Taken as one region, the four Nordic countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, Scandinavia form the second largest market for venture capital in Europe. These four Nordic countries provide a market of 25m highly educated citizens who earn and spend a relatively high GDP.
My heart warms up to everything Scandinavian. The way my career unfolded found me frequently in Stockholm. My contact network there just grew and grew. I became quite settled in the original Lydmar Hotel and loved the scene from amazing breakfasts to all of the delights of the Stureplan part of town where many of the VCs are clustered along Bigerjarlsgaten. In Stockholm, cell phones worked in tunnels and wifi was already ubiquitous when the rest of the world was just plugging in their first routers. Sweden is by far the largest venture scene. Kista (pronounced shee’stah) is a veritable Silicon Valley cluster of top tech companies positioned between the capital and the Arlanda airport. I’ve been to Sweden over 100 times. I invested in a few companies and joined a few boards. I love Sweden and feel truly at home with its advanced culture.
If you ever get invited to a “Swedish Christmas table” I suggest you accept the invite. They have private clubs on the archipelago that are amazing properties with priceless tapestries on the walls and what I like the most is the viking goblets outside with burning wood. As you walk into these places they have wood burning outside and the aroma of almond fire wood being burnt just makes it all perfect. This is a country of vikings. They stole pirate’s treasure and women. What is now in their walled garden is rather nice.
If there is one person I could have dinner with in Scandinavia it would be Per Roman, cofounder of GP Bullhound. These guys are on a roll and are plugged into the very top deals in Scandinavia and all over Europe. After many years of living in London, Per has returned home victoriously to Stockholm. I’d love to join the Christmas table with Per one year.
Denmark is giving Sweden a run for its money with one of Sweden’s top tech corridors just over the bridge connecting Copenhagen. The Danes work hard and have reason to be proud. I came to know several Danish VCs and entrepreneurs, so I am happily connected to the top deals coming out of Denmark as well as Sweden. Morten Lund, a true super-angel, is the one that I find the most interesting there. Morten got lucky with Skype and continues to back good companies at a rapid investment pace. Denmark has a few good VCs. More importantly I am mates with Bennie Larsen, the heavy weight boxing champion of the country. Go Bennie!!!!!
Norway discovered oil in their North Sea territory and quietly produces as much oil as Iraq in its peak production years. They will never join the EU as they just don’t want to share their wealth, not to mention their girls. The country has since quietly and peacefully invested all of these oil returns, never touching the principal. Only the oil fund profits are used to fund government programs. So if all else fails as an entrepreneur, my advice is move to Oslo, meet any of their countless beauties, get married and live the good life!
I’m sure entrepreneurs in Norway work hard to be funded, but it seems that cash is on tap for good entrepreneurs. One of my former Oslo deals, ScreenMedia, raised $15m without ever going to a VC. All was from angels. ScreenMedia developed a rugged tablet computer that connected to the web via WiFi and the wireless cell phone network and was pretty much the iPad years before Apple launched its iPad. Early enterprise deployments put them in hospitals. All the patient information was coordinated throughout downstream treatment and beyond. Norway has always been a leader in telecommunications with Telenor, which has sprouted tons of high quality “whatever-over-packet” type ventures. My favorite Scandinavian VC, Northzone, was founded in Oslo. Much of the power is still there, but Northzone has followed the customer and their largest market is now Sweden.
The truth about me is that I raised nearly $100m for my own telecom startup and I did a lot of business in Stockholm. As a young man I became a regular at SpyBar. I helped the locals cut the queue of the night clubs. I love the place. My roots are hard-core telecom. I knew the CEOs and chairmen of the telcos and they were cool guys. It is my destiny to fund and help the biggest deal to ever come out of Scandinavia. I am sure this will happen.
Finland is also an important Scandinavian market. Unlike Norway, Sweden and Denmark, their primary language, Finnish, is only understood by aliens from far away galaxies, in tiny Estonia across the Baltic and historically in Hungary. That’s not a problem as English is the official language of many businesses. Finland is famous not just for vodka, but also Nokia. The engineering talent in Finland is hard-core, as is product design. One of my favorite VCs on the planet is Antti Kokkinen, co-founder of Nokia Ventures, now rebranded as BlueRun Ventures – a truly good global VC fund. After conquering the world Antti has finally returned home to Helsinki.
