Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sweden Best Country In The World For Business: Forbes Ranking

Via The Swedish Wire:

Sweden has been ranked the best country in the world in which to do business, according to a new survey by American magazine Forbes.

The Scandinavian country moved up four spots to the top of the charts for the first time. Forbes writes:

"Sweden has achieved an enviable standard of living with its combination of free-market capitalism and extensive welfare benefits. Sweden remains outside the euro zone largely out of concern that joining the European Economic and Monetary Union would diminish the country’s sovereignty over its welfare system".

"Timber, hydropower, and iron ore constitute the resource base of an economy heavily oriented toward foreign trade. Economic growth slowed in 2013, as a result of continued economic weakness in Sweden’s European trading partners; Sweden’s economy experienced modest growth in 2014-15, with real GDP growth above 2%, but continues to struggle with deflationary pressure".

A separate article adds:

“Over the past two decades the country has undergone a transformation built on deregulation and budget self-restraint with cuts to Sweden’s welfare state".

“Sweden’s government shrank jobless and disability benefits to encourage employment. The lower benefits allowed for tax cuts. The inheritance tax was scrapped in 2005 and the wealth tax was canned two years later. A new bill lowered the energy tax on data centers by 97% effective Jan. 1".

“Taxes are still high relative to the rest of the developed world, but taxes paid as a percent of profit are down eight percentage points over the past decade and the country’s tax burden rank in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business has improved 11 spots during the time".

"Sweden’s $493 billion economy grew 4.2% last year with only Ireland and Luxembourg faring better among countries that placed in the top 25 in our ranking. The Scandinavian nation has a low level of public debt relative to other European Union countries, and it benefits from its free-trade policies. The trade balance surplus was 5.2% of GDP last year. Sweden ranked among the top 10 countries in seven of the 11 categories we measured".

At a Glance

• GDP Growth: 4.2%

• GDP per Capita: $50.300

• Trade Balance/GDP: 5.2%

• Population: 10M

• Public Debt/GDP: 43%

• Unemployment: 7.4%

• Inflation: 0.7%

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

IKEA To The UK: "Until You Get Better At Renewable Investments We're Taking Our Money elsewhere"

Via Business Insider:

The Ikea Foundation has set aside €1 billion to invest in sustainability, of which €600 is to go to renewable energy projects. None of that money will go to the UK, despite the country being one of the most favorable places for wind energy.

Due to the political development in the UK's attitude toward renewables, Ikea deems that such investments just aren't worth it.

Joanna Yarrow, Ikea UK’s head of sustainability, told the Huffington Post:

“The UK has a fantastic wind profile, it is one of the best places in the world to generate energy via wind, but the context that we’re operating in, the political context, doesn’t encourage that investment. So we’re having to take it elsewhere. We would like to see that change”.

“I would say that over the last five or six years it has become increasingly difficult to invest in renewable energy production in the UK, and that for a large organisation like Ikea which has the resources to invest, it would be great for the UK to benefit from it”.

Joanna Yarrow further laments the decision because she believes that Ikea's investments would lead to the creation of new jobs in the UK. She pointed to the Nordic countries as role models in promoting environmental investments.

According to the Huffington Post, Ikea's work with renewables has already led to 327 wind turbines and 700.000 solar panels across the world.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Helsinki Airport Is Among Europe's First To Adopt Jack Ma's Payment Platform - To Get Ahead In The Race For Chinese Air Traffic

Via Business Insider:

With the massive and growing Asian market, European airports are racing to establish themselves as hubs for Asian air traffic.

The routing of Asian flight traffic through Finland has been one of the top priorities for Helsinki-Vantaa airport and it’s handling company, Finavia. As another step in the massive effort put into promoting the airport as the most desirable transit point between Asia and Europe - in particular for the rapidly increasing traffic from the Chinese market - Finavia has now implemented the Chinese payment system Alipay.

Alipay was launched in 2004 by Jack Ma through his Alibaba Group. The online payment platform has about 400 million users in the Asian region to date. It could best be compared to Paypal though up until recently, it wasn’t available in Europe. Thus far, the only two other places that have the Alipay option are Munich and Frankfurt so it’s very early days, but it fits beautifully with Helsinki-Vantaa’s Asian strategy.

Chinese passengers are high priority.

