Stockholm Tech Scene: Best Startup Hubs, Accelerators and Events of 2020
Feb 1712 min read
IT Marketing Strategist at Ideamotive. Travel addict and remote work advocate.
When thinking about global development, people often wonder what constitutes the best place to build and develop innovative industries. What are the key factors that help entrepreneurs set up their start-ups and grow them into successful companies? If you keep on wondering, where is the new Silicon Valley, this article will tell you why it may be in Stockholm.
What is so unique about Sweden?
Sweden has come a long way in the last 30 years. It came from the economy based on very big companies (like IKEA or Ericsson) to one of the most startupised countries in the world. Moreover, the mindset of the Swedish society has changed as well. Unlike thirty years ago, entrepreneurs are respected and it's an honor to work in one of Swedish start-ups.
The Kingdom of Sweden is inhabited by about 10 m people, of which 1 m live in its capital — Stockholm. In this small, north European country, $1.4 billion was invested in venture capital in Stockholm start-up ecosystem only in 2016. The same year, this ecosystem produced $1.75 billion in exit value. The six Stockholm-based unicorn companies also attest to the city’s great conditions for business growth.
If you've ever heard about Minecraft, Skype or Spotify, you should know they have Swedish origins. But, there is more to it. Swedish background means that many of Nordic tech companies deal with waste, food delivery, food waste, healthy eating, education games and others that help working families with children cope.
According to the Finnish Venture Capital Association, Sweden is the second largest European country in terms of investment volume in startups and early growth companies, and the majority of these investments are Stockholm-based. Some call Stockholm the Unicorn Factory, and according to SparkLabs Group, Stockholm is the 3rd Top Start-up Hub in the world, just behind Beijing (China) and the Silicon Valley (USA).
Another Stockholm’s upper-hand is its serious brainpower. The city has one of the highest density of developers in Europe (check out our Software Developers in Stockholm). In general, 18% of the workforce work in high-tech related jobs. This is the highest share compared to any other city in Europe.
Those factors contribute to the city’s tech scene flowering - we’re talking the outstanding tech community, well-connected network of co-working spaces, education initiatives, meet-ups, and events. Let’s take a look at the best ones!
Here we go!
Events and conferences to attend in 2020
There are tons of events you could attend as a tech worker every month in Sweden. It doesn't matter if you work for a start-up in Stockholm or a corporation in Gothenburg. You will always find valuable meetups and conferences. Most of them are, of course, dedicated to Nordic tech companies. However, some of them will be interesting for all of us. Just take a look at the most interesting in the 2020 tech events calendar.
This 5-day event focuses on financial technology in general. Topics include also regulatory technology, technology for insurance, usage of artificial intelligence in fintech, cyber security and collaboration between startups and corporations. Previous edition gathered 520 participants who could also experience 35 fintech startups pitching during the event.
Organized by Swedish Space Data Lab, Arctic Business and Innovatum Startup. Do you know how to use machine learning and deep learning algorithms to get the most of large amounts of satellite data?
There are two challenges waiting for participants. The first one involves making use of the Swedish satellite and its data. The second one is to work out a business case to the solution from the previous challenge.
Participants can count on prizes for 1st and 2nd place, respectively 12.000 and 8.000 SEK, coaching sessions with ABI or Innovatum Startup and the opportunity to have solution adopted by the Space Data Lab
This event is devoted to data science, analytics and artificial intelligence. If you want to meet leading minds from Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Netflix, Uber, Ubisoft, or NASA, you should visit Stockholm in March. You can count on over 120 international speakers on six stages, workshops and networking sessions.
Organizers call this event an un-conference. It's said to be attended by over 3000 attendees from 28 countries, almost 1000 startups and 366 investors. “We tear down boundaries to create meetings between people!” is one of the slogans of Sweden Demo Day.
Whole event is broken down into smaller sub-events:
Brown Paper Expo — where you use 1×2m brown paper to prepare an exceptional roll-up presenting your company in the most creative way possible.
99 Pitches — if you've got 99 problems but a pitch ain't one, use the one minute you have to deliver the best pitch in the building.
Deal-room — that's the space and time for networking and business. No matter if you represent a startup, an investor or a corporation, you now have a chance to schedule the most important meeting in your career.
Talent-Scouting — it is an event for startups that look for new talents and, of course, for talents looking for new roles to play.
