Swedish tech start-ups outdoing European rivals

Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:15am EST
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By Mia Shanley

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Spotify, Mojang and Wrapp, respectively music, games and gift services winning online markets worldwide, are among tech start-ups that have made Sweden Europe's hottest spot for investors hunting the next big thing.

Attracting more venture capital relative to the size of its economy than any of its European neighbours over the past five years, Sweden is benefiting from a strong heritage in design and engineering as well as a wired population keen for innovation.

Par-Jorgen Parson, partner at Nordic venture capital firm Northzone and a board member at Spotify, the Internet streaming juke box service, used to have to twist arms to get his American counterparts to fly in to meet Swedish start-up entrepreneurs.

"Now, they schedule that regularly, no problem whatsoever," Parson, whose credentials also include playing in a heavy metal band, said in at his offices in downtown Stockholm.

In the first three quarters of 2012, data from the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association show Sweden took in almost a fifth of all venture capital invested in the European Union, only just trailing Germany in absolute terms.

Its track record includes open source database MySQL - sold to Sun Microsystems in 2008 for $1 billion - and business intelligence software firm QlikTech, which listed on the NASDAQ in 2010 and is now worth almost $2 billion.

The list goes on: video game firm DICE - now owned by gaming giant Electronic Arts - internet marketer Tradedoubler, Mojang, maker of the compulsive online game Minecraft, and the one on everyone's lips, Spotify, which today boasts 20 million users.

BJORN BORG EFFECT   Continued...

Coders work in the Mojang company office in Stockholm January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins