Photo: Anna Hugosson /
Photo: Anna Hugosson /

Norrsken House and impact tech in Stockholm

”With its innovative spirit, access to investors and tradition to produce unicorns, Stockholm is a great place for tech entrepreneurs. There has, however, been a missing link between entrepreneurs and tech: the impact focus. That’s why Stockholm is the perfect base for Norrsken as we strive to support entrepreneurs who leverage technology to tackle global challenges”, says Funda Sezgi, COO of Norrsken Foundation.

Norrsken is the Swedish word for Nordic Light – Aurora Borealis. And the name is aptly chosen for this ambitious Swedish non-profit organization aiming to create a world optimized for both people and the planet. Founded in 2016 by Klarna co-founder Niklas Adalberth, it describes itself as “an ecosystem” consisting of Norrsken House, a co-working space for over 350 impact entrepreneurs in Stockholm, and the seed fund Norrsken Founders Fund, investing in companies with the potential to radically improve the world.

– Our way of doing this is by enabling tech entrepreneurs who have a clear impact goal and viable business model to tackle the most pressing global challenges. Our rock stars are impact unicorns that are geared towards affecting people’s lives positively, while generating healthy profits, Funda Sezgi explains.

Housed in an old tramway building, Norrsken’s head office and co-working space is located in an old tramway building at the heart of Stockholm, now turned into Europe’s largest hub for the combination of impact, technology and entrepreneurship. The many lush plants and greenery in the otherwise raw and industrial setting creates a sense that you are entering into a hothouse.

– Well, there’s a lot of thought behind this. Stockholm has become something of a hothouse for turning new technology into profitable business – and we want this to spill over onto impact tech entrepreneurs, says Funda Sezgi, who prior to becoming coo was in charge of the Norrsken House and is now driving its expansion to new markets. – In ten years’ time, I hope that Norrsken has contributed to creating many companies that have had a clear impact on solving some of the major global challenges of today, she continues.

“Stockholm is unique”

Raised in Turkey and having lived in Melbourne, Lund, Barcelona, Seville and San Francisco before moving to Stockholm, Funda Sezgi has a truly international background. But, she says that she finds Stockholm “unique”. – There is so much energy here, which I think is one reason why Stockholm produces the highest number of unicorns per capita than any other global city, apart from Silicon Valley. Stockholm has developed a human, social, educational and corporate infrastructure that supports start-ups. And with the kind of spotlight that Stockholm has attracted through the many success stories it has created, this also fuels more investment, while it also attracts foreign talents to the city, Funda Sezgi says.

– As we’re now in the process of internationalizing our operations, Stockholm will serve as a role model for what we will do in other markets. Currently we’re looking at locations like London, where there is a lot of capital, and Kigali in Rwanda, where there’s a real need and we can make a change. Our focus is on Europe and Africa with the aim of creating 25 houses like the one we currently have in Stockholm.

Funda Sezgi is not only a great fan of Stockholm for business – but also for pleasure. – Stockholm is wonderful with so much nature integrated into the city. I love just walking around, looking at the many beautiful buildings and enjoying the contrast between old and new.

– One of the things that I love most about the culture here is that people are ambitious, curious and critical thinkers. You are appreciated for your competence and also surrounded by competent people. It’s the first time that I live somewhere, where being a foreigner and a female has not worked to my disadvantage. On the contrary I would say.

– In fact, I’m always so enthusiastic when I talk about Stockholm to my family and friends abroad that I have a constant flow of visitors. But I love that – and showing off my new hometown, Funda Sezgi says.

This article was first featured in our Annual Report for 2018 which can be downloaded here