Salute to the Heroes — finally, this is the part when awards in five categories are given: Community Supporter, Best Pitch, Best in Show, Most promising female Founder and Most promising Startup.
This un-conference will also be surrounded by side events, which are another chance for networking and business.
The event is free and open to everyone — you just need to register.
DevSum is the biggest developers conference in Sweden. This year it will be the sixteenth edition. Various fields such as Web Development, Software Architecture, AI & Machine Learning, Programming languages, Cloud and People & teams. There will also be additional event held a day before the conference — the pre-conference workshops on the 27th of May.
This year the Big Meet will take place during SMAKA Good Food Festival. Sweden FoodTech is an initiative focused on the intersection of food and technology. Its mission is to connect researchers, food and tech specialists, and provide them space to develop sustainable ways of producing and thinking about food.
The Big Meet is Sweden FoodTech’s major event devoted to the future of food and the role digital technology plays in food production. The program includes such topics as space food, urban farming solutions, building cities of the future and much more. FoodTech start-ups are very welcome to attend and pitch their ideas to potential investors and partners.
For those special units that will write the new story of humanity and technology. Invite-only event. This edition will focus on purpose and sustainability. It is a two-day symposium where people of different areas of interest exchange their ideas. A gathering of people representing business, technology, art, music and science.
Symposium Stockholm was first launched by Spotify’s co-founder Daniel Ek in 2015. Since then, it became a yearly, 10-day long “festival for creative individuals with powerful ideas to come together and experience a creative home, at the intersection of tech and music.”
It brings together the world’s biggest players from the creative and tech industry, to challenge the status quo and discuss how innovation should be implemented to redefine the world we live in.
Some key values promoted by the summit are collaboration and strive for collective change — rather than competition and individual success. Ultimately, the goal of the event is to “scale the Brilliant Minds model globally to influence the future of education, leadership and the convergence of humanity and technology.”
The DATA 2020 summit covers, among others, Information and Data Management, Data Quality, and Enterprise Architecture. This event is addressed to specialists from Nordic countries, but speakers come from international environment. Number of participants is limited to 200 due to focus on the quality of networking and knowledge sharing opportunities.
EdTech is a combination of conference, exhibition and networking. It focuses on adult education and skills development. Technology in education is one of the most important and fastest growing industries. Efficient educational system is a key factor in sustainable development of innovations.
When comes to educational technology, Sweden and other Nordic countries are considered to be among the most forward thinking in the world. EdTech Sweden is a yearly summit bringing together the producers and end-users of educational technology.
Most of the participants come from the Nordic countries, but the admission is open to international guests as well.
Organizers aim to help participants stay ahead of the curve on integrating AI into key operations. Conference will gather in one place experts in Marketing Automation, Mobility, Smart Cities, Finance, Insurance, and Cyber security. This specific event will take place in three distant locations simultaneously. They will be Stockholm in Sweden, Abuja in Nigeria and Darmstadt in Germany.
STHLM Tech Fest is first of all dedicated to innovation. Being one of the biggest events of this kind in Sweden, it provides an exchange platform for hundreds of developers, investors and founders every year (usually in September). People come together to discuss the current business climate and the direction in which the global tech industry is heading.
This three-day conference comprises workshops, firechats, pitching sessions and presentations of renowned business owners. The topics covered are mostly tech, but some presenters also tackle the socioeconomic dimension of technology-related changes. At the end of the second day, The Nordic Startup Awards finale is hosted to acknowledge and reward the most promising start-up of the year.
Many parts of the program are open for anyone to attend, but some of them require an invitation. Organizing enterprise hosts also monthly events for (mainly Swedish) startups called STHLM Tech Meetup.
Sting Day is nothing like most of the big start-up and tech conferences. Organizers refer to it as a “boutique event for investors and start-ups”. The number of guests is limited to 400, which includes 60 start-ups and 150 investors. All of them are selected and invited for the event by the organizers.
Because Sting Day is a non-commercial and an invitation-only event, the quality, and prestige are high. Networking happens in a more intimate setup, as all the participants fit in one room. The feel of Sting Day is certainly different from the other, open tech conferences in Stockholm.
Digitalization of healthcare and HealthTech are big topics these days. And they are exactly what the My iHealth conference focuses on. Additionally, it is one of the most patient- centered events of this kind.
