Thursday, March 23, 2017
Via Business Insider: Going by the number of investments during 2016, Stockholm is the most entrepreneurial region of the Nordics with 247, followed by Copenhagen at 98 investments. But the region that really stands out in the statistics is the southern most part of Sweden, Skåne. The west coast cities of Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö together represent the smallest region by population, but it still manages to place third by number of investments, 78. "The fact that Skåne, and Malmö in particular, has done so well over the past year is part of a wider trend that we see across Europe at the moment. VCs are becoming a lot better at looking into opportunities beyond major hubs like London and Stockholm. What's interesting with Malmö is that it's got a solid track record on deep tech startups, which is starting to properly catch VCs' eyes", says Jeanette Andersson, investment manager at the Malmö based incubator Minc. Over the last three years the total value of the investments amount to some $300 million. While three years isn’t enough to identify a trend, it is fun to consider the trajectory. The most active investors in the region are Swedish – including Almi Invest, Industrifonden and Hampus Jakobsson, but as many as one in five funding rounds have an international investor participating. “We are already seeing a rise in visits from venture capital firms to Malmö this year, partially because our ecosystem had a high number of small investments last year”, says Jeremie Poirier, co-Head at Malmö Startups.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Via The Swedish Wire: Martin McGuinness, a former Irish Republican Army commander and Sinn Fein political leader, has died in Derry following a short illness. He was 66. McGuinness helped negotiate peace in Northern Ireland after decades of sectarian violence, and became a senior official in its power-sharing government. Sweden’s former Prime Minister Carl Bildt said in a message on Twitter that McGuinness was “truly remarkable” for turning from terror to peacemaker. “The life of Martin McGuinness was truly remarkable. From rebellion and terror to truce and reconciliation”, Bildt said. Sinn Fein said on its website on Tuesday that McGuinness had died during the night. He was reportedly suffering from a rare condition caused by the abnormal buildup of protein deposits in tissues and organs. He resigned from the Belfast government in January. Sinn Fein said it is "with deep regret and sadness that we have learnt of the death of our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness who passed away in Derry during the night. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him", the Belfast Telegraph reports. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: “Throughout his life Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Via Business Insider: Bluetooth. It's been around for 20 years. We see the name and iconic logo on virtually every device we own — Bluetooth headphones, Bluetooth speakers, even Bluetooth-enabled toothbrushes. As is the case with most product names we encounter every day, we often take for granted that they are just called what they are called. A frappuccino is a frappuccino because it sounds tasty, right? Actually, it's a frozen cappuccino. WiFi may just seem like a funky word for the life-sustaining force that makes internet browsing possible, but it's actually short for "Wireless Fidelity". What about Bluetooth? What is the so-obvious-it's-funny explanation for the technology that made you think strangers on the bus were talking to you when in reality they were just on the phone? As it turns out, Bluetooth is named after a 10th-century Scandinavian king. Harald "Blåtand" Gormsson was a viking king who ruled Denmark and Norway from the year 958 until 985. There are many accomplishments credited to him, but greatest of all is that he united Denmark and Norway under his rule. Gormsson was also known for his dead tooth, which had a very dark blue/grey shade. It was so prominent that his nickname was Blåtand, which literally translates from Danish to "Bluetooth". But what could this possibly have to do a wireless technology that lets you use a hands-free headset while you drive? Fast-forward a little over 1.000 years to 1996, and short-range radio technology was in its very early stages — Intel had a program called Biz-RF, the Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson had MC-Link, and Nokia had Low Power RF. The three powerhouses quickly recognized that the best way to drive the technology forward within the industry and avoid fragmentation would be to create a single wireless standard. In December of that year, representatives from each group met at the Ericsson plant in Lund, Sweden to plan their industry-standard technology. Before they could get started, however, they decided that they needed a codename for the project while it was in development. Intel representative Jim Kardash suggested that the temporary name be "Bluetooth", and his reasoning was simple. "King Harald Bluetooth ... was famous for uniting Scandinavia just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link", he wrote in a blog post. Later on, when the technology was nearly finalized and it was time to choose a permanent name, Kardash explained that Bluetooth wasn't even in the running. Somehow, the Bluetooth origin story doesn't end there. Once the technology had an official name, it also needed a logo. "But isn't the Bluetooth logo just a 'B' written in a tacky '90s font?" I imagine you're asking right now. No, it's not. That "B" logo is actually ol' King Blåtand's initials written in ancient Danish runes. So, there you have it. Bluetooth is called Bluetooth because its developers were big history nerds and they couldn't come up with a better idea. Who knew?
