Sweden makes up a mere 0.13 percent of the world’s population. However, the small Scandanavian nation is home to a plethora of innovative minds, such as Andreas Hassellof, founder of Ombori, who are making waves in industries across the globe. Their influence is threaded throughout the services and technologies that define our daily lives — from music streaming and online gaming to payment systems and retail stores. New companies and exciting tools are born daily in Sweden, and many of them are quickly building multi-billion-dollar businesses.
Officially known as the Kingdom of Sweden, Sweden is a Nordic country located between Norway, Finland, and Denmark. Spanning across only 173 thousand square miles, the population totals a modest 10.4 million residents. Starting in the 1800s with the Wallenberg and Stenbeck families — household names in Sweden who still hold considerable influence over the country’s markets — investing became a major component in the national economy.
Over the last two centuries, savvy investment and innovation have paid off, turning Sweden into one of the most innovative countries in the world. Today, it houses the headquarters of numerous thriving companies who are shaping the future of their industries and positioning themselves as leaders on the world stage.
Global Titans Based in Sweden
Today, many prominent industries account for the lion’s share of the country’s economic platform. The industrial sector contributes to 22.2% of the GDP and employs nearly 17.7% of the workforce. Meanwhile, the telecommunications and IT equipment industry are substantial, employing 80.7% of the active workforce and contributing a massive 65.2% of the GDP.
Some of Sweden’s most globalized business ventures have become retail, manufacturing, and telecom giants. Their names are certainly familiar to most readers. Volvo, Ericsson, and H&M, for example, have each played pivotal roles in facilitating the impressive economic growth that Sweden has witnessed over the last century. Here’s a quick overview of some of Sweden’s biggest names:
- Ericsson was founded in 1876 in Stockholm, Sweden. It is a prominent multinational networking telecommunication company that employs nearly one-hundred-thousand individuals and is valued at $45.64 billion.
- Volvo was founded in 1927 and maintains a fiercely loyal customer base and a strong reputation for reliability in today’s booming automotive industry. Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larson founded Volvo, and in 2020, the company reported over $148 billion in total equity.
- H&M is one of the most recognized clothing brands around the world. With retail locations that permeate malls and shopping centers, the company’s fashion influence is substantial. Founded in 1947 by Erling Persson, H&M is valued today at $18.82 billion.
- Ikea is a Swedish-founded multinational company that has reimagined the home furnishings sphere. Launched in 1943 by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA has held the title as the world’s largest furniture retailer since 2008. As of March 2021, the company boasts 378 physical storefront locations, spanning across 30 countries.
Looking Ahead: Swedish Tech Companies on The Rise
There is no doubt that the world around us is changing. As innovative tech solutions continue to shape and reshape our daily lives, Swedish tech companies are keeping pace, upholding the nation’s reputation for innovation and building new globally recognized brands in emerging industries. According to Atomico’s State of European Tech report, Sweden has bred more tech unicorns per capita than any other region in the world outside of Silicon Valley.
Sarah Guemouri, a co-author of the report, explains the details: “at 0.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, Stockholm currently has the highest number of tech unicorns per capita in the world except for Silicon Valley.” Eva Alfredsson, from the policy agency Tillväxtanalys, reports further that “Sweden is one of the most innovative countries in the world and a country in which it’s easy to start and run companies.” The world of tech start-ups is flooded with competition and cash, but Sweden has created an environment in which its innovators are able to stand out among the stiff competition.
Ombori, a retail technology company based out of Stockholm, Sweden, is one of the exciting and growing names in the newest wave of transformative companies.
Ombori was formally founded in 2015, but today, is known for the Ombori Grid, which changes how customers experience retail shopping through its queue management system. Andreas Hassellof developed the platform with one simple mission in mind: “To make it easy for organizations to quickly leverage new technology to improve the daily lives of their customers. Focusing on revolutionizing and evolving the customer experience, Ombori aims to add new elements to a traditional retail experience.”
