We never thought we’d say this, but Donald Trump was right: it is about time we look at what’s happening in Sweden. This quaint and creative European hub is home to more than IKEA, Skype and Spotify (although that’s a pretty impressive crowd, isn’t it?). Here are four of our favourite apps that have come out of the home of flat-pack-furniture:
Sport fishing. It’s one of the world’s biggest hobbies and in the US in 2011, hobbyist expenditures topped US$41.77 billion. Considering this, it’s no wonder one of the biggest success stories to emerge from the Swedish start-up scene is an app called FishBrain. Recently named the fastest growing app in the sport-fishing world, FishBrain started as a side project for two keen anglers from Dalarna, Sweden. Today, it is a thriving app that acts as both a platform for bragging rights and a social network for its more than one million users, providing everything from weather forecasts to advice on the best baits to use.
FishBrain’s CEO, Johan Attby, came on board – excuse the pun – while exiting from another start-up, one he sold for a fairly hefty sum. “My exit package required me to stay on at the company for 18 months, so I was sitting there twiddling my thumbs and looking for something to do. I started researching hobbies and came across an article that said fishing was the biggest sport hobby in the world. A bit more research and I found these two guys in Dalarna. So I flew back home, had some meetings and, by the time I was out of my old start-up, I had a new one to work on.”
Codarica is teaching kids the way of the world early, by creating a game to get them coding young. Starting out as an assignment by co-founders Sanna Nilsson, Rosalyn Knapp, and Lovisa Levin while at Stockholm’s digital media school Hyper Island, the trio entered the app into competitions, managed to snare some capital and officially launched on Valentine’s Day 2014.
“Everything was challenging from the beginning (and, to some extent, still is) since we are first-time entrepreneurs,” says Sanna, who has now moved on from Codarica, along with the other founders. “We had no idea about anything – from bookkeeping to negative vesting, we were in the dark. Now we’ve been through three accelerators, two in Stockholm and one in LA. In the beginning, we smiled, nodded understandingly and then ran to Google to look things up.”
Codarica was the only European company – and one of the few start-ups – chosen to take part in the Walt Disney accelerator in 2015, where they met with more than 130 mentors, including Walt Disney Company CEO, Bob Iger. Just 15 weeks after entering the program, the team released the iPad app, Codequest, onto the American market. The app teaches children as young as six how to create their own website through learning basic HTML and CSS.
Named Sweden’s hottest app and covered by the Financial Times and TIME magazine, this app was founded by husband-and-wife team Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwitzl in 2013. It offers a healthy way for couples to plan or prevent pregnancy.
“When we were planning our family, we weren’t keen on the pill due to nasty side effects, and we found the natural family planning methods available were difficult to use, old fashioned and inaccurate,” says Raoul, a proud father, who used the natural technique to both prevent and plan a pregnancy. “We figured we could combine our knowledge in the area with our backgrounds in physics and mathematics and improve things.”
Answering (or more appropriately, not answering) all our calling needs, one of the more established apps on the Swedish scene is Truecaller, which was founded by Alan Mamedi and Nami Zarringhalam in a small Stockholm apartment, helps users to identify international callers, and block unwanted calls. Celebrating over 250 million users, the app has successfully blocked 3 million spam calls monthly from Pakistan alone.