While most of Europe has been mired in economic turmoil since 2008, Sweden has managed to stay afloat — and even accelerate its growth.
The country and, especially, its capital, Stockholm, have outpaced other European nations with a mix of unique cultural traditions, visionary techleaders, globally oriented startups and smart government policies.
With companies like IKEA, Spotify, Skype, Ericsson, H&M, Electrolux and Volvo, and techleaders like Niklas Zennström (Skype), Martin Lorentzon (Spotify) and Daniel Ek (µTorrent and Spotify), Sweden is behind some of the most recognizable global brands.
Stockholm has produced more unicorns per capita than any other city in the world, and, in 2014 the city — with a population of 800,000 — took in 15 percent of all foreign investment in the European tech sector. A Google-funded report from 2014 showed that there are 22,000 technology companies in Stockholm, and 18 percent of the city’s workforce are employed in technology-related roles.
Between 2000 and 2014, Sweden witnessed 263 exits at a total value of $23.7 billion — leaving its Nordic neighbors Norway (75 at $10.5 billion), Denmark (58 at $7.4 billion) and Finland (91 at $6.3 billion) far behind. In 2014 alone, Sweden contributed to 50 percent of all exits in the Nordic region.
With nearly 500 million daily users — adding to Sweden’s exit successes — Candy Crush maker King was acquired in November 2015 by Activision Blizzard for $5.9 billion. Since the acquisition of Skype by eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion, the country has witnessed the emergence of a dozen present or future unicorns, including Spotify, King, Mojang (Minecraft) and fintech company Klarna.
Although Sweden’s eastern neighbor Finland is struggling to kickstart its startup industry, the Nordic region, representing only 0.3 percent of the world’s population, makes up for 33 percent of the planet’s billion dollar exits.