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Via Gizmodo: Daniel Boria was not the first person to see Up and think it would be a great idea to fly around in his own balloon chair. But he’ll stand as an eternal example of how thoughtless this kind of stunt can be. A judge in the Canadian city of Calgary did not find Boria’s actions to be a laughing matter when he handed down his sentence on Friday. “There was nothing fantastic, fun or exhilarating about it”, Judge Bruce Frasier said. “There is no precedent for so foolish an escapade”. Reading the full riot act, Frasier also called the stunt “unconscionably stupid”. If Boria had only put his own life in danger, that would certainly be acceptable. It is admirable that he pulled it off without killing himself. But he floated into an area where commercial airlines fly, not to mention the danger of a fully grown man falling onto the city from thousands of feet in the air. Police immediately got involved and Borgia bragged to local news, last year, about seeing a flight go right below him at one point during his journey. Now, he’ll have to pay $26.500 in fines. That’s in addition to what he says was about $20.000 that he shelled out to produce the publicity stunt. All in the name of promoting his company. Local police suggested he get a billboard next time. It would appear that Borgia is unapologetic and doesn’t see why the stunt was so misguided. In fact, he’s just doubling down on delusions of grandeur. “[They] didn’t charge the Wright brothers”, he said. That’s true, at the time the Wright brothers were inventing human flight there were no commercial flights to endanger and they performed their tests in rural areas. On the steps of the courthouse, he put on a Boston accent and recited a variation of JFK’s “We choose to go to the moon”-speech. My man, you are not inspiring anyone to the peak levels of human ingenuity. You’re a bro shilling a business by putting others in harm’s way.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Via Business Insider: Sweden is no stranger to topping global rankings, whether it's for excellence in raising kids, environmental friendliness, or doing good for others. The latest: Sweden was recently named the best country in the world for women by BAV Consulting and UPenn's Wharton School of Business. If you ask Asa Regner, Sweden's minister for gender equality, she'll say the country didn't achieve such a feat by accident. It took decades of advocating on behalf of women's rights and putting systems in place in the federal government to support women in the workplace and in life. Regner, the minister since 2014, says a few big factors have contributed to the ongoing success. Individual taxation If there's a hallmark of the Nordic model of governance, it's income tax. The rates are very high. But Regner says Sweden's success with empowering women may come largely down to how people are taxed. "A very dry and technical thing is the individual-based taxation", she tells Business Insider. Married couples in Sweden don't file joint tax returns; since 1971, they've filed separately. Regardless of whether you're single or married, individual people receive social security benefits based on their needs, she says, not their family's collective needs. "We target individuals regardless of gender to take up paid work", Regner says. "And I think that that kind of thinking, and that we did all of that in the seventies and are still very conscious of that, creates a positive cycle that gets politicians to do things". Parental leave Sweden has the most generous parental leave policy in the world. Parents get 480 days to share - paid out at 80% of their salaries - which they can use until the child turns 8. In addition, fathers get 90 of those days reserved just for them. The policy has enabled Swedes to cultivate a work-life balance like few other countries can. Families can divide their time between the office and their home with ease, and new mothers in particular enjoy having ample time with their newborns. A great deal of research says this kind of setup is ideal for bringing women into the workforce. Often, moms pay a penalty for working. They're either hired less because employers think they'll leave to have kids, or they have trouble keeping their old wages once they come back from maternity leave. Sweden eliminates those pressures - for both parents, Regner says. Lately, one of her biggest missions has been to increase how much paternity leave dads take. In 2014, they took just 25% of the 480 days, while moms took 75%. Regner's goal is to get the ratio closer to 50-50. Company audits Regner's ongoing quest is to ensure companies stick to Swedish law that mandates equal pay for equal work. In 2008, the country signed the Swedish Discrimination Act, which requires companies of 25 or more employees to issues surveys every year analyzing pay differences between men and women. Companies with big differences between genders who don't take steps to close the gap risk paying