June 7, 2024

The gravlax offensive: When Sweden's tech, business and political elite meet

Sifted attended an invite-only summer mingle organised by the CEOs of Voi and Kry — here's what we learned

Mimi Billing

3 min read

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At an invite-only summer mingle on Wednesday evening organised by Fredrik Hjelm, CEO of mobility startup Voi, and Johannes Schildt, CEO of digital healthcare provider Kry, I expected a lot of drinks, some tapas and good music.

I’d also agreed to moderate a panel of startup founders including Susanna Campbell, cofounder of Harald Mix’s Syre, Markus Villig of Bolt and Patrick Söderlund of Embark Studios, so I knew stage appearances were a theme of the night. There were around 250 of Stockholm’s top tech people there. I didn’t, however, expect a lineup of people high up in business and politics.

It made sense for Adam Kostyal, the CEO of Nasdaq, to be there. I also wasn’t surprised by a handful of large corporate and banking executives who turned up. But when the Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson and his Estonian equivalent Kaja Kallas appeared on stage, I started thinking what kind of “party” is this?


I should have guessed though. A week ago, pictures on LinkedIn showed guests such as the Swedish Prime Minister, a couple of VCs and startup founders like Northvolt’s CEO Peter Carlsson, Campbell and Söderlund at a lunch organised by Hjelm and Schildt at Schildt’s home.

Hjelm told me that the lunch and summer mingle are about “relationship building between finance, tech and politics” (and a few media people, seen as “friends” of the ecosystem).

Perhaps it’s smart for politicians and startups in Sweden to discuss things more openly. It’s usually been the way for large family corporations. But in the past, startups like Spotify (before its IPO) used media to send a message instead – like its threat to leave Sweden because of the lack of housing in Stockholm and regulation around employee stock options.

Hjelm told me he’s heard from politicians that this approach doesn’t work. The Swedish Prime Minister’s office told Sifted that Kristersson’s message is politics and business need to work together, not against each other.

Eight years on, Ek brought up Stockholm’s housing problem again at a fireside chat on Monday, saying it makes it difficult to attract great talent. I’m not actually sure if better dialogue between tech folk and politicians during that time would have changed the housing situation here either.

These conversations are nice to have, though, and as Hjelm says about Sweden, it’s not in every country you can have lunch with the Prime Minister. Whether that changes anything for Sweden’s startups in the future is TBC.

I'm not sure panels are what people want at a party though. But when those were done and dusted, it turned out to be a pretty great party. And watch out London, I’ve heard Hjelm and Schildt are planning a get-together there in the coming weeks.

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Mimi Billing

Mimi Billing is Sifted's Europe editor. She covers the Nordics and healthtech, and can be found on X and LinkedIn