 50-150 million (EUR 5-15 million) per company. It invests in companies with an established business, typically with revenues of SEK 50-250 million (EUR 5-25 million) and proven profitability. It does not invest in seed or early stage, or sectors like biotech, cleantech or gambling. (Source: Standout Capital)
STOAF (Stockholm): STOAF (originally short for Stockholms Affärsänglar) has since its start in mid-2008 operated three angel funds. They have been focused on B2B start-ups with strong technologies and global market potential. (Source: STOAF)
Sweet Capital (London): Supporting the world's best early-stage consumer mobile companies, established by the founders of King.com (Candy Crush). (Source: Sweet Capital)
Walerud Ventures (Stockholm): A pre-seed and seed stage fund that spends at least one day a week with portfolio companies to help set up the early team, strategy and sales. (Source: Walerud Ventures)
Wellstreet Ventures (Stockholm): Wellstreet Ventures is the venture arm of the Wellstreet Group, an investment company, a strategic consultancy firm and a venture building incubator. Wellstreet Ventures is one of Scandinavia’s most active investors in seed and early-stage startups, typically investing in technology, fintech, e-commerce, digital marketing, and logistics. (Source: EU-Startups)
Zenith Capital (Stockholm): The Zenith Group currently has three streamlined investment strategies under the same roof: Venture Capital (start-up company), Growth (growth company) and Real Estate (real estate funds). (Source: Zenith Group)
Amplify Sweden (Stockholm): Founded in 2017 by prominent members of Sweden’s technology, investment and music communities, Amplify is Sweden’s first music tech-oriented startup incubator, supporting young entrepreneurs who are trying to incorporate music elements into their tech business. They offer working space, guidance, services, industry expertise, and access to a large network of partners. (Source: EU-Startups)
KTH Innovation (Stockholm): KTH Innovation is the entrepreneurship centre of KTH Royal Institute of Technology, offering a structured pre-incubator program as well as services related to business development, patents and law, funding and project management. The aim is to help the students, researchers and employees at KTH commercialize their research results and business ideas. It is free of charge. (Source: EU-Startups)
SU Incubator (Stockholm): SU Incubator develops and accelerates innovative business ideas from researchers, students, alumni and employees at Stockholm University. It offers, through a tailor-made incubator program, business development support and a personal business coach, as well as workplace, infrastructure, and networking opportunities. (Source: EU-Startups)
SynerLeap (Västerås): SynerLeap offers mentorship, investments, and a unique access to Swedish robotics corporation ABB’s networks, clients and technology. (Source: SynerLeap)
Antler Stockholm (Stockholm): A global startup generator enabling the world’s most exceptional people - regardless of background - to build global businesses from scratch. Antler inaugurated a Stockholm cohort in Spring 2019. (Source: Antler Stockholm)
Sting - Stockholm Innovation & Growth (Stockholm): Founded in 2002, STING is one of the leading accelerators and incubators for startups in the Nordics. They support startups in five key areas of their business growth and provide financial support, coaching, recruitment assistance, networking opportunities, coworking spaces and marketing advice. Only 25 companies are accepted per year in a very selective process. Notable Sting alumni include Karma, Sellpy, and Watty. (Source: EU-Startups)
The Springfield Project (Stockholm): A Stockholm based accelerator and early-stage investor with a SEK 100 million fund that twice a year invests in up to 10 startups at a time. Since the start of The Springfield Project in the fall of 2014, it has invested in 32 companies. The fund invests in two stages: first, all companies will be provided with a seed round up to SEK 500 000 on a valuation of up to SEK 10 million and after participating in the accelerator program, there’s the option for a follow on investment of another SEK 2-10 million in a Series A round. (Source: The Springfield Project)
Epicenter (Stockholm): Epicenter is Stockholm’s first digital House of Innovation and runs innovation labs, hackathons, ideathons and offers flexible workplaces, studios, meetings rooms as well as world-class workshops and international lectures all year long. It’s known for its voluntary RFID implants with whom members can unlock doors, access printers, and pay cashless at vending machines. (Source: EU-Startups)
H2 Health Hub (Stockholm): An innovation hub and meeting place for the Nordic HealthTech community, where startups connect, collaborate & share to shape the future of health. (Source: H2 Health Hub)
Norrsken House (Stockholm): Norrsken House is Europe’s biggest tech hub dedicated to social impact and houses people with the vision to change the world. Placed in a retrofitted tram depot in central Stockholm, the one-stop-shop for social innovation provides top-notch infrastructure such as coworking space, meeting rooms, Skype booths, event space, playrooms, a meditation room, lounge area, kitchen, and much more. (Source: EU-Startups)
