Entrepreneurial Swedes are known for flocking to Germany’s capital to build their startup dreams at bargain prices. But, what about those who stay put to build a growing empire? Hjalmar Winbladh, CEO of social gifting service Wrapp, is a prime example of a Swedish innovator who’s cultivated a string of startup successes in Stockholm . Here, the serial co-founder spills the beans on what makes the Swedish capital a world-class startup hub, and tell us his favourite city haunts.
What made you choose Stockholm as a base to start up Wrapp (and Pedal, Sendit, Rebtel, Epidemic Sound)?
I’m biased. Stockholm is my home. It’s where I grew up and have always lived. So, it has always been fertile ground for me. As you’ve noted, I’m a serial entrepreneur and Wrapp is my fifth startup here. All the companies before Wrapp have been great successes in their own rights and markets. In my opinion, Stockholm today is truly a world-class center of gravity for tech start-ups.
What does it give you that places like London or Berlin can’t?
Family, of course. And a circle and ready access to fellow entrepreneurs, and friends, and trusted investors whom I’ve known and worked with for many years. But Sweden in general is a great test market for companies before taking them global because there is a very high technology penetration rate, and a love and willingness to try new things.
What’s the vibe like compared to other tech hubs you spend time in?
The tech community in Stockholm is tight-knit and collaborative. We know one another. Sail together. So it’s comfortable and contained — nowhere near the size of Silicon Valley, by any means, which has so many players, pockets and circles of specialty and expertise that take time to get to know and become part of.
What other businesses excite you here? Do you hang out?
I’m a mobile, global, social kind of guy. So, I like companies like iZettle. They figured out the chip-card security issues for mobile payments that Square and Paypal couldn’t. I think they have what it takes to sweep the world where chip-cards are standard. Bambuser – the mobile video-streaming platform – is cool. It played an important role in the Arab Spring and has great potential. TripBirds just launched their travel recommendation service, and we have of course Spotify, and Mojang – the creators of Minecraft.
What business events should we put in our calendar if we visit?
SIME, definitely. It’s kind of our premier technology conference. You should also check-in with ArcticStartup or Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. They’re generally on top of what’s coming and organize a bunch of events themselves.
What do you think Stockholm will be like in three years time?
The tech community will only grow larger and stronger. There’s so much going on right now – so many young entrepreneurs who are willing to try new things, and go on to the next if the last one doesn’t work. That’s a big change in Sweden. Not too many years ago finding someone willing to take a chance like that was tough. But it’s changing and changing fast.
What are the downsides?
Sweden is small. A little over 9 million people – and Stockholm, not even 2 million of that. So to create a real technology company you always have to think and work beyond Sweden.
Where are the must-go spots to eat/drink/party/relax?
I love to sail. So for me it doesn’t get better than the archipelago in the Summer. Sandhamn, Nynashamn, Grinda – really beautiful and relaxing. In The City, start-up people like Il Caffe, or the lobby at the Scandic Hotel Anglais to hang out and have a “fika”. I also like to have a drink at Lydmar hotel just next to Grand Hotel, and a dinner at Miss Voon on Sturegatan or Noodle House at Gotgatan.