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How a hybrid startup hub model is accelerating Sweden’s startups

There's a new accelerator model out there: the startup hub. Jessica Stark, CEO of SUP46 discusses why this hybrid model works and how its benefiting the Swedish tech ecosystem.

I am the CEO and co-founder of Startup Hub SUP46. Through the ecosystem of investors, advisors and partners, members are offered competitive advantage and we mainly accept member from within Internet, mobile, media and gaming markets.

Located in the heart of Stockholm and the Swedish accelerator ecosystem, it is home to more than 50 startups and at the same time it is a natural, open meeting place for the whole community; being an open meeting place, housing approximately 20 startup events per month means we have roughly 30.000 visitors in a year.


The startup hub sell

SUP46 can’t quite call itself a classic co-working space or accelerator: we’re a hybrid; a startup hub in which startups pay a monthly fee based on their type of membership.

The decision to build a startup hub within the Swedish accelerator ecosystem instead of just opening a co-working space was an easy one to make, but there are certain qualities that a startup hub needs to have.

Startup hubs shouldn’t just be interested in taking equity in companies and just provide a desk. Instead, a focus on providing an extraordinarily great ecosystem of everything and anything a startup needs to quickly scale up their business is key to a hub’s success.

Furthermore incorporating a strict policy around who to accept as members means acceptance becomes a stamp of approval – which in turn means great startups apply for membership later on.

The contrast between the exclusiveness of the membership and the openness of being a meeting place for the whole startup community is, however, a narrow path to tread.

If you can make it work though, the results are powerful.

Once in the door, your next move should be focusing on adding as much value as possible to you members and that means constantly having to evolve your model.

For example, friendship agreements with other hubs around the world enable members to always have a place to work and can take advantage of the knowledge and networks they can provide.

TechStars in New York, Runway in San Francisco, Nordic Innovation House in Silicon Valley, Warner Yard in London are some good examples of such potential partners.

Events and activities exclusively for members, visits by international investors, expert advisors and service providers are a few more additions and tweaks to your model worth mentioning.

It’s also key to have a vision; our vision, for example, is for Sweden to become the most startup friendly country in the world and for Stockholm and the Swedish accelerator ecosystem to be recognized as one of the top hubs.

This allows you to critically analyze any and all of your progress and activities; “will this new idea take us a step closer to our goal?”

Swedish accelerator ecosystem

The Swedish accelerator ecosystem benefits from a startup community that, over the past few years, has grown substantially and also really come together.

This absolutely changes the startup scene and the community for the better.

People share their experiences and learnings, help each other out and gather in a natural way thanks to initiatives like Stockholm Tech Meetup, Startup Grind and hubs and meeting places.

One very important factor behind this change is that the international success of Swedish startups really inspires other entrepreneurs: Stockholm has the second most unicorns per capita in the world, only beaten by Silicon Valley.

If you see someone not too different from yourself succeed in building companies such as Spotify, Skype, Klarna or King, this of course creates a feeling of “if they can then so can I” and the Swedish accelerator ecosystem is enjoying the buoyancy from these companies.

In addition to that, there are of course wider trends within the country and its network.

The media, investors and influencers are all doing their part to enable the next generation of startup successes to go further in terms of funding, attention and networks.

It also means that international top talents are more encouraged to choose Swedish startups that then enter into startup hubs and participate within the Swedish accelerator network.

Initiatives and activities such as Symposium, by Spotify founder Daniel Ek, is a great example of how he is trying to use his own and Spotify’s success to gain interest in the broader Swedish startup scene and showcase what it has to offer.

Our own Swedish Startup Hall of Fame was actually created specifically to acknowledge people who have really played a big role for the Swedish startup scene.

Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that Sweden is a great test market. We are early adopters and enjoy trying out new technologies. The fact that it is such a small domestic market can also be seen as an advantage as it forces founders, hubs and accelerators to think and plan globally from day one.

We, for example, started out in Stockholm and have focused the first year and a half on making sure our offer really is everything that we envisioned it to be.

The Swedish accelerator network though must, like any other network, push past the boundaries of a capital city or tech hub. There is potential that a hub could be missing out on and this means having to become more open: either you go to them or make it easier or more viable for them to come to you.

These “non-resident” members won’t necessarily need access to the workshops or physical spaces that are on offer but the people, education and network provided is of value enough for them to join the ecosystem.

On the whole, the Swedish accelerator ecosystem is scaling well and the interest in being part of the ecosystem is steadily increasing, which promotes the chance for adaptations to hybrids such as startup hubs.

This new breed of accelerator is results-based and takes a pragmatic approach to startups: if you don’t deliver or grow as planned, and for some reason won’t be able to change that trend with the help of the ecosystem and support, your membership will be ended.

It guarantees that any issues are ironed out early on and helps the Swedish accelerator ecosystem grow sustainably, by aiding scalable, digital startups with giant market potential and global ambitions.

(A few recent projects worth mentioning here are the Swedish Startup Manifesto, and our Annual Swedish Startup Infographic.)