Finavia's director of commercial services, Elena Stenholm, says, “Chinese passengers are the most rapidly growing customer group coming to Helsinki Airport, as well as the group that spends the most money. Familiar and easy payment options increase the feeling of smooth and safe travel for Chinese passengers”.

Helsinki-Vantaa is among the first airports in Europe to enable AliPay. To begin with it can be used at the airport’s Iittala, M-Box, Finspiration, Lindroos and Moomin shop outlets, though Finavia intends to have Alipay available at all of its commercial operators eventually.

The first commercial operators at Helsinki Airport adopted the Chinese AliPay mobile payment application in December 2016.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

These Cheeky Malmö Entrepreneurs Aced The World’s Best Accelerator In Silicon Valley – This New TV-Series Showcases Their Explosive Growth

Via Business Insider:

The GetAccept team: Jonas Blanck, Carl Carell, Mathias Thulin, and CEO Samir Smajic.

Y Combinator in Silicon Valley is the Ferrari of startup accelerators.

Since its inception in 2005, it has hosted, mentored and honed many global success stories, including household decacorns like Airbnb and Dropbox.

Merely five Swedish companies have ever been accepted to this “spawning ground for emerging tech giants” as Forbes called it. Remarkably, three of them are from Malmö, and the most recent one is GetAccept, founded in 2015. Samir Smajic, CEO, shared the feeling of being one of the 100 startups chosen from more than 8000 applicants:

“It was a fantastic to get the phone call – the very same day that we had delivered our pitch in front of the YC jury. We prepared a full week before flying to California for the interview”.

What made their feat even more remarkable was that their product was launched just two months before the intense YC-program started in the winter of 2016:

“We are a team that is extremely passionate about sales and closing deals. Our goal is to change how salespeople manage sales documents worldwide, by making it a more engaging process. We do it by using e-signatures, automation and analytics” Smajic explains in a Skype interview from Silicon Valley.

Y Combinator: No cakewalk

Smajic described the first weeks as chaotic, setting up base in the US and getting to grips with the YC program:

“We didn't get that much from the YC program in order to perform better. You had to take care of things yourself – starting from finding accommodation and office space. That was not easy, coming in as expats without any social security numbers. But it was up to us just execute and find our own way. So YC was definitely no cakewalk [ räckmacka]”.

Despite nice perks like rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and co-founders of Airbnb and Fitbit, the key for GetAccept was to close out a lot of the noise that comes with a program like YC, by putting a single-minded focus on validating their product – in two markets simultaneously:

“The fact that we are four co-founders enabled us to launch our product in both Sweden and the US simultaneously, running double shifts. Getting our prouduct out there fast was key. We worked US markets during days, Sweden during nights. We sold extremely efficiently – at one point we almost ran out of sales leads in Sweden” Smajic says.

The GetAccept team would get great feedback for their progress in weekly meetings with the YC mentors:

“We were encouraged to just keep selling. And sales is what we do best – we don't talk or analyze too much. This has been the secret of our success, and enabled us to grow 23% week-on-week during YC”.

The program culminated in a “demo day” pitch by co-founder Mathias Thulin, in front of almost a thousand Silicon Valley investors.

GetAccept makes it easier to communicate and engage with sales prospects

As Thulin mentioned in his pitch, up to 60% of sales proposals end up “in a black hole” where the lead never gets back, and gets lost. GetAccept’s USP is really about taking out all the stress in between first contact and contract signature:

“To call and follow up with your leads; drafting sales offers and bothering them with phone calls actually makes it more likely that they will raise their guard and say: enough already. We are trying to enable perfect timing by automating the way you communicate and engage with the lead” says Smajic.

In short, the company’s platform gives sales people more control throughout the sales process, and more information about the prospects’ needs, by using a set of technologies. Smajic says:

“We help sales people close more deals with automation. We offer a cloud platform, where the key is engagement and easy e-signatures. We also offer a negotiation bot to start up conversations; and live tracking of when someone is looking at a proposal – so that sales people know when to call up the customer. This way, we make it really easy to engage with the lead“.

The interaction is also enhanced by the platform’s video feature, which makes sales presentations more lively:

"We are first movers with a video function. It makes the sales proposal a lot more engaging, and increases chances that customers will take an interest".

As a result, GetAccept’s customers can close more deals each month. One of their case studies has increased sales with 100%.

Born in Malmö, Raised in the Valley

Today, one year after the start of YC, Smajic is permanently based in the Valley to expand the company.

