Back to the basics: Or Why We are Discontinuing Skåne Startups
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We have decided to fold Skåne Startups to avoid becoming another ”support system incumbent” and instead give room for a fresh grassroots initiative to keep the startup community together - by founders for founders!
So, for busy founders who won’t get through the article:
We need startups for a dynamic society
Startups require boldness and a belief we can solve problems better
There used to be very little of a startup scene in Skåne,
There is a scene now, but there is 10x of a support system than what we need
5. We hope that founders pick up the flag and do initiatives
Almost ten years ago, in 2014, Joel Larsson and Hampus Jakobsson were more than a bit frustrated with the region we were living in: Skåne. With its surroundings, it housed amazing universities in both Copenhagen and Lund; large tech companies like Ericsson, Axis, Tetra Pak, Astra Zeneca, Maersk, and Novo Nordisk; affordable living; an underground scene of tolerance and perspective of the former industrial city of Malmö; a solid culinary and coffee scene - but honestly very, very few startups.
Startups need ambition, talent, and a big scoop of boldness (or naïveté, depending on your viewpoint). Or - if you want to boil it down to more tangible terms: strong founders and (non-predatory) investors.
It was clear that the region had lots of talent and money, but the first year of startups requires that latter part more than anything else: the willingness to believe that something (seemingly) impossible is possible.
When startups function correctly, they change the world in many ways: apart from innovation and change, venture-funded startups are 15% of aggregate job creation, but most of all, startups change the fiber of society. New people get to solve new problems, and that drives the world forward.
While the "move fast and break things" approach has downsides like fostering inequality and cronyism, startups still serve as agile, value-driven forces of change. They offer a transparent and dynamic alternative to traditional industries that often lack such qualities.
So, back to Skåne in 2014. None of this existed. There were startups and angel investors, but there were more media agencies that people employed in startups.
The “startup scene,” if you want to call it that, was un-political and unprofitable. So, out of fear and anger, we started a bunch of passion projects. As startups have an exponential effect, even on society, those not on the bandwagon are hopelessly behind.
Why? Well, inherently in people - and investors - is that we don’t like risk. Nobody likes “jumping out a cliff with a box to assemble a plane and learn how to fly before they crash to the ground,” but that is an apt metaphor for what early-stage startups are like - very high risk. And, to invest one has to “believe.” “The best trick VCs ever pulled was it calling it ‘valuation,’ and not ‘price.’” You need that (irritatingly) cultish thing to make it work.
So, Joel and Hampus started gathering “the crazy ones.” We got people to talk about their journeys. We gathered hundreds of people every month and tried to spread the gospel. We went to the universities and got them to watch YC Startup Schools in the evening. We went to high schools to teach kids to code and had entrepreneurs to share their energy. We got the city of Malmö to hire entrepreneurs. We joined the local startup house and worked for them. We started new co-working spaces for entrepreneurs to meet and hang out. And we, together with other entrepreneurs, started what became Skåne Startups.
Skåne Startups was an idea to “institutionalize” that drive. To get funding for the work to gather and inspire people to start or join startups. To do those things that others did not do, and get things rolling. What we did exactly varied over the years, but recurring themes were helping startups raise series A and more through connections with international VCs and getting more people, especially young international talent from the universities, to be involved in the startup scene. And, we did get sponsorships, from law firms, to real estate companies to, eventually, the public sector (Region Skåne). We’re truly grateful for all the sponsors who believed in us. And all the amazing people who worked for and with Skåne Startups.
But, look at 2023. There are more people supporting startups than there are founders. And we on the board are moving further away from being active entrepreneurs, instead becoming investors, board members, and general supporters of entrepreneurs - but further away from being our target audience. We’re the first to question our role and ask for a down-scaling and restart of the system. So, we’re closing down Skåne Startups. We’ll ramp down this year and leave the floor for new actors. What we need are bold founders backed by bold early-stage investors. We need a “let’s grow the pie mentality.” We always need to pay it forward. We need builders that roll up their sleeves to try things. We need events and meetups organized by founders for founders. Not institutions but founders.
If you are a founder in Skåne who wants to help build our startup scene, please reach out - we are happy to help, sponsor, or collaborate on new initiatives that can help make our region amazing for startups.
Signed with love,
Arlon den Teuling, Charlotta Falvin,
Chalotta Tönsgård, Hampus Jakobsson,
Joel Larsson, Karsten Deppert, and Vala Zulfiu