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Four common myths about starting up in Sweden

There is a lot of buzz around Swedish startup scene in recent years, especially Stockholm – the capital is recently ranked second best in Europe for startups. The Scandinavian tech hub is also surrounded by countless sensational stories and misconceptions. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths and examine how it is in reality.

Myth #1: Stockholm is too expensive to build a company

How do you score an office in one of these buildings?


This is partially true. Stockholm is notorious for its housing crisis, and Sweden is often known as a high tax country. But the nation’s infrastructure and low level of hierarchy help produce one of the world’s highest broadband and mobile penetration, along with a well educated and tech savvy population.

“Sweden is a great test market for tech companies”, said Josep M. Nolla, CEO and founder of Reve. This makes it a prolific place for startups to start and scale up.

Another factor to consider is Stockholm’s tight-knit network. This is facilitated by the city’s small size. The mature yet informal ecosystem distinguishes it from other European cities. Although there are no direct incentives from the government, Stockholm has an impressive local startup community that offers support, whatever your Swedish company problem is.

Myth #2: Swedes are reserved, rigid workers

“I set up this meeting to dicuss how much we should talk in our next meeting”


Admittedly, Swedes can be reserved people, especially in public. But when it comes to work, they can be the most outspoken and consensus ones. It is part of the Swedish working culture, everyone is welcome to give their opinions, and those opinions are listened to. This refers back to the country’s low level of hierarchy and bureaucracy. It helps create a healthy working environment and space for growth.

Myth #3: Your app needs to be perfect before entering the market

How do you compete when your product is not perfect?


Yes, Sweden is a niche market and there are a lot of competitors, but that doesn’t mean your product has to be perfect in its first release. For a tech savvy society like Sweden, the tide is continually changing.

“If you have a great idea, try to push it out as quickly as possible, and gradually improve as you learn more about your target market”, Daniel Estephan, founder of Codebuilders, shared his experience from years of developing and launching apps in Sweden.

The bonus is that Swedes are highly curious customers who embrace newness. These globalised and urban Swedes are always eager to try innovative products – there is a reason why Microsoft and Apple chose Sweden for early commercialisation projects. Don’t get too ahead of yourself with manufacturing and production, spend more time with your customers and find out what works or not.

Myth #4: There is no work-life balance

Is there life outside of the cubicle?


We all heard the sensational stories of successful entrepreneurs like Daniel Ek (Mr.Spotify) or Niklas Zennström (Father of Skype), how they cooped up inside working non-stop days and nights. There might be some truth in that, but it isn’t exactly the norm.

Conversely, Sweden made headlines a few years ago when it said to be moving to six-hour-working day. We cannot find any statistical reports to prove the result. It is, however, true that the country adopts flexible working arrangements. By law, Swedes are given 25 vacation days, sometimes even more depending on the company. Parents get 480 days of paid leave to split between them, fathers are specially encouraged to stay home more with their babies. Most offices are empty after 5pm, and overtime is neither common nor seen as necessary.

While it is easy to get addicted to work, the Swedish model includes work-life balance as the key to success.

The myths about starting up in Sweden are not all good or bad, but they are not always accurate. With these myths uncovered, we hope you have a better idea of what the startup scene here is like.

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