8 reasons companies like Amazon Web Services chose Stockholm

Published in collaboration with The Local

By now you may have heard that Sweden is the best country in the world to do business in. It's a statement backed up by plenty of data and rankings on innovation, taxes, technology, and so much more. And Stockholm, the capital, is the hub of it all.

Stockholm's economy is strong and getting stronger - it's growing faster than the rest of Europe. Investments in Stockholm tech companies nearly tripled from 2015 to 2016, and this year is looking just as promising.

The numbers don’t lie. But we wanted to look beyond the numbers, to speak with the actual people and companies who’ve located their businesses to Stockholm – and learn more about why they chose to do so.

What brought the likes of US giant Amazon, Finnish company Naava, Spanish company COMSA, and Swedish company Biovica to the same city?

Here’s what they said – eight great reasons to relocate your company to Stockholm.

1. Connectivity

Stockholm is well-connected in more ways than one. You may have heard that giant Amazon Web Services is building data centres in Stockholm – but what was the reasoning behind it?

“They think Stockholm is a great location, a great hub for their clients throughout the Nordics and for Northern Europe to connect to their services,” says Torbjörn Bengtsson, a Business Development Manager with Invest Stockholm, who helped Amazon set up operations in the region.

“For them, it was not only the geographical location at the centre of Northern Europe, but also the fiber connectivity. Stockholm is a great place to have as a hub for sales, support, and marketing.”

More than 93 percent of Swedes regularly use the internet, putting it in the world’s top ten for internet penetration rates. Most Swedes use the internet daily - and there's an average of 2.07 computers and 1.13 tablets per household. And Swedes aren't just connected, they're well-connected. Sweden has the second-fastest internet in the world.

2. Getting to know the Nordic neighbours

When Finnish “smart green wall” company Naava decided to expand to Scandinavia, one city was the clear starting point.

“Stockholm is the capital of the Nordics,” says Aslak De Silva, Chief Revenue Officer at Naava. “We consider it to be the trendsetter for the Nordics as well.”

Naava builds healthy, human-friendly work environments featuring smart walls of plants that use artificial intelligence and satellite information to water and take care of themselves. The walls also optimize humidity levels – “so people feel good; no headaches or dry eyes”.

Aslak says that human resource management is also “more advanced” in Stockholm, making it the perfect next market on the way to other cities.

“If we succeed in Stockholm it’s easier to go on to Gothenburg, Malmö, Oslo and Copenhagen from there. We consider Stockholm to be the most important part of Nordic success.”

3. An international hub

But Stockholm offers a gateway to much more than just the Nordic nations. It’s a great hub for operations in all of Europe – or across the globe.

“Stockholm is one of the most internationalized business centres,” says Pedro Miguel Rivero, Director of International Development at Spanish infrastructure and engineering giant COMSA. He says that Stockholm’s excellent connectivity to the rest of the world, and international business know-how, were key factors in COMSA’s decision to establish operations there.

“Swedish companies export their goods and services to the whole world, which also gives them an understanding of the different cultures of foreign contractors coming to Sweden.”

The Stockholm business world also speaks fluent English – making it simple for companies from all over the world to thrive.

“Stockholm is very international,” Aslak at Naava agrees. “It’s easy to manage with English here.”

4. Access to top-notch investors

For other businesses, Stockholm is the place that makes it easy to meet potential investors.

Founded in 2009, Biovica is a Swedish biotech company that specializing in technology that improves the monitoring of cancer therapies. The company is part of the Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science Cluster, and ever since current CEO Anders Rylander joined in 2013, the company has also had an office in Stockholm.

“We’re not a big company,” Rylander tells The Local.

“It’s important for us to have a presence in Stockholm. It’s the capital city, and being here gives us access to investors that wouldn’t be possible in any where else in Sweden.”

Biovica’s Stockholm office also facilitates the company’s research collaboration with a laboratory at Karolinska Instiutet.

Biovica also listed on the Nasdaq First North stock exchange and the Stockholm stock exchange in March 2017, and is in the midst of an ongoing clinical trial collaboration with Dana-Faber, a highly-respected US-based cancer institute – a partnership that may pave the way for Biovica’s technologies to receive FDA approval.

“Being in Stockholm is great for commercial collaborations,” adds Rylander.

Torbjörn Bengtsson agrees this is a selling point for many businesses.

“Stockholm is very interesting for investors and venture capitalists,” he explains. “It’s produced a large number of tech success companies, and there’s a lot of great technology know-how.”

5. A large talent pool

That know-how isn’t just great for attracting investors. It also makes it easier for businesses to get the talent they need.

“Stockholm is strong in areas like financial tech, gaming, mobile core technology, and smart manufacturing,” Bengtsson says. “We’ve got tech know-how, product design know-how.”

It’s a recurring theme when Biovica reflects on the benefits of establishing in Stockholm, too.

“Being in Stockholm is great for recruitment,” Rylander explains.

“There’s a large talent pool in Stockholm. It’s allowed us to recruit people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to get.”

6. Low energy costs

Another one of Stockholm’s business superpowers is – well, power.
“Sweden’s electricity is 98 percent carbon neutral and highly renewable,” says Bengtsson. “We also offer the lowest cost for green energy in the EU.”

For companies like Amazon Web Services, which need massive amounts of green but low-cost energy, this is a highly-valuable perk.

“And one really unique aspect of power in Stockholm is that it’s possible to resell your extra heat back to the district heating system,” Bengtsson adds.

“Data centres are like big radiators – they consume electric power and produce heat, and then instead of venting that heat out, they can sell it back. This allows data centres to be climate positive, rather than negative, while also making some money.”

7. Stability and infrastructure

Everything’s relative, and each country has ups and downs – but relatively speaking, things are looking good in Sweden.

“The wide range of opportunities, combined with the political and economic stability of the country, were some of the main drivers that supported Comsa’s decision to establish in Sweden,” says Pedro Miguel Rivero.

Sweden is a stable country with advanced infrastructure, and, as already mentioned, it’s full of opportunities for international business. COMSA received support from the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) and other public bodies in Sweden, making it easy to get up and running. Now the company is looking at getting into the Norwegian market as well.

“The big availability of infrastructure projects and the support Swedish public agencies give international contractors made it possible to get our first Scandinavian contract in Stockholm,” Rivero says.

8. A sidekick when you need it the most

“Sweden is an attractive but complex market – to succeed, detailed preparation is required,” Rivero says.

“Invest Stockholm is an important source of information about business opportunities in the region, but also a big assistance in understanding how to get established in Stockholm without making mistakes. They gave us a more complete view.”

Aslak De Silva at Naava agrees.

“We received a lot of advice, everything from business context to contacts,” he says.

“Invest Stockholm helped us attend events, make connections, and talk to the companies we wanted to talk to. Contacts are important in Stockholm – and having someone on your side helps a lot.”

For companies interested in establishing operations in Stockholm, Torbjörn Bengtsson’s advice is clear:
Get in touch!