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In the early 2000s, Skype came and led the digital startup environment in Sweden. Then came the likes of Spotify, Klarna, iZettle, and King. You may think that Sweden has already punched above its weight in terms of the technology it has introduced to the world, but we have, in fact, only just got going. The next generation of Swedish startups is starting to scale up, but rather than simply trying to replicate what their international trailblazer predecessors have achieved, they are actually going to become more successful, innovative, and important to the world.
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This first generation of startups was defined by the “geeks” who built great companies and finally succeeded in a world that slowly but surely accepted them. The second generation can be defined by big-name CEOs, big money and major hype. Looking forward to tomorrow, the third generation will be defined by success for the many, and not just a few, with a focus on improving society and redefining how we work.
The way that these newer startups operate is radically different when compared to the startups and businesses that they are following in the footsteps of. It is no longer enough for entrepreneurs to build profitable companies. Entrepreneurs not only want to build great products and companies, but they also want to make a positive change at the same time.
Beyond this penchant for improving the world, I believe that the Swedish startups of tomorrow will succeed by following these three philosophies.
Flat hierarchies and humble leaders
Whilst flat hierarchies are almost synonymous with startup culture, the third wave of startups will be the first to genuinely put it into practice in a meaningful way In the past ten years we have seen a surge of celebrity startup CEOs and other leaders pushed into the limelight, and a company culture which means that flat hierarchy only manifests itself when everyone sits in the same open-plan office. However, company politics means that in practice these startups are as hierarchical as any old-school corporation. The only way to really achieve flat organizations is by having humble leaders who are happy to be proved wrong, strip away the prestigious, old-fashioned titles, and focus on driving results.
A work-life balance where you have time to live
Startups have the reputation of being fun, but difficult places to work. All-night working sessions disguised as “hackathons”, fridges crammed with energy drinks, and cosy offices that blur the line between work-life and home-life have enabled many companies to scale up quickly. But the new wave of startups does not consider this culture to be sustainable, or in fact humane. Rather than glamorizing long working hours, these startups will value having a workforce that is healthy, both mentally and physically, and with a good work-life balance.
Of course in Sweden, this is more easily achievable as there are already generous parental leave laws in place and culturally there is a respect for one’s personal life. It might be a little more difficult for other startup hubs across the world to achieve this in the short term, and this will give Sweden a crucial advantage when it comes to being at the forefront of the next stage of startups.
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Diversity that goes beyond gender balance
The third wave of startups continues to push for diversity. In smaller tech hubs such as Stockholm, diversity is a must as startups realise that there are simply not enough engineers in order to be able to meet demands. In recent years there has been a lot of emphasis on creating a gender-balance in startups. Whilst there is still work to do there, diversity goes beyond gender and many startups are measuring diversity in different ways. In my company, we have more than fourteen different nationalities represented. Diversity builds better products and better companies which is a welcome break from the current political rhetoric that we see both in Europe and the States.
Whilst the future of entrepreneurship will still very much be focused on building fast-growing, profitable companies, the secret to long-term, meaningful and sustainable success for startups will be to build a company that put the employee at the centre.
December 14, 2018 at 04:10AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs