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Move over, Silicon Valley: Scandinavia has arrived

Date: 30 April 2019

Mention global tech hubs and locations such as Silicon Valley, London and Berlin spring to mind, but there’s a contender emerging on the world stage. In recent years, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have been quietly committing resources and talent to create a world-class tech hub of their own.

That expanding hub is now encroaching into areas dominated by the more familiar US and European cities. The evidence is undeniable:

  • Since 2013, more than $9bn has been invested in tech brands in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. They include global brands such as Spotify, Tidal (the former’s up and coming rival backed by Jay Z), Klarna (backed by Snoop Dog), Skype, SoundCloud and Rovio Entertainment – the company behind the Angry Birds franchise.
  • Stockholm and Copenhagen were both named in the top 10 fastest growing European cities in 2019, but Sweden has the edge on its neighbours. Seven unicorn (valued at over $1 billion) tech companies have emerged from Sweden’s tech scene, propelling them into third place, just behind the UK and Germany with 19 and 11 unicorns respectively.
  • Stockholm has more unicorns per person than any other city in the world!

What’s more impressive is that this unprecedented growth emanates from a collective population of just 27 million.

 

So, what’s behind the Nordic tech expansion?

In contrast to the US and UK governments’ ‘hands off’ approach, the Nordic nations are committed to consolidating and enhancing their position on the global stage.

That support attracts investment. In Sweden, emerging tech organisations can take advantage of subsidised computers and faster internet connections. The country has one of Europe’s most active start-up ecosystems and enjoys higher investment in tech start-ups per capita than any other European country. At 20 start-ups for every 1,000 employees, that is five times that of the US.

Our senior consultant, and resident Swede, Nina Berggren, praises the country’s infrastructure, “Even my family’s secluded farm, which is situated in the middle of a forest, has super-fast broadband. This really shows the local government’s investment in a ‘Connected Sweden’.”

Elsewhere, Business Finland provides funding for research and product development, supporting tech start-ups to scale their growth. Innovation Norway operates on similar principles and hosts regular events to inspire – and create – potential entrepreneurs.

Keeping pace with its neighbours, Denmark’s ambition extends to competing with Silicon Valley. Its unique Holmene project aims to build nine artificial islands and transform them into a scientific and technological hub. Construction will begin in 2022, with all nine islands targeted for completion by 2040, creating up to 12,000 jobs and space for 380 businesses in the process.

And significantly, tech education is ranked highly – and it is free. Sweden invests 7.3% of its GDP into its school system – higher than Germany, the UK and US.

It all adds up to a more contented and fulfilled way of life. Nordic nations are consistently ranked in the top spots on the World Happiness Index for quality of life, with Finland, Norway and Denmark claiming the top three spots in 2018. Ratings are based on a number of variables including well-being, income, life expectancy, freedom and trust.

Combine that with the lowest levels of inequality in the world across the region and the conditions are perfect for tech innovators to thrive.

 

Attracting tech talent

A number of factors contribute to tech talent flocking to the region:

  • The Nordic nations occupy from 4th to 7th place on INSEAD’s 2019 Global Talent Competitiveness Index. The annual survey measures the ability of countries to attract talent to their jobs.
  • Nordic countries also lead the way in closing the gender pay equality gap by developing initiatives for women to either join or return to the workplace, expanding their talent pool and workforce. Transparency over salaries in Sweden and Norway, for example, is also considered a key factor in helping to foster a culture of collaboration.
  • The cost of hiring talent is lower compared to the traditional tech hotspots such as Silicon Valley and London.

This culture of creating and encouraging entrepreneurial talent supports the hiring initiatives of Nordic companies and global employers seeking to expand their international presence across Scandinavia.

“Scandinavia really is a fantastic place for professionals to progress their careers,” Nina added, “there are unrivalled benefits such as unemployment protection, which removes the fear of working to protect your job, but allows people to take some risks, such as changing career paths or deciding to follow their entrepreneurial dreams of running a start-up.

Mothers and fathers are entitled to paid parental leave in Scandinavia. Great efforts have been made by the government to encourage parents to divide their leave time equally, so both parents can have a career and a family. When employees decide to return to work, they can enjoy subsidised and affordable childcare options. 

"The system here is really supportive. The support for both parents to take equal leave has removed a lot of company politics, anxiety and stress," says Nina, "which really encourages a diverse workforce that values a fulfilling work-life balance. There's a real spirit of teamwork, which in turn creates happier employees and greater innovation."

 

We're here to help

Here at Glocomms, we work with some of the most innovative tech companies in Scandinavia, all of whom are searching for talented people from all over the world to join them.

Our senior consultant, Nina Berggren, specialises in the space. She's based in London but is often in Scandinanvia meeting clients and candidates. If you're a candidate looking to find a role in the region, or a technology company looking for top talent across AI, machine learning, development and engineering, please out via email or on LinkedIn.