Value-based organization structures, free education and a solid foundation of social security. That is the recipe for successful entrepreneurship. At least according to the participants in EQT’s panel “The Magic of Entrepreneurial Sweden” that took place at the DLD17 Conference in Munich last week.
EQT’s founder and Chairman, Conni Jonsson, was part of the panel “The Magic of Entrepreneurial Sweden”, which mission was to investigate how a tiny country in the north could foster so much entrepreneurship across industries and over time. Four generations of Swedish entrepreneurs with backgrounds in completely different industries; Björn Ulvaeus, music producer and former ABBA member, Mikael Schiller, Chairman of fashion houseAcne Studios and Carl Waldekranz, CEO and co-founder of the online marketplace Tictail. The panel was moderated by journalist Anna von Bayern.
Conni Jonsson started off by stating that Swedish companies are generally not very hierarchal and that organization structures often are flat as consensus and group decisions are encouraged.
“The Germans and the Finns sometimes make fun of us because we are slow in decision making processes, but when a decision is made we often have everyone behind us. We basically build our companies on a set of values, we hire people after values and we compensate people after values. Values last, performance doesn’t. The strive for equality in an organization culture creates a climate that allows entrepreneurship to flourish”, said Jonsson.
When asked how a country of only 10 million has produced giants such as IKEA, Spotify, Skype and Electrolux, the participants seemed to agree that Sweden’s size not necessarily should be seen as a disadvantage, but rather a source for motivation:
“When you’re from Sweden, you quickly learn to look outside your own borders. We’re a small country, we can’t afford to be local. Our children are prepared for this at a very early stage as the Swedish school system puts extensive efforts on language, primarily English, but also German, French and Spanish”, said Björn Ulvaeus.
“Sweden has a long history of entrepreneurial spirit with large companies such as ABB, Alfa Laval and Ericsson. Swedish companies are present all over the world, which makes it easier for new ones to expand internationally as we are good at leveraging our international networks”, Conni Jonsson continued.
Private equity, fashion, entertainment and online retailing. Although their backgrounds are in four completely different industries, the panelists all share the common denominator of having careers associated with risk. Succeeding as an entrepreneur may seem hazardous to many as it often requires going out on a limb and taking unexplored paths.
When discussing Sweden’s extensive welfare system’s impact on entrepreneurship and creativity, the panel concluded that it gives many individuals the adequate prerequisites to prosper. Conni Jonsson however also pointed out that the flipside of the constant strive for equality sometimes also mean that top-performers might not get that extra individual attention that they would need to really out-perform.