Swedish Tech: Reflections From Those Who Have Succeeded

This post is part 2 of the How Swedish tech succeeds in growing Globally. Find Part 1 here.

Over the last 12 months I have been lucky enough to sit down with some of Sweden’s leading tech Founders, CEOs, leadership execs and investors at many of the most exciting companies the country has produced. This is their story.

As part of a wider research project that is illustrated in the Slideshare above there is a lot of data that was collected. However what this post will focus on is some direct quotes from those interviews with the people that have succeeded to grow their companies globally.

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This came from the founder whose company dominates their niche globally. With their organisation spanning every continent he reflected that due to the good old “Law of Jante” compared to their global competitors Swedish entrepreneurs and their teams needed to believe that winning globally was a good thing. Whilst this attitude of thinking no-one is better than anyone else is positive in terms of societal cohesion it does not help companies compete against the attitude of silicon valley or the work ethic of Asia.

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One of Sweden’s most successful serial entrepreneurs was very focused on the idea of the “Constant Pivot”. Compared to just a few years ago the speed of innovation today, in his eyes has increased immensely. The focus now for every team should be speed. Speed of validating product / market fit and monetization before you are out performed by global competition that will also be taking advantage of unprecedented access to distribution (app stores/cloud) and low barriers of entry. Be prepared to be on a constant pivot in order to win.

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This came from a CEO who had scaled their business globally and led a successful US IPO. Before he had taken on the role of CEO the business had been run by its founder who was full of passion and knowledge but simply lacked the capabilities to make the business a global success. This led to a reflection that both visionaries and entrepreneurs whilst they can sometimes be the same thing are often not. Visionaries can predict changes in the future but entrepreneurs are the ones that have the abilities to make those changes happen.

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During the research the importance of personal and organisational networks was highlighed by almost every interviewee. In a smaller and ever more connected world this often unquantifiable talent for networking was identified as crucial. As one interviewee put it your network really is what really defines you – being a great person is linked to the other great talents you have access to.

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Europeans compared to their US and Asian counterparts place a higher priority on the issue of work/life . And Sweden certainly leads the way in this respect. This sentiment was prevelant in all interviews, especially from those who had worked outside of Sweden and could see both the positive and negative aspects of this question. The above quote came from an entrepreneur who relocated to the US to lead his companies expansion there. This relocation also involved him doing a deal with his wife at that stage where his career and the growth of the company was prioritised over her own professional development. Rather than commenting on the rights and wrongs of this quote I think it is worth just reflecting that as technology comapnies are competing in a global environment our attitudes to working hours need to reflect this environment. My conclusion is no-one has it right but you need to know the rules of the game wherever you are playing it and be prepared for those discussions. Working hours at a desk do not count but true engagement and motivation in the growth journey 24/7 do.

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And finally my favourite reflection comes from a leader at one of Swedens most successful tech growth stories over the last 15 years. I can certainly relate to this. Often with more money in the bank from eager investors, a desire to grow as quickly as possible and a war for global talent ongoing it is easy to grow just a little too fast. As more product, engineering, marketing, sales and finance positions and managers are created to sustain the growth keeping this quote in mind will be helpful. The question everyone should ask of themselves is … are you helping to make stuff, to sell stuff or are you simply stuff.

If you enjoyed this post then perhaps you would be interested in Part 1: How Swedish Tech succeeds in growing Globally.

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