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Global thinking makes Swedish entrepreneurs perfect partners

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Where other nations have been fortunate enough to have large domestic markets to rely on, Sweden has always had to look beyond its shores to turn start-ups into world-class companies. This global mindset is part of the country’s DNA and is proving an invaluable resource as Swedish industry goes forward into the next phase of the digital revolution.

8 reasons why Sweden's open economy has a global impact:

  • €136B exports with a positive balance of trade
  • Committed EU and WTO member
  • Strong promoter of free trade and low entry barriers
  • 3.6% average GDP growth in the past three years
  • Sweden ranks among Europe's top five countries for VC investment volume [1]
  • 33 per cent of Swedish manufacturing employees work for foreign-owned companies
  • Sweden represents 55% of start-up exit value in the Nordic region [2]
  • No discrimination of foreign ownership

Ask almost anyone on the planet to name a Swedish company and the chances are they will have no difficulty at all. Volvo, Electrolux and IKEA have all been household names for decades and are today joined by the likes of Spotify on the world stage.

Whatever their business, today’s Swedish start-ups share the same global outlook as their predecessors, both in terms of their business models and their strategies – build a solid platform at home and then scale it up to capture the biggest possible share of the world market. 

The same formula that has produced some of the world’s biggest and most successful exporting companies, is being replicated by today’s new stars. However, unlike their predecessors, today’s entrepreneurs’ will take considerably less than 100 years to make their global dreams come true.

Since Spotify launched in 2008, the online music streaming service has become a global force in the entertainment industry. Similar success stories of local build to global reach can be found at Klarna (payment solutions), King (online games) and iZettle (payment systems for small businesses).

But the phenomenon is by no means limited to music, financial services or gaming. There are just as many entrepreneurs blazing a trail in manufacturing.

Springboard for industry start-ups

In Sweden’s manufacturing sector, companies such as Arcam, a leader in technologies for metal-based additive manufacturing (3D printing of metal parts), have made their international mark in a short period of time.

In 2016, the corporate giant General Electric purchased a 76.2 per cent stake in Arcam, which was founded in 1997 in the town of Mölndal, 10 km south of Gothenburg. And there are many more examples.

T-Engineering based in Trollhättan, in the heart of Sweden’s automotive cluster, was set up in 2012 by engineers from Saab Automobile and General Motors to manufacture electronic systems for trucks and cars. In less than a year, the company attracted investments from China’s fourth largest automaker Dongfeng which now has a 70 per cent ownership stake. 

Other fast-growing Swedish manufacturers include OpiFlex which has developed a flexible automation solution based on mobile robotic installations that can be deployed on demand.  

Initiatives such as Things at KTH, Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology, and ABB’s innovation growth hub Syner Leap, are aimed at helping small companies grow and expand – and offer a glimpse into the current drive toward ecosystem collaborations.

A mindset for success

Arguably, the global business mentality in Sweden is even stronger and more ingrained than at any time in the nation’s industrial history.

Today’s young entrepreneurs are better educated and more well-travelled. English as a second language is a given, but they are often proficient in other languages, too. And, in general, they are recognised for displaying an open-minded attitude towards other cultures and customs.

In addition to this global DNA, Swedish entrepreneurs operate in a stable financial and political environment (the country emerged relatively unscathed from the financial crisis of 2008) and also enjoy business-friendly taxation on a par with most European countries.

All of which are significant plus-points for overseas investors looking for potential business partners.

(1) European Tech Funding Report 2017

[2] Creandum Exits Report, 2016

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Klas Ericson

Investment Advisor Sweden Investment Advisor, Sweden
+46 70 222 78 02
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Martin Heumann Bauer

Investment Advisor Sweden Investment Advisor, Sweden
+46 72 239 45 44
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Andreas Scheibenpflug

Investment Advisor Sweden Investment Advisor , Sweden
+46 70 277 83 94