Swedish Startup Space

Our Guide to Soft Funding and Why You Might Want To Avoid It, part 1

Written by on January 16

So you’re starting a business and don’t feel ready to rumble with the angels and VCs yet? Don’t worry, there are many other sources of early funding. This is the first post of two on soft funding in Sweden.

Vinnova – Sweden’s Innovation Agency

This beast feeds the Swedish innovation system annually with 2 billion SEK (300 million USD) and announces a large variety of grants throughout the year. The administrative burden is generally limited and Vinnova can be a perfect fit for high tech startups looking to extend their runway. Vinnova also targets innovative products, services and business models in general, so seven years of lab duty is not required.

Top picks:

Tillväxtverket – Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth

Whereas Vinnova deals with innovation, the goal of Tillväxtverket is to accelerate growth of any type of business. A substantial portion of the grants is a part of the governmental policies for supporting regions with low rate of economic growth. This means that Tillväxtverket can be a great partner if your startup is in Åmål.

Still, they do have some funding options for the country as a whole.

Top picks:

Scholarships

Scholarships (sw. “Stipendier”) are great and might fit perfectly for your endeavor. They are typically given with no strings attached. The trick is to find them as the documents often are buried deep inside some old monastery guarded by an old man with a robe. So how do you find them? Send an email to your local business incubator, chamber of commerce or business organizations (“Företagarna”) and ask them for leads. And remember to include details about yourself and your business idea.

Top picks:

European Union

If Vinnova is a beast, then EU is a black hole. It’s heavy, dense, and the closer you get the slower time goes. Although the EU sits on massive funds for SMEs, it is in many cases not at all suitable for startups due to the administrative burden (there are actually firms that do nothing but writing and managing applications).

Top picks:

  • No

Almi

At first we were a bit reluctant to include Almi in our list since they don’t have any pure grants. They do however have loans that might be suitable, and they are a player that you might want to reach out to if you’re in the early stages and need funding.

Top picks:

Länsstyrelsen – County Administrative Board

The County Administrative Board has a broad area of responsibility. One of these are to support the regional business community. The grants differ somewhat depending on which region of Sweden you are in, and they are mainly targeting rural areas of Sweden.

Industry specific

Every industry sector has organizations supporting innovation. These can be governmental bodies (eg. Energimyndigheten) or trade associations funded by private companies. Since the organizations often are regarded as “industry experts” their funding can be leveraged for PR, branding and further funding. Be adviced, these organizations might represent larger stakeholders who expect something back from you.

Rules for a successful application

Before starting, be absolutely sure about the basics. Is the call for proposals up to date? Is it even this year? Are there any base requirements (i.e. turnover, age, background) on you as an applicant?

Your time is too valuable for you to spend it on an application that was never going to happen.

Talk with the announcing organization. Understand why they are willing to give you their money and what their overall goals are. If you’re uncertain about any details in the call, how you should interpret certain phrases etc. – ask them.

And when you find the perfect match, be first. You will have competition and the funding organization might darn well might close the call when you least expect it!

Be sure to check out part 2 of this mini-series, where we give reasons not to throw yourself at soft funding. Do you think we have overlooked something? Then you are probably right, share your thoughts below!

Note 1: Could also be worth knowing about the European Union De Minims rules. In short total amount of governmental funding for a 3 year period should be limited to a certain amount. Currently it is EUR 200 000, but note that this rule does not apply to all types of governmental grants. Read more here.

  • Johan Brissmyr

    Thanks for a great guide! As with any other task you spend your precious startup hours on, just make sure you can re-use the results. Actually it’s a pretty high conversion rate to get one of your applications all the way through the funding funnel so it’s probably worth a try. As a bonus you get a couple of days where you really get to think about your product, market and opponents. Something that is easy to leave behind while rushing forward coding or trying to sell your product.

  • Anton Johansson

    Great post. Love the initiative. Looking forward to part 2!

    • jamespember

      Einar rules!

  • jamespember
  • Gabriel

    Quick and simple, great post!

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