The future welfare society depends on Nordic Scale-ups

If the Nordics are to uphold their current level of welfare in the future, more high-growth companies need to be nurtured, according to CEO in Nordic Innovation, Svein Berg.

At the Swedish Epicenter in Stockholm, entrepreneurs, investors, bankers and politicians join heads.

In the midst of the typical cool, Scandinavian design of plants and glass facades, they are to answer especially one question: How can the Nordics become a leading nest in which startups can grow into full-scale, successful companies?

Naturally, a summit of this kind is to take place in Stockholm.

Though Finland in the past few years has proved itself to be a significant player in the field of tech, Sweden still takes the lead in making tech-startups grow into large, sustainable companies.

Both Spotify, Skype and Klarna are born and bred in the Swedish startup environment. So are Mojang and King, which may be lesser known names, but nevertheless are behind the widely played games “Minecraft” and “Candy Crush Saga”.

Startups get too much attention

Next to the success stories in the neighboring countries, the Danish accomplishments are less impressive. In the past few years, only one high growth tech-company, Unity, has grown into Unicorn status in Denmark. Since then, it has relocated to the US, leaving the questions: How is Denmark to create and nurture high-growth companies? Are the rest of the Nordic countries to copy Sweden, or is Denmark to find its own path?  

Questions in mind, Bootstrapping meets the Norwegian Svein Berg at the Nordic Scale-up Summit in Stockholm. He is the CEO of Nordic Innovation, which is an organization of the Nordic Council of Ministers working to promote entrepreneurship across Scandinavia.


Svein Berg, CEO for Nordic Innovation.

According to Svein Berg, the overall focus in innovation and entrepreneurship is often on how to increase the number of startups. However, he would like to put a greater emphasis on how to actually make the startups succeed and grow.

“Startups see a lot of interest and resources, whereas scale-ups, which we actually depend on, don’t get enough attention. If the startups remain small, they won’t have an impact on the country as a whole. It is the scale-ups which create jobs and uphold the welfare society as we know it today,” says the CEO.

A Nordic “union”

Initiated by Nordic Innovation, the Nordic Scalers Program currently counts three Danish companies. Bootstrapping has previously reported on one of them, the scale-up company Dental Media. In addition, also ViaBill and Secomea participate in the course, which focus on how to fit a Nordic scale-up to an American market.

According to Svein Berg, the Nordic countries and companies are not just to learn from each other. More importantly, the Nordics ought to unite and take lessons from countries outside the region.

“The number of Nordic scale-ups is naturally limited by the size of the respective markets found in the Scandinavian countries. If the Nordics work together, it is much more likely to make itself noticed in the field. We have a lot in common in the Nordic countries and collaboration makes sense,” says Berg who nevertheless has one reservation:  

“Collaboration isn’t a goal in itself, but is instead to be seen as an efficient tool to help companies reach whatever objective they have,” he says.

Nordic Innovation hopes the program, and the experiences gained from it, will lead to a draft of suggested changes in policies. Very likely, the suggestions will be country-specific, says Svein Berg, but will overall help the creation of more Nordic scale-ups.

Too many settle for less

For quite some time now, Startups have been a buzzword, and, according to Svein Berg, the focus on the new, small companies is far from justified:

”Startups are important and they will remain to be so, but it is their growth we really depend on. Too many startups gladly settle for less,” says Svein Berg.


Epicenter i Stockholm var blandt andet Spotifys hovedkontor på et tidspunkt i virksomhedens liv.

Most of all, it is a question of ambition. Why chase billions if millions are enough to live comfortably? Why create jobs for a 1000 people, when the office of four seems so much more appealing?

Though many relate to this mindset, Svein Berg believes ambition could be sparked by letting the startups meet and spare.

“No public organization or counselor can ever teach you ambition, but whenever founders and startups meet they take lessons from each other and a certain drive is created. It is the advantages of a community – safety, meeting like-minded people, and, possibly, greater ambitions. To hear others voice their high ambitions may make more to reflect on their own,” he says.

Scale-ups to secure the Nordic welfare society

Both the media and politicians pay attention to the startups. Also the unicorns, meaning companies with a valuation of more than US 1 billion, get a lot of coverage. According to Svein Berg, the unicorns’ impact on society is highly overstated, and the focus has to be broadened:

“Unicorns are important symbols. 1 billion is good. It signifies success. However, also the number of scale-ups matters. We can’t put all our eggs in one basket. More scale-ups will help us build a more robust economy,” he says.

And resilience is needed. Both a fast growing market in Asia, and a US fighting to hold on to their leading position within innovation put a strain on the Nordics. Renowned for its welfare society, the Nordic has to adjust to the global development in order to sustain its high living standards. And it is not enough coming up with the good ideas – they also have to be made into large businesses:

“If the Nordic societies are to uphold the current level of welfare in the future, we depend on scale-up companies. We know the world is facing major change. We know automation and digitization will lead to the closure of many companies. Consequently, many will lose their jobs. To make up for the lost workplaces, we need to create new jobs with equally high salaries,” says Svein Berg.