Why Stockholm is a magnet for foreign talent

Published November 2016 in collaboration between Invest Stockholm and The Local.

This week thousands of startup founders, investors, journalists, and tech-lovers are gathering in Helsinki for Slush - a massive startup conference putting Nordic innovations in the spotlight. 

Many of the speakers at the event, unsurprisingly, are from Stockholm.  Sweden’s capital has quickly become the tech hub of the Nordics, bolstering startups in all sectors and attracting talent from across the world. 

And it shows no signs of slowing down. Talent attracts talent – and right now oft-snowy Stockholm is seeing a snowball effect. Sweden’s capital is benefitting from a virtuous cycle of experts from all over the world moving to the city.

So why is it exactly that Stockholm makes so many skilled people from all over the world want to call it home?

An exceptional ecosystem

To put it simply, Stockholm has one of the best “startup ecosystems” in the world. 

It’s nothing new. For the last couple of decades Stockholm has been a breeding ground for fast-growing tech companies like Skype, Spotify, Mojang (the makers of Minecraft), King (famous for Candy Crush), MySQL, Qlick, Klarna, and many, many more. 

The Stockholm tech scene isn’t just passionate and driven – it’s experienced. Generations of entrepreneurs and investors have learned their way around and are eager to teach and support the next round of innovations. It’s a system where startups can always find an advisor who has “done it before” – whatever it is, from product design to engineering on both the front end and back.

"Stockholm has a well-established start up scene with lots of exciting companies to join," confirms Jacob de Geer, founder and CEO of Stockholm startup iZettle. "Also, Stockholm is a small yet incredibly global city.”

Indeed, research from LinkedIn has shown that the city lures incredible numbers from the US, the UK, and India in particular. Stockholm is gaining talent like never before – while the net outflow of talent remains insignificantly low. 

Just in the past year, foreign talent has contributed dozens of new skills to Stockholm's labour market, in areas as diverse as fashion, mobile development, game development, architectural design, computer animation, sports and fitness, and social media marketing.

Values and quality of life

But it’s not just work. People who move to Stockholm to boost their careers also get a boost in quality of life in general.

“We offer an attractive work environment in many ways,” de Geer says.  “For example, Sweden has among the highest female and maternal employment rates in the EU, thanks to of our generous parental leave laws and affordable childcare.”

Company structure is typically very flat in Sweden, and colleagues at Stockholm startups address each other informally and everyone’s ideas are viewed as important contributions. At many startups even the CEOs don’t have set desks or office spaces – everyone shares a space and collaborates casually together.

Stockholm is also known for its exceptional work-life balance, not just when it comes to parental leave and childcare, but in general. Employees get a minimum of five weeks paid vacation per year. 

Add affordable healthcare for all and becomes clear why Stockholm is often a top choice for young professionals from all across the globe.

Greatness by design

Another obvious perk to living in Stockholm is that everything looks so darn good. We’re not talking about the city itself now – though Stockholm is beautiful. We’re talking design in general.

From Ikea to H&M to Minecraft to the smooth, seamless interface of apps like Klarna and iZettle, Sweden is good at design. And it always has been. Just look at the seatbelt – did you know the modern three-point seatbelt was a Swedish design invention? And the paper-based cartons you drink your milk out of – that’s a Swedish design, too.

“We have a long history of great design with many amazing designers,” agrees Johan Attby, CEO of Stockholm startup Fishbrain. 

Scandinavian design is traditionally clean and minimalistic, keeping things beautiful while maintaining functionality as the core of the design.

“These principles translate exceptionally well in mobile, where things don’t just need to look stunning, they also need to be highly intuitive and super easy to use,” Attby says. “In Stockholm I believe we have the perfect combo of great developers and a talent pool of brilliant designers, and you need both to build a successful company."

Stockholm Stories

Finally, Stockholm is good at telling its story, and the stories of the diverse people who call it home. 

A year ago, Invest Stockholm launched the @MovetoStockholm Twitter account, giving a peek into life working in Stockholm's startup scene while also highlighting opportunities in the city. Each week the account is curated by a different startup, sharing day-to-day life at Stockholm startups with the world.

The account highlights the values of Swedish culture and the Stockholm startup ecosystem itself – the values that the companies stand for. 

"I've been following @MovetoStockholm for a while," says Çağdaş Ünal, a web and app designer from Turkey. 

He worked remotely for a Swedish startup for two years and also lived in Stockholm for a couple of months. Now he's looking for a more permanent relocation, and has been helped and inspired along the way by the @MovetoStockholm account. 

"The vision of moving to Stockholm is inspiring," Ünal exclaims. "The account has helped me discover new startups, and prepare and improve myself for the requirements of relevant jobs there. Now the city and tech scene look more friendly and charming to me."

So what are you waiting for?

Explore movetostockholm.com and find out more about how you can join Stockholm’s thriving startup scene.