Hide behind the sofa – these two Nordic nations are going into battle once more

…Though luckily for us, this time the most likely collateral damage will be a negative comment on LinkedIn from an irate Swede or Dane. Keep your shields down, but your smartphones well charged for this conflict.

History is on Sweden’s side as the best location for tech in the Nordics.

Not surprisingly, with the biggest population (just under 10 million people) and the biggest city – Stockholm, the Swedes have had the critical mass and larger domestic market compared to the Danes with 6 million souls and a mildly-frustrated Copenhagen with a still-impressive 1.5m people.

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A strong heritage of international companies pre-date the new tech businesses; Sweden was an early adopter to tech with Ericsson a notable global leader from the 90’s. A mixture of industry alumni, intellectual knowledge, human capital and investors gave a perfect breeding ground to the likes of Skype and Spotify to global fame. Now the (Fin)tech crew are following in their footsteps, with Gothenburg and Malmo being as involved as the capital.

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Some are already huge in their own right such as KlarnaKing and iZettle (now part of Paypal). Others like Tink and Trustly are on their way to emulate their bigger siblings, with MinnaHedvig and others in the race too.

It’s not surprising that many look first to Stockholm when it comes to tech.

But the Danes aren’t rolling over – they are getting organised.

Whereas Sweden has the tech heritage and the scale, Denmark has in Copenhagen a more centrally located capital, closer to the UK and German markets and exceptional transport connections. Recognising they lack the financial capital and the scale of Sweden, they have focused on close collaboration between the state and private sector to build a more attractive proposition for tech businesses. Copenhagen Fintech lab, Rainmaking loft and others work hand in hand with agencies like Copenhagen Capacity to build a tech environment that is truly global.

It’s starting to pay off with PleoLunar Way and Nordic API gateway just some of the Fintech companies rapidly expanding. So perhaps the future is Danish when it comes to tech in the Nordics?

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The case for Sweden

Full Reach spoke with Anna Gissler, CEO of Invest Stockholm – the official Inward Investment Agency in Stockholm fully owned by the City of Stockholm. We asked her why she felt Sweden is such an attractive place to be for tech businesses.

‘Innovation has, historically, always been part of our DNA – the freedom to take risks, to think outside the box, and to be early adopters. You could say that our unique DNA is very much the catalyst in every Stockholm startup or scale up. It’s in many ways what make them successful.’

Anna Gissler

Anna Gissler

We keep a very close dialogue with the startup and tech scene, for example, we have helped by supporting the establishments of new hubs, co-working spaces and events – to make sure there are vibrant meeting places and opportunities for collaborations. Another important part of our job is to support the companies by attracting international talents to move to Stockholm, and to help companies further their work with gender equality.

Companies are increasingly looking for markets where they can operate in a sustainable way, and where they can find a market readiness in how customers think and consume. We have seen that our values and sustainable lifestyle is what make talents stay in Stockholm, so we believe it’s important to keep promoting our progressive values.

The case for Denmark

Full Reach spoke with Thomas Krogh Jensen, CEO of Copenhagen Fintech – a not-for-profit private-public partnership, also funded by government agencies to scale global collaboration. Copenhagen Fintech has its ‘Lab’ a dedicated place for Fintech start-up to scale-ups in the city.

‘Copenhagen Fintech was created to turn Copenhagen into one of the world’s most attractive places to start, scale and push fintech businesses – collaborating between start-ups, corporates, governments and universities.’

Thomas Krogh Jensen

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Denmark is famous for having a very highly educated population, building companies and creating value through the power of specific domain expertise, which is exactly what is needed for growth within technology generally, but also fintech specifically.

Source: Startup Genome - Ecosystem Deep Dives

We work closely together with the foreign ministry to expand the knowledge for our companies internationally, so they can learn about opportunities in foreign markets. We also work together with Digital Hub Denmark, which creates opportunities for everyone involved in establishing a digital growth environment. The hub involves several agencies including the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of Danish Industry, Ministry of Higher Education and Science Denmark, and many others.

Three main advantages of Denmark are: access to talent and culture of trust, knowledge accessibility and networking opportunities and the overall lifestyle you get in this society.

The truth is, they are both great locations

In reality, deciding on Sweden or Denmark is one of those decisions that can be deemed ‘minimal risk’. Both countries compare well across different barometers such as the The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, global inequality index and overall life satisfaction. If you’re looking for larger VC backed investment and private investments – Sweden might be for you. If you’re looking for a more idea-to-scale support, the integrated Danish approach may be better.

Both regions are of course competing in similar sectors and Stockholm is the largest city and functional region in the Nordics. The biggest difference between the two cities and countries is probably that Stockholm is a much more open city and country for people from abroad. Anna Gissler

The trusting open culture makes all the Scandinavian countries engage with each other in a friendly way to build upon the ecosystem in a fast, yet organic way.Thomas Krogh Jensen

How to get involved or get support in Nordic (Fin)Tech?

There’s a lot of help in both countries if you’re interested in joining the ecosystem.

COPENHAGEN FINTECH WEEK from June 14-20 will have the biggest Nordic players in the city for all things Fintech.

STOCKHOLM TECH WEEK in September 2019 will cover a wide range of events and themes.

LONDON TECH WEEK 10-14 June will feature Tech Nordic Advocates – a regional body who support various networking, investment and though leadership programmes. Event info and tickets available here

INVEST STOCKHOLM can be a great base of support for those looking at Sweden.

COPENHAGEN FINTECH has a lab and scale up programmes in Denmark and offer integrated support for new businesses.

COPENHAGEN CAPACITY support international companies, investors and talent in Copenhagen.

There are many others – this is a snapshot – the Nordics has a great deal of public, private and hybrid organisations in place to support and scale businesses in the region.