Inside The Organization That Boosts Swedish Economic Growth

Behold, there is an organization driven to help Swedish entrepreneurs. Arash Sangari—a National Agency for Economic and Region Growth (Tillväxtverket) representative—dishes about the organization, what it does and why its method works.

One of the toughest challenges entrepreneurs invariably face is stiff competition over limited opportunities. If that scenario describes your situation: Do not feel deterred; just get help. Here at Startup-Sweden—an accelerator program in which I am the Program Manager as part of the National Agency for Economic and Regional Growth—our focus is to help Swedish startups gain traction in the global market through innovation support systems plus better access to networks and resources.

Arash Sangari, The Swedish Agency for Economic and regional Growth

Some of the ways we do it for tech companies in particular include: a one-week accelerator programme in Sweden four times per year and global tech events that see public and private organizations—Vinnova, Business Sweden, Almi and Tillväxtverket—working together. SACCNY´s annual entrepreneurship conference Innovate46, which we first co-hosted with the Chamber in 2014, is one of the most successful global expansion initiatives that we have helped arrange. The concept saw great development in participating companies, among which 20 have successfully scaled their startups for the U.S. Here is how we do it: Through business matchmaking and organized meetings with potential customers, investors and partners. Many of the participating companies—including Behaviosec, DigiExam, MyFc, Peppy Pals and three of our own accelerator startups Referenza, Trilo Apps and iControl—have gotten the valuable feedback they needed to really know the U.S. market.

In particular, take DigiExam—a company that creates digital exams online—as an example. Back when the edtech startup came to us for support, the company only had four employees in Stockholm. As we and the Chamber consistently provided them with opportunities and valuable leads (think leading universities in the U.S.), the team managed to establish their operations in New York and landed Columbia University as their first customer within a year. Now, the company boasts 22 employees and a platform with more than 2,800 participating schools worldwide—60 of which are based in the U.S. So when it comes to why our methods work, DigiExam’s founder Johan Hägglund sums it up best. “Innovate46 was a true eye opener for us. It gave us the insights and the right connections to understand that we, as a small Swedish tech company, can also succeed in New York.”

What DigiExam’s story demonstrates is that entrepreneurs need strong local partners with valuable networks to assist their launch. Which is why, we decided to beef up our network by inviting Swedish Energy Agency to the partnership this year. We believe that Innovate46 and the joint one-week accelerator programme are exactly what Swedish tech companies need to break into the U.S. market.

Thankfully, beyond the tools and support we provide at Tillväxtverket, there are several promising developments for budding Swedish entrepreneurs. First, there is the new GatewayUSA initiative by SACCNY, which perfectly matches our mission to offer a landing spot for small tech companies in the U.S. Second, Spotify’s listing on The New York Stock Exchange is a big win for the Swedish tech industry, since it only took Daniel Ek and Martin Lorenzon ten years to revolutionize an entire industry while building a global tech company with headquarters in Stockholm. Effectively, this also highlights Swedish talent, capital and innovation. Third, let us not forget that Zlatan, Mr. Sweden himself, is in the U.S. This will be a significant boost to Swedish brands here in years to come. Hopefully, when the next Swedish unicorn debuts on the stock exchange, no one will mix up our flag with the Swiss one again. Lastly, to all entrepreneurs, especially those expanding to the U.S.: may you have Zlatan’s boldness to show world-class leadership in your field, and deliver top-notch results for your customers, partners and investors.