March 8, 2008

Swedish Startup Culture

Anton believes Sweden needs a better tech startup culture. When thinking about startup culture on a national or regional level (i.e. 'copying Silicon Valley') one thing to remember is that such a culture takes to develop and there are a lot of factors that affects the outcome.

Modern Silicon Valley got started in the late 40's and 50's with HP and Stanford University. Today's preeminent venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital were formed in 1972. As technology boom and busts have come and gone the startup culture and support systems like accountants, lawyers, large technology companies (as acquirers, pools of employees), angel investors, veteran startup employees, startup-oriented universities etcetera have developed.

The support system results in bringing down the barriers to starting a traditional tech startup, but it isn't created overnight.

My take is that the support system is growing in Sweden. The number of people that have done a few years in one or two tech startups are growing, there are companies that are doing well on an international level that brings in more people, there is venture capital for good companies etc.

However, a good startup culture is not created by a formal decision from 'people in power'. Rather it is created by companies doing well and a lot of the experience and capital from one generation of startups going into new firms.

People who have done a few years in a startup can do a lot for the overall culture by helping out a young team founding a company by offering some advice, some connections or capital.

(On a side note: One specific structural improvement that 'people in power' can do to get more capital from one generation of firms to the next is to change the taxation of employee stock options to be inline with the taxation of income from capital.)

While Sweden, or Stockholm more specifically, is no Silicon Valley and likely will never be, directionally there are a lot of positive stuff happening with Swedish startup culture.

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