Honey, I’m Stock(holm)!

It has officially been a week since we left Sweden, and we are missing it every second! Even the rain, believe it or not. The different cities we visited were full of so much culture and beauty. We will all miss walking around the streets and taking in the scenery that the country has to offer. And Ally will especially miss the social acceptance of drinking coffee three times a day. Besides the obvious beauty, there are a lot of takeaways from the trip that will impact our outlook on lifestyle and the way to conduct a business. 

Sustainability is a constant theme in Sweden. The streets are full of silent electric cars. Throughout the entire trip, we saw three classic cars maximum. Here in California, if you drive around in a classic car people will give you thumbs ups and compliment you. In Sweden, it seems like driving around in a gas guzzler is almost embarrassing. This is because everyone is on the same page to make the world a better place. All take out restaurants provided only wooden cutlery and paper straws, after you ask for a straw of course. Everyone is also very particular about recycling. There are descriptions on every recycling bin on what to recycle and what to throw away. Another thing that specifically stood out was how clean the streets were. You would think that a major city like Stockholm would have trash all over and lingering smells. This was most definitely not the case. The city felt safe to walk around at all hours of the day and night. The only trash that we found around the city was cigarette butts. 

The next part of Sweden that we will all miss dearly is the food. Swedish meatballs certainly lived up to the hype. Katie and Ally enjoyed this dish three times, since once was not enough. They seemed to get better every time too. Other meals that we enjoyed included different salmon and steak meals and great Italian dishes. Everything tasted extremely fresh and clean. Our classmates particularly enjoyed Max Burger as it proved that fast food restaurants in America are just subpar. The 7/11’s in Sweden were also exceptionally nicer than what we are used to. The food choices were much more than just hot dogs and chips / candy. There were actually places to sit and eat inside of the stores after buying a nice sandwich or calzone. 

The technological differences between Sweden and the United States were extremely apparent as well, with Sweden leading the world in technological innovation and development. Businesses are investing more in research and development to make more technologically advanced, and sustainable, products, including Einride and Northvolt. Companies in Sweden are making large strides in using technology to impact change across the world, such as Northvolt innovating lithium-ion batteries and Voi Technology producing electrically powered scooters. Along with this, Sweden is a completely cashless country, utilizing only card transactions at any shop, whether it be a major retailer or a small shop in the town square. According to the Riksbank, the percentage of people using cash has decreased from 39% to 9% from 2010 to 2020, with the Riksbank piloting a new digital currency, the E-krona to adjust to the drop in cash transactions (Riksbank, n.d.). One thing we were surprised to see was the difference at the McDonald’s in Sweden. Aside from the green logo, rather than red to promote a more eco-friendly image in Europe, the McDonald’s fully utilized kiosks for ordering, embracing fully contactless ordering (Inskeep, 2009). While the United States does have kiosks at most McDonald’s locations, the completely contactless system felt very futuristic, and was convenient in taking a great amount of orders simultaneously. This system was implemented at Max Burger’s across Sweden as well.

Overall, our trip to Sweden was very insightful, both culturally and business-wise. We were able to see business from a new perspective, and how differently companies in Sweden approach product ideas and business ventures. Rather than seeking profits, most of the companies we visited set out to change the world, which was very inspiring to see. Not only were the ventures intriguing to see, but the company culture was very different from businesses in the United States, with offices being organized differently and office hierarchies being more equal. We would love to go back, as we felt that we did not have enough time to explore the beautiful cities. As first visitors to Europe, we loved being able to make easy walks to the city and see the various colored buildings lining the streets, along with the rivers flowing through the cities. All three of us agree that we will be back to see the rest of Scandinavia and Europe in the future!

Sources:

Inskeep, S. (2009, November 24). McDonald's makes its logo more ‘green' in Europe. Retrieved from NPR.

Riksbanken. (n.d.). The e-krona – state money in digital form. Sveriges Riksbank. Retrieved from https://www.riksbank.se/en-gb/payments–cash/e-krona/

Riksbanken. (n.d.). Why are people in Sweden no longer using cash? Sveriges Riksbank. Retrieved from Sveriges Riksbank.

Swede Business Ideas

Sweden is becoming well known as an innovation powerhouse. But how is this possible for such a small country? When in Stockholm, we were lucky to visit Business Sweden, which is a consulting firm that helps with company expansion. Its mission statement is to help Swedish companies grow global sales and international companies invest and expand in Sweden and its value proposition is to shorten time to market, bring in new revenue streams, and reduce risk to business ventures. They act as a consulting service for these Swedish companies. Business Sweden is able to challenge whether or not companies are on the right track to expand internationally or if they should focus on growing locally first. If international expansion is in their best interest, Business Sweden has the tools and network to assist them doing so. 

Sweden leads the world in innovation, with companies like Northvolt and Einride dominating new technologies with capabilities to change the world. Northvolt alone is responsible for almost half of the country's venture capital investment. So the question that all of us are thinking is, why is Sweden #1 in innovation? Many factors contribute to this. There is heavy investment of GDP into R&D, as Sweden has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship and a generous social welfare system. As of 2021, Swedish startups raised a record 7.8 billion euros, up 2.4 times from 2020. This year was also the record year in Sweden for the most number of startups. Now, it is valued at 239 billion euros, with Sweden having 35 unicorns, including Spotify, Mojang, Skype, Sinch, King, and Northvolt. Sweden’s early tech success is fueling new tech startups, leading to more opportunities for innovation, keeping Sweden at the forefront of innovation. It is important to note that there is no specific qualification for being a “Swedish company” as some have been bought out by other countries but still consider themselves to be Swedish based. It seems that since the country is smaller sized, they are able to conduct this type of business without strict guidelines. 

Not only does Sweden lead in innovation, but they are also working towards more sustainable products and services. Sweden also is a leader in sustainability, with 460+ Swedish startups were recorded tackling sustainable development goals, or SDG. These include climate action, sustainable cities/communities, quality education, good health & well-being, gender equality, and responsible consumption & production. In 2021, Sweden led VC investments in impact startups in 2021, with over half of all their funding being raised by impact-focused startups totaling 4.3 billion euros. The companies we visited outside of Business Sweden focused on sustainable initiatives to better communities and the environment, which fuels these companies to continue developing newer products and services catered towards consumers, rather than profits.

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