In contrast to Nordic neighbours, Sweden’s Covid-19 policy revolves primarily around social distancing practices. Shops have stayed open for business, and no official restrictions on public mobility have been introduced. Still, the presence of the crisis is felt amongst citizens in Sweden. While the fight to save lives goes on, small- and medium-sized companies try to stay afloat in a precarious economy. Nonetheless, the Swedish startup ecosystem has mobilised to support citizens and assist government initiatives, a selection of which are outlined in this article. For a full list, visit our interactive database, powered by NordicBaltic.Tech, a partnership between PUBLIC Denmark and the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Thriving or surviving? The state of the Swedish startup scene
While certain digital services are in high demand, such as mental health technology, many tech startups are struggling during the crisis. In mid-March, Startup Sweden conducted a Startup Survival Survey in which 667 Swedish startups participated. Regarding the impact of the crisis, 31% of respondents reported loss of income due to decrease in sales. 22,9% reported issues with current or planned funding rounds, and 22,8% struggle to keep employees on payroll.
To mitigate the increased pressure on Swedish businesses, the government has implemented various measures related to sick leaves and short-term layoffs. In addition, the Growth Agency, a national authority, has issued calls for companies to seek EU funding for efforts that can last until 2023. Businesses may both apply to and benefit from the regional structural fund program. For example, to increase the number of small and medium-sized companies with access to high capacity broadband, one call seeks to expand broadband and high-speed internet across Sweden.
In early April, the Swedish government launched an official hackathon, Hack the Crisis, in collaboration with the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), the Agency for Digital Government (DIGG), Hack for Sweden and Openhack. The platform now features the top 10 submissions from companies and initiatives that are working to save lives, businesses and communities, both digitally and conceptually. By uniting government, startups and citizens, this Swedish initiative gathered 7,000 participants and pooled efforts to produce concrete solutions within 48 hours.
Connecting initiatives with grants or investments
Ongoing efforts to source solutions in Sweden include Action Against Corona, an initiative created by Nordic Capital, Norrsken Foundation and Dagens Industri. While startups face new levels of financial uncertainty, society still needs to solve issues related to healthcare, social inclusion, transparency, climate and much more. Submissions that demonstrate both impact and a profitable business model may be considered for investment by Norrsken Foundation and Norrsken VC.
Distance education to support schools
While schools in Sweden remain open, citizens are encouraged to stay home if they experience or exhibit any symptoms. To support the students and teachers who are affected by Covid-19, Skolahemma (‘School At Home’) offers material with guidance and advice regarding distance education. The site is run by RISE and collaboration partners (The Swedish National Agency for Education, SKR, Swedish Edtech Industry, UR, the School Research Institute, the Special Education School Authority and Save the Children).
Keep Sweden going
An online platform, Håll Sverige igång (‘Keep Sweden going’), has been developed to highlight local businesses and their help to other businesses. Help can be in the form of accessing free remote recruiting services with Alva Labs, getting 50% discount on unsold food online incl. home delivery by Karma or booking of school facilities through Boka. The initiative was created by Emil Berlin, Creative Director at Hello Studio, and Nanette Brink, CEO at Sweden HR Group. Håll Sverige igång now has 233 business offers on the platform and 412 visits every day.