Who will be Birgersson and who will be Bezos?
Today, some of Sweden’s great heroes are entrepreneurs, having founded and built global success stories. But not everyone who is a hero today may not be tomorrow, writes Anna Kinberg Batra in a column.Published: 4 June 2022, 21:05If it is something we can celebrate every national day, election year or not and regardless of the economic situation, it is Sweden’s strength as a technology country. It was engineering and foreign trade that took us from poverty to prosperity, it is thanks to them that Sweden has the second largest technology companies per person in the world today. Only Silicon Valley on the west coast of the United States has more. Today, some of Sweden’s great heroes are entrepreneurs, having founded and built global success stories such as King, Klarna, Skype and Spotify. Companies that no one had heard of just twenty years ago, because they did not exist then. Now it’s tougher times, in the outside world and on the stock market. No joy, growth or zero interest lasts forever. What will happen? Will any hero halos slip at an angle? And if so, what happens next? During the past winter, SVT showed the documentary “The IT bubble that never burst”, about the dizziness that erupted when the internet broke through. The term “new economy” was coined to explain business values that could not be justified by traditional measures such as profitability. Today’s industry joined in, writing about “the IT entrepreneurs the savior of our time”, to name just one of all the headlines. Göran Persson urged the Swedish people to do more stock trading. At the PR agency I worked with then they had to learn expressions such as “time to market” (how fast companies can be launched), “burn rate” (how fast they can get rid of money ) and not to associate the letter combination VC with the toilet but with the English-language abbreviation for venture capital. At the end of 1999, Lunda-founded Framfab, whose CEO was also called “broadband Jesus”, was Europe’s largest IT consulting company.The rest is history. The stock market crash starting in the spring of 2000 was the largest since at least the Kreuger crash, some companies were completely wiped out and others’ values decreased by 90 percent. But technology and entrepreneurship made a difference. Internet, broadband and e-commerce are obvious parts of our everyday lives today, which they would not have been without the technology that broke through then. And new business could be created even afterwards, thanks to entrepreneurs who dared to try. No two crises are alike. Today’s technology companies can not be compared in any way with either each other or the millennium. Maybe today’s stock market turmoil will be a slump, maybe we’ll see more dramatic processes. As some may go strengthened from. For soon we will see which company leader is today’s Birgersson and who is more like Bezos. Birgersson, or rather Framfab’s progress on the stock market, became a symbol of an unsustainable time. Framfab does not exist at all today. While Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, which sold books when it was launched in the 1990s, is today one of the world’s largest companies in most of the digital world. And the way there was by daring to think new when conditions changed. Amazon did not develop the Iphone, but rather Amazon Web Services which accelerated games, commerce and other things you could use the new apps for. They thus understood both the possibilities of technology, and how customers could conceivably use the technology in new ways. Now it’s tougher times again. Everyone who is a hero today may not be tomorrow. But whatever happens on the stock market, the technology will continue to develop and be more accessible than ever. People will be able to use it in new and unexpected ways. And it will be entrepreneurs, who dare and succeed in making the best of it, who lead the companies we are talking about 20 years from today. Not everyone will succeed. But we should be grateful to everyone who tries, because they are the ones who move us forward. Anna Kinberg Batra