fines. This has helped to a large extent, Regner says. What's trickier is changing how work often performed by women - nursing, elderly care - is valued in society. That's the big attitudinal difference she'd like to resolve. So far, it's involved funneling government funds to those industries where women's work is undervalued relative to men. Over time, she'd like vital areas of work to get more recognition from business leaders who pay people's salaries. Regner also says immigration has become a new challenge. In 2015, an influx of Syrian and Afghani migrants entered the country, many of whom grew up learning different values about gender roles. Education - about women's rights, violence prevention, and the country's expectations of its citizens - all have helped so far, Regner says. But there is still a ways to go. But while Regner and her peers debate how to level the playing field even further, many other countries are still struggling to offer basic services, such as mandatory parental leave and equal pay. Even Sweden's problems are the best in the world.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Via Business Insider: People who use Spotify without paying may be blocked from listening to some of the hottest new music on the platform, according to a new report from The Financial Times. The music streaming service is reportedly nearing a new deal with the major music labels. And one part of that deal would - on a temporary basis - make some of the top releases on the platform available only to users who have paid for subscriptions. So the next Frank Ocean album, say, might become available on Spotify - but unless you've paid for a subscription, you'll have to wait a while before you can actually listen to it. These negotiations with labels are essential to Spotify's future plans. The Swedish company plans to go public, but first it needs certainty about the terms on which it uses the major labels' music on its platform. Spotify has been long resistant to the idea of restricting some of its music to just its paid subscribers. But according to the FT, it has received a concession in return - it will pay less to the labels in royalty fees on each song. Taylor Swift refused to put her new album on the platform in 2015 because the company would not restrict it to premium-only users, an incident that sparked heated debate over how music should be valued and whether ad-supported music streaming services pay artists properly. Competitors, like Apple Music, do not offer a free tier at all - though it does provide temporary free trials to potential subscribers. The negotiations, with Universal, Sony, and Warner, could reportedly be completed within weeks. Spotify currently has more than 50 million paid subscribers, according to its site, and over 100 million overall. There are more than 30 million songs on the platform.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Via Business Insider: Uniti is an electric urban vehicle for the future, initially developed at Lund University and since 2016 a freestanding project. Its futuristic concept car became one Sweden's most talked about crowdfunding hits last year. What makes Uniti unique is that they have chosen to completely remake the electric car concept, instead of just modifying and adjusting the concept of conventional cars. Uniti posits that conventional vehicles are uneccessarily powerful and big, and wants to provide a scaled-down and more sustainable alternative. Its futuristic car concept brings substantial efficiency and environmental gains, and a high user experience, enabled by smartphone technology amongst other things. Uniti has now announced that they will establish a fully automated factory to build the car. The first vehicles will be built in a factory in the south Swedish county of Skåne, in collaboration with Siemens. First deliveries are scheduled for 2019, and the factory should have a capacity to produce 50 000 units already during its first active year, says Di Digital. Unitis’ electric vehicle will be able to cover between 150 to 300 kilometers, weigh 400 kilograms, and come with an estimated price tag of SEK 200 000 ($24.500). When the company's crowdfunding-campaign was launched on FundedByME last year, Uniti asked for SEK 5 million to build a production-ready prototype. Two days later that goal was already surpassed. The final pledged investments amounted to just over SEK 12 million ($1.35M). Uniti's ambitions are high - new financing on the way. Already, Uniti is believed to prepare for a big financing round, to the tune of more than half a billion krona ($63M), and has the long-term goal of an IPO, according to Di Digital. But before all that can happen, many EV enthusiasts surely want to test drive the futuristic vehicle.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Sweden’s Biggest Bank Just Threatened To Leave The Country If The Government's "Shocking" Fee Goes Through
