Countries across Europe are currently watching the Swedish government with great fascination as it continues to power through with its COVID-19 strategy, which looks very different to that of other countries. International media in particular are indeed reporting on how people in Sweden are going about their lives with relative normality, with most schools, cafés, restaurants and gyms still open.
Nobody has the answer to how successful (or not) governmental restrictions in Sweden will turn out to be, and I’m certainly not the one to speculate on this matter.
But as a Swedish entrepreneur I do want to share a little bit of insight into a lesser discussed area, namely, what it’s like to run a startup company in Sweden during the pandemic, and what support is provided for startups at this time. Equally important, I want to highlight a few examples of the startup, business and VC ecosystems coming together to create new solutions that can help some of the problems associated with the pandemic.
My company, Bokio, is a Gothenburg-based tech startup which makes an AI-driven software tool for accounting and bookkeeping. With a large chunk of our Swedish users consisting of SMEs and startups like ourselves, we always have a finger on the pulse of this community, and it didn’t take long until we found ourselves flooded with questions relating to COVID-19 and its potential impact on Swedish entrepreneurs.
It’s worth mentioning that most Swedish companies have had generous WFH policies in place, with many offering flexible work hours, since long before the crisis. A significant contributing factor is that Sweden is privileged with great connectivity, with telco networks reaching high up the mountain tops and covering the most remote of areas, making it easier to work from outside of the office. As such, moving a business into full remote-mode in response to the pandemic has been relatively seamless for most.
However, other issues facing startup companies around the world, such as cash flow problems, disrupted supply chains and efficient deployment of staff, are all ones also affecting Swedish startups.
Here are some of the key aspects of the government’s national support package offered to companies, including most startups:
While these measures will certainly be of help, we hope to see even more support put in place, in particular for the very smallest and the youngest of companies, as some of these are not eligible for the above.
Meanwhile, the VC, startup and business communities in Sweden are really pulling their weight to make a difference, and are moving fast to launch some truly amazing initiatives and projects. Just to name a few:
Viktor Stensson is the CEO and co-founder of Bokio, the Gothenburg-born fintech behind an AI-driven accounting software for SMEs and self-employed. The company was founded in 2015 and currently employs a team of 80 people from 12 different nationalities across its Gothenburg and Stockholm offices.