This year’s edition is all about sharing cutting-edge research and newest patient- oriented ICT solutions. Speakers and attendees are mostly healthcare practitioners and executives, policymakers, innovators, clinicians, patients, and researchers.
Stockholm’s start-up incubators
Stockholm’s flourishing tech scene is not just based on events. There couldn’t be so many startups in Stockholm without the powerful and diverse ecosystem supporting them. There are many acceleration programs and start-up hubs supporting the tech community on a daily basis. Many of them are profiled to start-ups and innovators working in specific industries. You should really carefully study this part if you want to become part of the Stockholm tech life. Take a look below!
Established in 2002 helps turn ideas into sustainable businesses. STING offers three startup programs. Sting Incubate, 6-12 months. Sting Incubate Deeptech 6-30 months, for startups built on deep, complex technology. Sting Accelerate 4 months, for startups with shorter development cycles. Also, Go Africa and Go Global Medtech.
STING is one of the leading accelerators and incubators for start-ups in the Nordics. The support offered throughout their program is quite amazing. Every year around 600 start-ups apply for the STING acceleration and incubator programs, but only about 5% of them get accepted.
If you do get accepted, the amount of help you receive is immense. STING supports start-ups in five key areas of their business growth and provides financial support, coaching, recruitment assistance, networking opportunities, and marketing advice. In practical terms, founders can receive such perks as up to 300,000 SEK in seed funding, free office space for up to 6 months or business coaching with Lean Canvas method.
Amplify Sweden is an exciting opportunity for start-ups focused on MusicTech. They support young entrepreneurs who are trying to incorporate music elements into their tech business. Amplify is located at KMH Campus in Stockholm.
Taking that Spotify is the flagship start-up born in Stockholm, there is obviously a network of MusicTech entrepreneurs around the city. This is exactly what Amplify Sweden bases its support on — networking and community. It is the local community that the business coaching, fundraising, and product development advice are sourced from.
Amplify provides not only support for local start-ups but also long-distance mentorship for young entrepreneurs based all around Sweden.
KTH Innovation is a pre-incubation program, focusing on start-ups in the very early stage of their development. They recognize the need to support innovative ideas before their authors are prepared for the next steps — incubation, first funding pitches, etc.
Twice a year around fifteen projects are accepted to cooperation. Whole program is 12 months long and includes coaching, trainings, regular meetings and peer-to-peer discussions.
KTH Innovation support focuses on five main areas: business coaching, structuring the development process, providing access to community and office space, organizing relevant workshops and trainings and offering commercial support (funding and legal advice).
DRIVE is the Karolinska Institutet Innovations incubator. Its mission is to support businesses involving life sciences. DRIVE is open for startups with verified business opportunities. Membership may last up to three years. Members benefit from access to DRIVE network, Entrepreneurs development program and DRIVE-community.
Co-working in Stockholm
Cooperation and helping each other be better are important values in Sweden. Although more and more Swedes are working from home, co-working spaces are getting stronger as well. Mix this two things and you will find out why apart from the acceleration and incubation programs for start-ups, Stockholm also has great co-working spaces that encourage collaboration, networking and creative work atmosphere. Below you will find a list of the most interesting places worth visiting, following or staying for longer.
Beautiful working space, located in a building which has been dedicated to commerce and entrepreneurship literally for ages. The oldest part of the building dates back to 1420
Knackeriet aims to not only provide office space but to also make it into a place of collaboration and creativity by bringing together “interesting startups, talented entrepreneurs and fun individuals.” It offers a 24/7 desk access without a possibility of drop-in days or day passes. This policy is intended to create long-term member relationships and a sense of community around Knackeriet — rather than having it host random, an ever-changing crowd of alienated individuals.
Promoting positive development of the Internet — that’s the main objective of GOTO 10. It offers paid (but subsidized) co-working offices, as well as free-to-use space for all GOTO 10 members to organize their meet-ups and events, as long as they are related to the Internet. GOTO 10 membership is entirely free.
To see what kind of Internet-related initiatives they support, you can visit the GOTO 10 YouTube channel.
Norrsken House is a safe haven for entrepreneurs or freelancers who want to put out their best work possible. Norrsken describes themselves as “The Impact Unicorn Factory” — and if they exaggerate, it is just by a tiny bit.