The Ombori Grid provides ready-to-use solutions that re-imagine how retail locations can leverage digital screens and mobile devices in store. The Ombori Grid creates an augmented environment in which digital tools enhance the customer’s experience in a physical space. While retail stores have made the most use of this technology to date, the Ombori Grid has broader applications for urban life by allowing organizations to create smart stores, smart cities, and smart spaces by offering solutions for customer management systems. By leveraging the platform, users can increase sales efficiency and build brand loyalty, which was the goal of H&M’s implementation of the interactive mirror display, to upsell merchandise and build rapport with customers.
Sweden’s Culture of Growth
Ombori’s presence is continuously growing as it permeates major retailer locations around the world. Clients currently using Ombori Grid include H&M, Dufry, Lindt, and Target Australia. Ombori technology is also powering malls and airports around the world, as well as in the flagship stores of several leading brands. Akin to Ikea revolutionizing the home shopping experience, Ombori aims to evolve the modern customer retail experience through implementation of technology, increasing success for businesses, while enhancing experiences for customers.
Ombori is in good company among Sweden’s powerhouse companies. Several multi-billion-dollar companies are emerging from the country right now. Two of the first companies that put Sweden on the map were Spotify Technology SA and Mojang, the creator of the popular Minecraft game. In the years since then, other businesses have joined the list:
- Norrsken: Venture capital fund investing in start-ups; $31 billion valuation.
- Oatly: Food brand that produces alternatives to dairy products from oats; $10 billion valuation.
- Trustly: Fintech company that developed an open banking payment method that allows customers to shop and pay from their online bank account without using a card or app; $9 billion valuation.
- Northvolt: Battery developer and manufacturer, specializing in lithium-ion technology for electric vehicles; $3.8 billion valuation.
- Truecaller: Smartphone application that offers features like caller-identification, call-blocking, flash-messaging, call-recording, and Chat & Voice by using the internet; $3 billion valuation.
- iZettle: Financial technology company offering a range of financial products including payments, point of sales, funding, and partners applications (today owned by Paypal); $2.2 billion valuation.
- Kry: Medical app that allows you to consult with a qualified health professional within minutes via your smartphone or tablet; $2 billion valuation.
- Epidemic Sound: Royalty-free soundtrack; $1.4 billion valuation.
Part of what makes Sweden so exceptional in terms of innovation is the commitment that industry titans like these have made to rising stars in the business landscape. Many of them are eager to help fund new ventures and experiment with disruptive technologies. Oscar Berglund of Trustly has explained that “It’s like there’s an ecosystem of funding and expertise,” and it looks to be true with no signs of slowing down; recently, Spotify co-founder Martin Lorentzon spoke with Bloomberg, outlining his plan to invest part of his fortune with Cervantes Capital AB.
It isn’t just capitalists and entrepreneurs who make Sweden such a fertile environment for new ideas. Academics like Bo Becker, a Professor of Finance at the Stockholm School of Economics, have even cited the nation’s school system, business-friendly taxation structures, and socially conscious consumers as fundamental driving factors in the nation’s ability to churn out one promising and powerful company after another.
Venture Capital on The Rise
Due to their ability to decide how massive amounts of capital are allocated and which experiments are prioritized, venture capital firms play an increasingly important role in the development of a country’s economy. Hala ventures summarize the role of venture capital firms in the following terms:
- Promoting innovation; financing the development of new products, new technologies, and the processes of companies that are meant to directly and positively influence the economy.
- Improving the absorptive capacity; raising the level of knowledge, skills, and business acumen acquired from the process of inventing various solutions and start-ups.
- Creating jobs through the various employment opportunities that the empowered start-ups are able to offer.
- Creating wealth that is measured by market performance and growth of sales, profitability, survival, and return on investment.
According to consultancy Copenhagen Economics, Sweden raises an incredible amount of private equity capital. For example, Ombori Grid recently raised 6 million EUR in Feb 2021.
The venture capital raised in Sweden is second only to Luxembourg in the European Union. This impact on the larger Swedish economy is significant: Private equity investment has boosted the Swedish economy by 4.7% since 2007. Given their level of commitment to fueling innovative and disruptive ideas, it is no surprise that Sweden has become a leader in today’s markets.
If more venture capital equity is allocated to companies within Sweden, and if the nation’s successful entrepreneurs continue to pass on meaningful investments in the testing and support of rising stars in Sweden, it is certain that the country will continue to flourish on the global stage.