Via Business Insider: The current Swedish government is not making many friends in the private sector right now, having recently had companies like Norwegian and Spotifty threaten to move their operations from Sweden due to regulation or the lack thereof. The Swedish financial sector is now locking horns with the government as well. Earlier this year, the Swedish government put forward a controversial tax proposal, that would levy an additional 15 per cent tax on the salary costs of companies that provide financial services. The government eventually backed out, but proposed instead raised banking fees that would go into the Resolution reserve - a pool of buffer money reserved for banking crises. The banking sector is not happy about the proposal; in particular Nordea, Sweden’s largest bank, which is now saying it’s considering to move its headquarters away from the country. If the Swedish government's proposal were to become reality, the probability of a move is “highly, highly likely” says Nordea's CEO Casper von Koskull to Dagens Industri. von Koskull describes the fee proposal as “shocking”, because of the amount of fees that would be incurred on Nordea, the largest financial group in Scandinavia. According to Nordea, its payable fees would skyrocket tenfold, from today's 0.5 billion krona per year, to 5.5-6 billon ($620-670m) in 2019. Moreover, Nordea was already looking at raised fees before the current proposal. “The resolution fee alone causes Sweden to have different rules than the rest of Europe. This naturally means that we need to consider and investigate other alternatives”, von Koskull told Di. The Nordea CEO didn’t disclose where those alternatives for new headquarters might be. The government’s proposal is seen by many financial sector professionals as cutting against its commitment in 2015, to make Stockholm one of the five biggest financial centres in Europe by 2020. And if Nordea actually were to leave and remove hundreds of jobs from Sweden, the question the government surely needs to ask itself, is it all worth it?
Monday, March 13, 2017
Via The Swedish Wire: Sweden has the world’s most powerful passport, according to a new report by consulting company Nomad Capitalist. Out of 199 countries, the Scandinavian country came out on top, followed by Belgium, Italy, and Spain. The UK was ranked 16th and the US didn’t even make it into the top 30. However, the success comes with a flipped. Swedish passports are changing hands for as much as 80.000 kronor ($12.200) on the black market and being routinely used for human trafficking, prompting the government to launch an investigation into passport abuse according to other reports. The Nomad Passport Index found that Swedes can visit 176 countries without a visa, and have the ability to work abroad without having to pay tax at home. The Nordic nation also received top marks in terms of personal freedoms, with citizens enjoying free speech, a free press, and some of the lowest incarceration rates in the world.
Thursday, March 09, 2017
What we know so far is that there is probable extraterrestrial life at the fourth planet orbiting Zeta Reticuli 2, a star 37 light years away. It seems possible to travel 20 times as fast as light and thus a roundtrip from Earth to Zeta Reticuli 2 and back would take approximately 4 years. We must try to build a star ship with material harder than diamond. Our planet Earth is our cradle but not our final destination. Venus and Mars are not the best places for the exodus of humanity when our sun gets into trouble... I say we should send people to Zeta Reticuli 2. We can do it. We even need to do it to have a door open for future migration and for the future security of us earthlings.
Via The Swedish Wire: Sweden has the world’s third fasted broadband internet speed, while South Korea still leads the race with an average connection speed at 26.1 Mbps, a new study by Akamai Technologies shows. Norway was ranked second. “Internet connection speeds continued to show positive long-term trends around the world, with particularly strong year-over-year increases across all broadband adoption metrics”, said David Belson, editor of the State of the Internet Report. “When Akamai first published the report in 2008, we defined ‘high broadband’ as 5 Mbps and above, which nine years ago had an adoption rate of 16% globally. We’re now seeing a 15 Mbps adoption rate of 25% worldwide. Norway held on to the top spot for 15 Mbps broadband adoption among surveyed European countries in the fourth quarter, tying second-place Switzerland with an adoption rate of 54%. Seven other countries – Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Romania, Latvia and Belgium – had 40% or more of unique IPv4 addresses connecting to Akamai at average speeds above 15 Mbps, the report said. Sweden will be a completely online country in 2025, according to the government's new three-part broadband strategy. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has also promised that over half a million more Swedes will gain access to fast broadband Internet over the next four years.