Owing to aggressive execution coupled with a single-minded focus on sales, the team has managed to establish the US as their second home market.

They have gone from zero to more than 1000 paying customers in Sweden and the US, within a year.

The big help from YC has surfaced after the program; being associated with the brand has helped in marketing and attracting investment. Moreover, YC has given a contact network to boost their US growth, and provided assistance in investment advice and valuation matters.

And who knows, will this startup one day become another Y Combinator unicorn? Judging by this trailer from “Inside Silicon Valley”, the company's own video blog series, the founders would be the last ones to hesitate on that.

Additional insights from Samir Smajic:

What stage are you currently in, and what are the plans for 2017?

"We started out with the US and Sweden, but we are already expanding into Europe. Moreover, our product is being used in more than 40 countries already. We are growing the team in both Malmö and California. We’re definitely past validation stage, with the speed that we're growing and hiring, and with low churn numbers, it's looking good. People like the products, and we are experimenting with new features to imporve the service“.

What advice do you have for other startups joining accelerators?

“Don’t cozy up with your product for several weeks or years. Get it out there. When you release, you will anyhow not know what the outcome will be”.

Smajic says the team managed to keep their focus on the long-game, and let the accelerator be a supportive element in the background: “We had to focus on our thing, and that's what made us succeed”.

Do you recommend other Swedish startups to “grow up” in the United States?

"Yes and no. When you start out here you’re really just a school kid. You start from scratch here, and that's difficult, especially since there's so much more competition in the US. We were lucky with Y Combinator, as it enabled us to get started in good way, and gave us some street cred".

Here are the 5 Swedish companies that have been accepted to Y Combinator:

Heysan (Malmö) – mobile messaging service – 2007

Verbling – e-learning platform – 2011

Wheelys – coffee stands – 2015

Get Accept (Malmö) – e-signature and sales automation platform – 2016

Castle (Malmö) – cyber security – 2016

Saturday, January 14, 2017

5 Tips From A 27-Year-Old Swedish CEO Who Took His Startup From Nothing To Nasdaq In Less Than A Year

Via Business Insider:

Erik Gatenholm is the CEO of CELLINK. Founded 2016, it's the first bioink company in the world and a maker of 3D bioprinters that print biological tissue. During the last year CELLINK and its founders received more than 10 different innovation and entrepreneurship awards. Erik agreed to share some of the things he learnt on the journey from just starting up to Nasdaq.

In January of 2016, I founded the startup CELLINK together with Hector Martinez. By November we were listed on Nasdaq and had gone from two employees to 16. To say that I've learnt a lot during this journey is an understatement. Here are five pieces of advice for entrepreneurs like myself, that I wish someone had told me a year ago:

1. Be transparent with your New Year's resolutions.

Every company sets goals at the start of the new year, but for a startup this is crucial to paving the way for success. I not only promise myself I will achieve certain goals but I promise my team as well. The more people who know what you wish to achieve, the more help you will get along the way. It’s important to build a work environment that encourages thinking big. Running a startup is a team effort, every helping hand counts. It’s important to be transparent with your vision not only for yourself but for the entire company. Working together towards a common goal in order to fulfill your promises will make the journey a much better ride.

2. Keep up the momentum.

If you've ever worked in a startup, you know that means long hours for weeks on end. As a founder, this will undoubtedly mean that your company becomes your life. You will eat, sleep and breathe your startup. It’s easy to burn out and lose sight of your goals.

To avoid this happening - for both you and your team - set up weekly goals and take some time to bond as a team. I found that taking the time to connect not only strengthened our personal relationship but made for a better work environment.

Whether it’s having lunch once a week together or taking a coffee break to clear your mind for 30 minutes, it’s important to take a step back and get refueled with positive energy. If you feel like you’re working with friends the momentum will come naturally.

3. Stay active on Social Media.

There are so many tasks associated with running a startup that staying on top of your social media presence tends to end up on the backburner more often than you would like. In the beginning, the founders end up doing all the work, from accounting to social media, themselves. If you don’t have time to run your social media, find someone else to do the job. Regardless of whether or not your customers will come from social media, it’s important to have an online presence. That being said, don’t over do it. Research shows that less is more. According to Facebook statistics, companies who post once or twice a day get 73% more comments and 32% more likes than those who post numerous times.

If you’re going to create a social media presence, be consistent. Keeping your channels up to date not only helps with brand engagement but helps shape your overall image. Remember, out of sight means out of mind in the world of branding. If you want to stay in the game, you have to be present.

