Author’s note: The amazing team behind Swedish Startup Space has come along way since their first post. It’s been a lot of fun to prepare this piece, and I feel totally honoured. With that said, I hope you enjoy.
Where is the best place to start your company?
Historically, no one has known with any certainty. However, you do hear the leftovers of good marketing and Chinese whispers, which has Silicon Valley, Berlin, Tallinn and London popping up in conversation a bit too often.
Of course you get the experts flashing their fancy titles, and yes they’re probably using their advanced statistics, and big data analytics to create their “top ten city lists”, but since when have experts not made mistakes — ”2008”.
Lets face it, startups are risky endeavours. For one to thrive, entrepreneurs need to “suit up” with their battle armour, because it isn’t going to be easy wherever you’re living!
So what should you look at when deciding the best location to start your company?
The answer: Access to resources
When I originally decided to move to Gothenburg, I was met with a lot of criticism.
- The wages are higher in Norway
- There’s more opportunity in the capital
- You could struggle to find work; and you don’t know anybody
Fortunately, I’ve been blown away by everything the city has to offer. The story is an elegant one. Disruptions are stirring, and local innovators are using all the right tools for the job.
Are we seeing a shift in Sweden’s startup ecosystem?
Gothenburg is live
It’s my pleasure to announce that Startup Grind, a global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs has arrived in Gothenburg. They’re present in over 100 cities across 42 countries! By hosting monthly events they bring successful founders, innovators, educators, and investors to the stage where they share personal stories and lessons learned on the road to building great companies.
This marks a thrilling new movement for the city, because it gives the local aspiring entrepreneurs as well as seasoned veterans an incentive to gather. It also creates a platform of common interest and shared passion helping propel great ideas.
The event took place at the co-working space E-hive, and things kicked off to an energetic start. A shared excitement electrified the atmosphere. It was inspiring to see the room full with great conversation and the grandest smiles I’ve seen this year. The chicken noodles menu (with chopsticks) definitely made the networking session interesting; only the brave didn’t go home hungry, but everything else went smoothly.
We had the opportunity to learn from an incredibly informative interview with Caroline Krensler (Co-founder & COO of Vinngroup). I can safely say that we all walked away a little wiser. Caroline’s energy was contagious, and those that were seeking inspiration definitely got what they came for.
Interview Highlights & Takeaways (28/05/2014)
- Being persistent is key to getting jobs done
- Don’t be afraid to be challenged, and to challenge others
- Things always go wrong, just get used to fixing it
- Startups should piggyback off global megatrends
- There should always be an entrepreneur on the team who loves selling
- Build the dream team that will help you become world class in your area
- Let go occasionally, and have fun from non work activities
- Friends and family support is extremely important
- Learn to delegate; you cannot go at it alone
- Don’t depend too much on one customer
- If you’re the best in your field, customers will call
- Be curious — ask a lot, and ask again if you don’t understand
- Appreciate the small things in life
- Don’t build a product without involving customers
- Fall in love with winning, because competition is fun
Gothenburg is Sweden’s diamond in the rough
Sweden has diamonds?
Although the country has been primarily known for its manufacturing and exports, Sweden’s growing technical expertise is positioning them perfectly to do well in the new digital environment.
They are no stranger to hosting behemoth business models either. If you enjoy music, then there’s a pretty good chance you’re seeing and listening to a good example. I’m speaking of Spotify of course.
Other Swedish greats include:
- Skype – Freemium voice-over-IP service
- Klarna – E-commerce payment services for online storefronts
- King.com – Casual-social games company
- Mojang – Independent video game developer
Usually the resources congregate in the capitals, however, as the cost of basic technologies falls, bootstrapped teams are launching successful ventures everywhere. This is fuelling a wave of new organisations and movements that act as resource honeypots.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that capital cities are dead. I’m just highlighting that if your city has the right resources, it may be as good a place than any from which to start your company.
So what does Gothenburg have?
The Right Stuff!
It’s surprising how many people under appreciate the value of Gothenburg’s position. It’s the heart of Scandinavia; only a 3 hour train ride from Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo. Boasting the biggest port up north, it naturally attracts attention which helps bring resources to the city. You can see from the following list, that I’m not the only one to have taken note:
- The Swedish bank SEB was founded in Gothenburg
- Ericsson has an R&D department in Gothenburg
- Spotify have engineering offices in Gothenburg
- SKF was founded and headquartered in Gothenburg
- Volvo was founded and headquartered in Gothenburg
- DICE and GHOST studios are from Gothenburg
- Nudie and Monki emerged from Gothenburg
- Stena was founded and headquartered in Gothenburg
- Forsman & Bodenfors was founded in Gothenburg
- Wallenstam and Balder were founded in Gothenburg
Source of Talent
Innovative ideas originate from people, and the fact that Gothenburg ranked 12th most inventive city in the world during 2013 (Forbes) is testimony to the existence of local talent. Coming from such an industrial history there is still a heavy focus on engineering, however, the 55,000 approx students at Chalmers University of Technology are ensuring that design and business development skills are also very present. Incase you already have a team and need help getting started, here’s how Chalmers innovation can hook you up.
The Relevant Culture
The modern economy is a sharing one and business models such as Carpooling (Sunfleet), and crowd-funding (FundedByMe) are prospering as result. These business models require a certain type of mindset in order to be adopted. From the conversations I’ve had with the local influencers, this city has that mindset which could make it a viable testing ground to incubate such ideas.
“Gothenburg has what it takes m’kay”
How to Succeed in Gothenburg
The first step to winning any race is participating in it, and to do that you need to know when, where, and how to enroll. To find out about the next must attend meetings is as easy as following Swedish Startup Space on Facebook, or Twitter, subscribing to Startup Grind Gothenburg’s newsletter, and keeping an eye out for the right hashtags (#). Here’s two to get you started:
With just over half a million inhabitants, this city might not be big enough to have weekly events catering to every interest. This doesn’t mean that the interest isn’t there, but rather than assume try experimenting; create your own community! Platforms such as Eventbrite, couchsurfing.org, meetup.com and Facebook have made it incredibly easy, and free to organise and promote a gathering.
Give Before Asking
Despite the people here being one of the nicest I’ve come across, asking something without giving first is pushing it. I’m also not saying that you should give to receive — that’s just lame. Just do what you love, and share that passion without expecting anything in return — good things will come. Here are a few examples of what I mean by giving:
- Make a useful introduction that benefits both parties
- Share a useful resource
- Share ideas (Relevancy is key — what problems are they currently tackling; help solve it)
- Entertain — tell a good story
“The trick is to give without expecting anything in return”