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
Via The Swedish Wire: Two veterans of Tesla, the electric car pioneer owned by Elon Musk, has announced that they plan to build a $4 billion factory to manufacture the batteries, most likely in Sweden. Peter Carlsson and Paolo Cerruti, both ex-executives for Tesla, said a massive new factory could be producing lithium-ion batteries, the energy source for electric cars, in Europe by 2020, if plans for a Nordic “gigafactory” come to fruition. “The problem today is that batteries are very expensive. By scaling up the battery production and taking control of the entire [value] chain, from raw material extraction to the finished product, we think we achieve a competitive business model”, said Paolo Cerruti, COO at Northvolt, formerly Carlsson’s colleague at Tesla, to Swedish business daily Dagens Industri.
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Via Business Insider: Today Volvo Cars unveiled its new SUV, the XC60, in Geneva Motor Show. The new beast will be replacing a previous bestseller the same name, and according to expert Håkan Matson at Di, it needs to become at least as big a success as its predecessor, adding that the new model is ”completely decisive for the company's future”. ”It's the perfect car for an active lifestyle, and it makes up the next step in our transition plan", adds the comany's executive chairnman Håkan Samuelsson in a press release. ”The XC60 is characterized by a genuinely Scandinavian experience", adds Volvo's Chief Designer Thomas Ingenlath. Volvo Cars's new safety goal is that nobody should be killed in a Volvo in 2020. Hence the XC60's safety features are a major USP; the City Safety-system has been developed, and the car also features the Oncoming Lane Mitigation-function, which will reduce damage in full frontal impact. Production is expected to begin in mid-April, and the XC60 will be available both as a plug-in-hybrid, diesel- and petrol car – the price tag, however, is not yet official.
Monday, March 06, 2017
Via Business Insider: Should Sweden impose an airplane tax, as its government has been considering since late last year, the Scandinavian airline SAS has threatened to move all intercontinental flights from Stockholm to Copenhagen and Helsinki. In a hearing answer, SAS informed the Swedish government that its prospective tax would lead to a 35 million kroner extra tax bill for the airline on its intercontinental flights annually. “The traffic will move from Stockholm to Copenhagen and Helsinki”, SAS warned the Swedish government. “Firstly the move will involve intercontinental traffic – an area for which the proposed Swedish taxation will be very high”. Local impact On November 30 last year, the Swedish government announced it was considering an airplane tax from 1 January 2018. The tax will aim to reduce the impact of air traffic on the climate and could net the Swedish state about 1.75 billion Swedish kroner annually (1.36 billion Danish kroner). More specifically, every flight to a European destination would be taxed 80 Swedish kroner, while flights outside Europe would be taxed 280 kroner. Longer intercontinental flights would be taxed a full 430 kroner. SAS said that aside from moving long-haul flights to Copenhagen, the tax could also force the airline to shut down local flights within Sweden. Moreover, the airline complained that larger state-owned Middle Eastern airlines, which have considerably deeper pockets and would therefore be able to absorb the tax more easily, would increase their domination in the Scandinavian market.
Thursday, March 02, 2017
Via Arutz Sheva: Headstones found toppled in Jewish cemetery in US for third time in less than two weeks. A Jewish cemetery in Rochester, New York, was vandalized, the third such incident in the United States in less than two weeks. Five headstones were found toppled Thursday morning at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also known as the Stone Road Cemetery, in the city in western New York, according to News 10 NBC WHEC. The president of the nonprofit managing the cemetery said he did not want to call the incident a hate crime or anti-Semitism. “I don’t want to label it a hate crime. I don’t think there’s any proof of that. I don’t want to label it anti-Semitism. I don’t think there’s any proof of that,” said Michael Phillips, president of the Britton Road Association, according to The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Police were awaiting notice from the cemetery before commencing an investigation, News 10 NBC WHEC reported. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into Jewish community centers, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year.
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Via The Swedish Wire: Sweden's economy continued its fast pace of growth in Q4, expanding by 1.0% quarter-on-quarter, HSBC said in a new report. This was slightly above consensus and the Riksbank's expectations, but meant that the annual pace of growth slowed to 2.3%. The slowdown in the annual growth rate was mainly base-effects, owing to the very strong growth rate in Q4 2015. The pace of growth was held back by changes in inventories (taking 0.3ppts from the qoq growth rate), but otherwise strong exports, consumption and investment all fuelled growth, suggesting that Sweden's strong growth picture continued at the end of 2016.