The other truly great VC of the land is Jarkko Penttilä of Conor Venture Partners. It’s all about people. Jarkko is a vet from Eqvitec. Experience does matter.
There are plenty of home runs that came out of Scandinavia such as Skype, Spotify and MySQL. Shareholders in these hits have created a strong local angel market backing new entrepreneurs. The venture market in Scandinavia took a beating in the economic recession and some of the best entrepreneurs have moved to the US and London in search of more investors and more vibrant ecosystems.
You will find below the League Table of Most Active VCs in Sweden. My search criteria were a minimum of $3m raised by the operating company in 2010 to 2011. The most active VC in Sweden, Industriefonden, is a government backed VC that has re-invented itself quite a bit. My favorite IT funds are Northzone, Atomico (cash from the founders of Skype), Creandum, InnovationsKapital, Nordic Venture Partners, Conor Venture Partners and Sunstone. I would also advise Swedes to contact the top funds in other Scandinavian countries, in London and VCs in the US. Depending on your industry, you might also contact VCs in the US, France and Germany. More info at http://www.svca.se/.
European VC Roundtable & Book Tour Events
I am planning a series of VC Roundtable & Book Tour events in Europe in May and June of 2014. I am planning events in London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. If you are a VC and want to participate on one of my VC panels please get in touch. If you are a law firm or accelerator / shared startup work space and host events or if you want to sponsor an event please get in touch. In each city I also organize a VIP dinner the night before or after with a max of 20 people, typically sponsored by wealth managers. Get in touch if appropriate.
League Table of Most Active VCs in Sweden
|1||Industrifonden AB||Stockholm, Sweden||US$ 40||12|
|2||Investinor||Trondheim, Norway||Government||US$ 338||12|
|3||Finnish Industry Investment Ltd.||Helsinki, Finland||US$ 829||9|
|4||Sunstone Capital A/S||Copenhagen, Denmark||Venture Capital||US$ 644||9|
|5||Northzone Ventures AS||Oslo, Norway||Venture Capital||US$ 337||6|
|6||Viking Venture||Trondheim, Norway||Venture Capital||US$ 169||6|
|7||Creandum||Stockholm, Sweden||Venture Capital||US$ 144||5|
|8||HealthCap Venture Capital||Stockholm, Sweden||Venture Capital||US$ 893||4|
|9||Sustainable Technology Partners Nordic||Stockholm, Sweden||US$ 70||4|
|10||Vaekstfonden||Hellerup, Denmark||Venture Capital||US$ 361||4|
|11||Accel Partners||Palo Alto, CA||Venture Capital||US$ 6,000||3|
|12||Amadeus Capital Partners Ltd.||Cambridge, United Kingdom||Venture Capital||US$ 844||3|
|13||Fouriertransform AB||Stockholm, Sweden||Venture Capital||3|
|14||Hafslund Venture ASA||Oslo, Norway||Corporate Venture Capital||3|
|15||Investor Growth Capital Inc.||Stockholm, Sweden||US$ 1,800||3|
|16||SEB Venture Capital||Stockholm, Sweden||US$ 306||3|
|17||Veraventure Ltd||Kuopio, Finland||Venture Capital||US$ 168||3|
|18||Alliance Venture||Oslo, Norway||Venture Capital||US$ 65||2|
|19||Atomico||London, United Kingdom||Venture Capital||2|
|20||Capricorn Venture Partners NV||Leuven, Belgium||Venture Capital||US$ 135||2|
|21||Energy Capital Management||Oslo, Norway||Corporate Venture Capital||2|
|22||Ilmarinen Mutual Pension Insurance Co.||Helsinki, Finland||2|
|23||InnovationsKapital AB||Gothenburg, Sweden||Venture Capital||US$ 41||2|
|24||Inventure Oy||Helsinki, Finland||Venture Capital||US$ 56||2|
|25||Life Sciences Partners BV||Amsterdam, Netherlands||Venture Capital||US$ 601||2|
If you want to come to Europe this summer there is no better place to be in June than Stockholm and London. Join us!
Stockholm – The Future of Raising Angel & Venture Capital Funding – June 3
Stockholm – The Future of Angel & Venture Capital Investing – June 4
London – The Future of Angel & Venture Capital Investing – June 9
London – The Future of Raising Angel & Venture Capital Funding – June 11