Brief public service announcement: I am right up in Sweden
Note: It's much colder here than this photo would have you believe.
For the next two weeks, I'll be reporting from Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland, with a possible side trip to Tallinn, Estonia, if I can find a boat. Ostensibly, I'm here to attend two conferences, SIME and Slush, but I'll also be reporting on the region's startup ecosystems. (If you have expertise in these areas and I haven't already contacted you, please Tweet me, Tweet me real good.)
This quiet part of the planet is home to a bunch of groundbreaking Internet companies, from MySQL to Rovio, Skype to Spotify, Supercell to Wrapp. Now, with the return to the ecosystem of some serial entrepreneurs, a new influx of capital from abroad and at home, and a few major success stories (see above), the startup scenes are heating up.
But of course, startups are just a small part of what makes Scandinavia fascinating. Aside from the stunning natural environment, there's also the famous design aesthetic – Ikea and H&M are leading a global cultural takeover, according to Vanity Fair – a much-envied social support structure that provides free healthcare and education for its citizens, and cheap and abundant high-speed Internet. In Stockholm in particular, the people are second in physical beauty only to the gorgeous architecture, and the gender-equality laws are so advanced that the toilet seats put themselves down (NB: Assumption ascertained from a sample size of one). I'll try to bring all that to bear in my reporting.
Of course, if it were a Utopia, it wouldn't be worth writing about. So I will be looking at not only the region's success stories, but also the challenges it faces, on matters that range from cultural to corporate.
And any chance I get, I'll wax lyrical about Swedish pop star Robyn, whom everyone must adore immediately and forever. The way she has found commercial success without compromising her artistic values or flashing #KatyPerryCleavage should serve as a model to any entrepreneur who has ever considered selling out. Just don't fall recklessly, headlessly in love with her, people.