4. It’s okay to say no.

When you’re running a startup, you often find that several people are trying to pull you in many different directions at once - An investor is telling you one thing while your board member is telling you another. In the beginning this happens more frequently and delays your decision making process.

Operating a startup comes with a mountain of challenges. Do yourself a favor and get used to Jim Camp’s favorite word: 'no'. The less you try to please everyone, the less stressed out you will be. While it’s important to be gracious and consider everyone’s advice, it’s always okay to take a stand on what you feel is important and keep yourself on the path toward success.

5. Be humble but celebrate your achievements.

Working with a startup is like being on a rollercoaster. You have your ups and you have your downs. When you have those shining moments it’s 100% okay to celebrate them. You don’t have to break out the champagne, but something as simple as reflecting with your team on how you reached that point and why it’s important is not only acceptable, it's necessary.

Not all achievements need to be showcased to the world - it’s vital to not boast. Stay humble yet proud so that the feeling of fulfillment can stay within you when you hit one of those inevitable downs.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Poltergeist Activity Videotaped. Fake Or Not?

Via Unknown Country:

The first part of this video involving a doll's head moving on its own could have been created using CGI, but we don't think so because the second part of the video is difficult to explain as a hoax.

One of our video experts comments:

"The first one could have been CGI. -- the very poor resolution of the video can cover that sort of thing up very well.

"The second one is harder to explain. Puffs of air from hidden outlets (where??) could explain the papers, but the rest would have had to be accomplished with magnetic devices and very thin monofilament lines strung in various directions (hidden by poor video resolution ... and some crafty editing, because the girl's path would have had to cross at least one of those lines -- the one that would have been used to pull the tabletop toward the sofa.).

"But with that said, the objects' quality of motion looks convincingly anomalous, the girl's reactions seem natural, and I can see no actual evidence of trickery".

Another disagrees:

"Stop motion animation on the doll. It's been placed in after the fact. The stuff moving on the table looks like its done with a fan. But the heavier objects are a question and the table. But in the low res image wires could have easily been hidden.

"Looks like its faked to me. Especially the single frame animation which I'm so familiar with".

We rate this one B, possibly real, which gets to the question of what in the world is happening here? If real, it's really a most unusual video.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Finnish Central Bank Has Declared The Recession To Be Receding – Many Indicators Of Brighter Times Ahead

Via Business Insider:

Excepting the southern member states, Finland suffered the worst economic contraction of any country in the Eurozone after the financial crisis in 2009. Not until recently did the Finnish central bank declare that it seems Finland’s long recession is finally receding.

“An improving employment situation and low inflation will bolster real disposable household income. Exports will recover amid better competitiveness and higher external demand”, claimed the Finnish central bank.

The bank does however point out that the ageing population of Finland, will continue to curb the country’s growth. Finland’s GDP growth for 2017 is forecasted to 1.3%, according to the Bank of Finland’s recently published Outlook for the Finnish economy. It’s not much, but it’s positive.

And while the employment situation may be described as improving it is still critical.

Since 2010, the number of long term unemployed has increased dramatically. 15% were long term unemployed out of the total of unemployed in 2010. Today the number is 35%.

“When the economy is able to renew itself by improving productivity and generating jobs, this will boost economic growth and the outlook for the public finances”, said central bank governor Erkki Liikanen.

Despite these mitigating factors, there are currently several indicators of a brighter future for Finland ahead, according to the Finnish central bank.

First of all, the labour market has grown stronger and the competitiveness has improved (due to the Competitiveness Pact). Finnish consumers are confident about the country’s economy and the last months the confidence has kept growing stronger, according to Statistics Finland. The last time Finnish consumer confidence was this high was in 2011.

There has also been a decreasing amount of bankruptcies the past 3 years, and 2016 showed an improvement of 8% compared to the previous year. December had a record low amount of bankruptcies, according to Hufvudstadsbladet – the number hasn’t been as low in ten years.

The same positive trend is seen when it comes to payment defaults. For the second year in a row the amount has decreased amongst Finnish businesses. The amount of companies with a registered payment default decreased by 4.000 during last the year compared to the year before (from 56.000 to 52.000).

While there are definitely indicators a brighter future for Finland, the biggest source of uncertainty remains: the global economy. So Finland’s near future ultimately depends on the rest of the world.