Norrsken House co-working space is hosted inside the hall of an old tram station. The building itself is impressive — not to mention the design of the interior! There is designated space for any kind of activity: focused work, meetings, uninterrupted skype calls, conferences, and workshops. But what really stands out is the attention to detail and the visible pursuit of the concept of “balance in the workplace”. The meditation room with weekly guided meditation sessions or the playroom where you can bring your kids are just two examples of that.
Additionally, Norrsken puts a big impact on building a community and ecosystem around the place. It hosts over 120 companies — most of them working in the areas of technology and social entrepreneurship — which share ideas and collaborate with one another on a daily basis.
Impact Hub Stockholm is a part of the global Impact Hub movement and a network of social entrepreneurs. The co-working space they run at Sveavägen 44 is a place where the local part of the community works together (or at least side-by-side) to create a better world of tomorrow.
Main occupants of the Impact Hub Stockholm co-working space are businesses that aim to have a far-reaching positive impact on the global society and economy. Values promoted in the Hub are collaboration, community, diversity and supportive work environment, which allows everyone to perform at their best.
Perfect workspace for HealthTech innovators and enterprises, as well as start-ups who are just kicking-off their innovative idea in the sector of digital health. H2 Health Hub brings together like-minded professionals from related fields, so they can exchange ideas and build better health care solutions for the future.
Current members at H2 Health Hub include such companies as MedUniverse, Aventyn or Agada — all of them offering digital-based healthcare products and solutions.
SUP46 is not just a co-working space for start-ups — it is a whole start-up and tech ecosystem, bringing together founders, investors, and advisers who are eager to build something exciting.
The working space consists of the member-only area with 24/7 access for members, and a Startup Café. The latter is available to anyone looking for a good place to work, drink coffee and enjoy the company of other creative minds. Moreover, SUP46 lends its space to acceleration and incubation programs (such as STING) and organizes valuable workshops and events. Currently, upcoming on the agenda are Agile Workshop, 3D Printing Workshop or Stockholm Talent Night.
Situated near the Royal Castle in Stockholm co-working The Castle emphasizes the community and its synergy effect. Great place for all creative minds. Interestingly it has a special offer for low income customers too. Offices, meeting rooms, yoga room and gym can all be found in historical interiors. On five floors there are 1500 sqm of space. This is a very exceptional co-working space.
Helio offers co-working spaces and other facilities in eight locations around Stockholm. Everyone will find his perfect place. There are three plans available for members: Flex, Fix, and Studio. Helio offers not only co-working space and meeting rooms, but also even spaces, where entrepreneurs can host bigger, you know, events.
Openlab is a community created by The City of Stockholm, Region Stockholm, the Stockholm County Administrative Board, KTH, Stockholm University, Södertörn University and the Karolinska Institute. It provides co-working space, but also courses, innovation projects and a conference center. Plans vary from free Community Friend, to Member, to Co-working Member to Premium member.
A House is a place for solopreneurs and corporations alike. In once announced the ugliest building in the city you will find co-working space, music and film studios, event spaces and other facilities important to creators and entrepreneurs within fashion, food and media industries. You can choose from four plans: Member for a day, Lobby member, Work Club member, and Studio member.
The coolest working space, according to Vogue. Alma is a members-only club with communal work space facilities. Members can rent a dedicated seat and make use of other facilities designed to help entrepreneurs, teams, and individuals active in innovative and creative industries. As a member you can also count on events like talks, exhibits, parties, and other opportunities for collaboration. It is a very interesting place for anybody working in technology, design, venture investing, architecture, film, fashion, branding, music, art and media.
Stockholm — a place to be
Any more doubts that Stockholm is one of the best places for a tech junkie to thrive and learn? All the opportunities, collaborative spaces, and events available in the Swedish capital make it the place to be. At least for your headquarters.
Stockholm, and Sweden in general, is a wonderful place for start-ups. However, you need to know the limitations. Running a business and living in Sweden is expensive. Therefore, labor costs are high here. This is one of the reasons why many enterprises look for remote specialists outside Sweden. Business is business, and even startupers need to get their numbers right.
If you want to know how to build your remote team, in Ideamotive we can connect you to a growing network of hundreds of tech and business specialists suitable for startup needs.
Michał is a digital marketing veteran with a growth hacking mindset and 10+ years of experience. His goal is building high-quality technological content, with particular emphasis on React and Ruby on Rails. Traveler, climber, remote work advocate.