SUP46 (Stockholm): Known to be the home of the Stockholm’s startup community and the key meeting point for all startup enthusiasts, SUP46 functions as a membership-based community, where members are cherry-picked and offered funding, mentorship and coworking space. Spanning over 2000m2, the space provides full facilities for members, coupled with top-notch workshops, events and a Startup Café. (Source: EU-Startups)
The Castle (Stockholm): A collaborative 1500 square meter co-working space shared by 280 people. (Source: The Castle)
The Factory (Stockholm): The Factory is the largest innovation and tech hub in the Nordics. Backed by the Swedish venture capital firm Wellstreet, the Factory’s top-class infrastructure was planned to host 1400+ people, 100+ startups and scaleups, VCs, a tech school, labs, and innovation centers. Additionally, the building will include a gym, kindergarten and restaurant. (Source: EU-Startups)
The Park (Stockholm): A personal and creative co-working space with offices, event areas & conference rooms at three attractive addresses in Stockholm. (Source: The Park)
THING Stockholm (Stockholm): Things is a coworking space for hardware startups, focusing on IoT, automation, robotics, 3D scanning/printing and energy. Members are offered three floors of coworking space, event space, meeting rooms, prototyping and testing facilities, as well as access to an established network of investors, external services and manufacturers and collaborative opportunities with corporate partners. (Source: EU-Startups)
Urban ICT Arena (Kista): An open co-creation arena and testbed in Kista. Here the opportunities of digitalization are developed, tested and showcased in an urban environment. (Source: Urban ICT Arena)
Brilliant Minds (Stockholm): Founded by Spotify’s co-founder Daniel Ek in 2015, Brilliant Minds gathers the world’s “edgiest creators and purposeful leaders”, with the aim of challenging the status quo and discussing how innovation should be implemented to redefine the world we live in. Known as the “Creative Davos”, the conference is available by invitation or through very pricey tickets. (Source: EU-Startups)
STHLM Tech Fest (Stockholm): One of the biggest startup gatherings in Europe, STHLM tech fest is an annual meetup platform for hundreds of tech entrepreneurs, founders, investors, designers, developers, and journalists, with a variety of talks and panel discussions and networking opportunities for fellow startup enthusiasts. (Source: EU-Startups)
STING Day (Stockholm): Sting Day is an exclusive, invitation-only demo day event for 400 carefully selected guests, including 60 selected startups from all over Sweden and 200 investors from 15 countries. (Source: Sting)
Silicon Vikings Stockholm Chapter (Stockholm): Silicon Vikings is a 40,000+ network headquartered in Silicon Valley whose aim is to connect the startup and tech communities in Silicon Valley and Stockholm, by sharing experiences, expertise, and contacts. (Source: EU-Startups)
STHLM TECH Meetup (Stockholm): STHLM TECH Meetup is the largest monthly startup event in Europe. Every month the Swedish startup community gathers and talks about current and future developments in the ecosystem, coupled with special guests speakers and a small pitching competition. Best networking opportunity in the city. (Source: EU-Startups)
Almi: Almi Företagspartner AB is owned by the state and is the parent company of a group of 16 regional subsidiaries and the sub-group Almi Invest. The regional subsidiaries are 51 percent owned by the parent company and 49 percent by regional owners and offer loans and business development. Almi Invest AB is wholly owned by the Parent Company and conducts venture capital operations. (Source: Almi)
Invest Stockholm (Stockholm): Invest Stockholm is the official investment promotion agency of Stockholm. Stockholm is widely recognized as one of the most innovative regions in the world – let us help you discover why. (Source: Invest Stockholm)
RISE: RISE's mission is to promote sustainable growth in Sweden by strengthening the competitiveness and renewal of the business community and contributing to an innovative development of society. (Source: RISE)
Tillväxtverket (The Growth Agency): The Growth Agency is a government agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. It has the government's mission to promote sustainable business development and regional growth and to implement structural fund programs. (Source: Tillväxtverket)
Connect Sverige: Connect is a private non-profit initiative. The business is based on voluntary efforts from industry, universities and other organizations that contribute with expertise, experience and valuable contacts. Our combined efforts will lead to more companies becoming successful. (Source: Connect Sverige)
The Hub: The Hub is a free-of-charge community platform tailored to the needs of growth startups. The Hub gives an overview of the Swedish and Nordic startup community by providing visibility to all Swedish startups. Via the platform, startups can get assistance with their recruitment of talent, connection with investors and access best practice tools (e.g. employment contract, pitch deck). (Source: The Hub)
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