In 2016, Stockholm is named second best in Europe for startups, only behind London, according to European Digital City Index. The Swedish capital is home to roughly 8000 startups, with the highest number of unicorn startups per capita after Silicon Valley. Josep M. Nolla, Founder and CEO of reve, shared with us his insights on the Stockholm startup scene and what motivated him to join it here.
Josep moved to Stockholm 9 years ago, same reason as most of his fellows: love. He met his Swedish wife in Dublin when they were working together at Google European HQ. Moving to Sweden was a natural decision. Stockholm’s housing crisis was already an issue then, and Swedish weather was not the easiest to get used to, especially for a guy from Barcelona. But the advantages trumped disadvantages, Josep was fascinated by the Swedish way of doing things – the mentality and low level of bureaucracy, which helped his integration greatly.
Josep started building his professional profile in Sweden right away, focusing on innovation projects in Media and Telecom industry. His impressive list of Swedish employers includes Tele2, Metro and Telecom Group. Then came a point in life, out of sheer frustration with the shopping experience on Google Search, Josep decided to found his first startup reve. The service aims to put inspiration and commerce together in the simplest and most convenient way for the users. Its ambition is to revolutionalize the e-commerce industry.
“There’s a big gap between discovery and inspiration and commerce. No one is trying to do that, because from a technical perspective it has been very difficult to do app-scale. And that’s the gap that we’re closing with reve.”
The shopping app is a big hit on its category. After two and a half years, reve has gained over 250,000 users, 40% of girls between 15 and 25 in Sweden are registered inside the app. For such a small country, Sweden is actually a great market for testing and launching products, Josep shared.
“Sweden is a fantastic test market to start. It’s very digitally savvy, it has very high internet and smartphone penetration. It’s also the market that we’re in, so we should have a deeper connection to see how we can reach out to potential users.
That’s what we did, we set up traction here locally and reached a level of success. Recently we launched in another Nordic country, it has been extremely successful, the reviews have been very great. After this year, if we meet our checks, we will continue to scale and roll out internationally.”
On advantages to being an entrepreneur in Stockholm, Josep cited three things: the eco system, the low level of hierarchy and the network’s size.
“The biggest advantage you have is the ecosystem, that’s unique. That ecosystem didn’t happen overnight, it’s very well established. Second is the way of doing business, the low level of hierarchy facilitates a lot.
You can reach anyone in Stockholm – any CEOs, you can send them an email, they’ll open your doors, that’s very unlikely in any other countries. Here everyone is open to meet everyone.
And the third point – which is extremely important – is the size. Stockholm is extremely small, everyone knows everyone, and that make things so much easier. In everyone’s network, there’s someone that you can talk to, help, discuss, partner up. And it creates the ecosystem that’s working. You can’t just buy an ecosystem, or decide okay we’re gonna do that in Barcelona, in Paris, or in Milan. It’s not happening there for a lot of reasons, because it takes time to build that.”
To end our interview, we asked Josep if he had any advices for young entrepreneurs in Sweden, to which he laughed and said,
“This is hard to say, it’s like having a child, everyone will tell you their own opinion, and you have to decide for yourself. I’d say, be as quick as possible. Start and experiment right. Don’t spend too much time on business planning, just launch it out there, try to engage with the consumers, try to understand what’s the goal to market strategy. Another side is to be cautious, be lean with the money. You’re always gonna run out shorter than you think, you can plan money for one year but make sure to last for three. And you need a very high level of self-confidence.
Every single person is gonna try to push you down. You will try to call a CTO, they’re gonna ‘pass’, investors are gonna ‘pass’, partners are gonna ‘pass’, you will receive 99 Nos and 1 Yes.
So detach yourself from any negative energy, use that to make yourself stronger. Keep focusing on your vision, and you’ll see what you’ll reach.”