How high-impact Stockholm companies are helping find solutions to coronavirus problems

Covid-19 has changed the way the world works in a matter of weeks, but fleet-footed Stockholm-based businesses are determined to ensure the city remains a hive of innovation and solutions-oriented thinking throughout the crisis and beyond.

  • Photo: Epicenter's coworking space in central Stockholm
    Photo: Epicenter's coworking space in central Stockholm

It’s springtime in Stockholm. The scent of bird cherry sweetens the air and windflowers carpet the city’s parks and pathways. But even though Sweden has chosen a less coercive coronavirus strategy than much of the rest of the world, the streets remain practically empty and the seasonal birdsong is more evident than ever. 

Fortunately the city can draw from a wellspring of trust as it navigates this unfamiliar terrain. Stockholmers appreciate the confidence invested in them by political leaders, while at a business level the city’s flat hierarchies work exceptionally well for distributed teams working from home. 

Nowhere is the shift to home-working more obvious than in the city’s coworking hubs. But while desks may be vacant, the everyday bustle and hum of collaboration has not evaporated: it has just moved online. Now, rather than hunkering around a whiteboard to strategise, many of these newly distributed teams have turned their focus to providing solutions to ease the effects of the coronavirus crisis.  

Norrsken: Action Against Corona

Social entrepreneurship accelerator Norrsken wasted little time before launching the Action Against Corona initiative in early March. And when the foundation announced that it was earmarking substantial grants for solution-focused firms, the response was swift. More than 1,000 applications poured in and Norrsken has already made capital available to a handful of companies as it works to process the rest.

“Stockholm is a fantastic city for a project like this, there’s such a collaborative mindset. From idea to live website only took 30 hours,” says Thom Feeney, General Manager at Norrsken House.

Invest Stockholm is a partner in the project, which is led by Norrsken in collaboration with Nordic Capital and Dagens Industri. 

Already Norrsken has invested in several companies, including the newly formed ABC Labs, With a testing facility at Karolinska Institutet, ABC Labs will quickly be able to carry out 4,000 coronavirus tests weekly before expanding further. Digital health service Kry will handle contact with patients, from analysis of symptoms to the delivery of home test kits. Read more (in Swedish).  

Find out more: Action against Corona

Sweden Tech Connect matches talent with jobs

Sweden Tech Connect is the brainchild of Stockholm-based tech industry specialists Karin Bjerde, Mia Matsson, Raman Ramalingam and Andreas Wennberg. Seeing the unemployment effects of the crisis, the four instigators also noted that some companies were experiencing an upswing during the crisis. 

They quickly got to work putting together Sweden Tech Connect, a platform that matches tech talent with companies in need of staff. 

“The response has been fabulous. Since launching we’ve had 400 candidates and 200 job postings registered on the site,” says Karin Bjerde. 

She and her colleagues have also launched free webinars to help candidates from non-tech industries to better understand the recruitment needs of startups and scaleups. 

“The key takeaway for me is that there is a massive opportunity here that highlights the need for a greater focus on reskilling and upskilling candidates.” 

She adds: “It’s not a problem to move industries but you have to show what skills you bring with you. If you haven’t worked in startups or scaleups you need help to bridge that gap.” 

Find out more: Sweden Tech Connect

Startup Switch by Sting lets companies swap talent

Andreas Wennberg from Sweden Tech Connect is also one of the driving forces behind Startup Switch by Sting. The initiative enables professionals in the Sting accelerator network to offer their services at very reasonable rates to other firms in the incubator with acute recruitment needs.

”We’ve asked applicants to set relatively low hourly rates. This incentivises companies to hire, while the fee is paid to the applicant’s company to help it through this difficult period.”  

The way it works is that startup executives and employees who have suddenly found themselves with less to do can apply to be deployed to other companies in Sting’s network of more than 300 startups.

Read more: Sting 

Founder-ER: A free advisory service for scaleups

Invest Stockholm is also supporting Founder-ER, an initiative launched by Stockholm-based growth hub Epicenter and scaleup accelerator Result, as well as SEB bank. The collaborative project has enlisted the help of heavy-hitting angel investors and business owners, many of whom survived the dotcom and 2008 downturns, and lived to tell the tale.

“We wanted to offer the best of breed and provide help for free. More than ever the scaleups we work with need connections to open up networks,” says Adrian McDonald, a Partner at Result and the project’s instigator. 

“We’ve had fantastic results so far. We had no idea what would transpire but we’ve already matched up 50 or so companies with advisors, and that’s without having done any marketing yet. The next step is to really push it out there and let companies know that this free resource is available to them.”

Find out more: Founder-ER

WeWork for Good Initiative

A few blocks away at WeWork, only a handful of the coworking space’s hundreds of Stockholm members are on site. The rest are at home and, in some cases, struggling for their business survival. Nikolay Kolev, Managing Director of WeWork Northern Europe, explains that WeWork quickly stepped in to help out once it identified the precarious situation in which many of its members found themselves.  

"With WeWork for Good, we want to give back to member companies, local government agencies and nonprofit organizations in Stockholm that are working tirelessly to provide resources to those in need,” says Nikolay Kolev.

So far WeWork says it is seeing applications from education services, internet software and service providers, and the volunteer sector in Stockholm.

Find out more. WeWork for Good Initiative

We Fight Covid - helping health care workers

The newly hatched We Fight Covid initiative has set its sights on providing assistance to the health care sector with funding from angel investor Dan Castillo and the Stockholm Pandemic Resilience Foundation. 

For instance, the 50-strong team of volunteers has teamed up with Volvo Cars and several major vehicle rental companies to make cars freely available to healthcare workers. 

Find out more: We Fight Covid

SAS staff reskill to help healthcare sector

Airline SAS, Sophiahemmet University, and human resources specialist Novare have teamed up to offer furloughed airline staff courses in healthcare education as a means of easing the pressure on existing healthcare staff.

The project is financed by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation. 

Find out more here (in Swedish). 

Nordic Choice helps staff find new work in healthcare and retail sectors

Nordic Choice Hotels has launched a range of collaborations to ease the situation for employees who have been laid off or furloughed. Amid the coronavirus crisis, hotel staff have been offered work with care firm Attendo and supermarket chain Lidl. Nordic Choice is also cooperating with Blocket’s digital recruitment platform. Find out more here (in Swedish). 

Aid available from Swedish government and Stockholm

Finally, it’s important for companies to be aware that the Swedish government and the City of Stockholm have released a raft of measures aimed at counteracting the negative effects of the coronavirus crisis.

Corona update: Support for companies in the Stockholm region


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