Seven surprising things about Sweden’s secret startup hub

There’s no denying the importance of history to Örebro. After all, there’s a vast 13th century castle, surrounded by a moat dotted with water lilies, right in the middle of this self-confident, culturally fertile Swedish city.

Seven surprising things about Sweden’s secret startup hub
Photo: Creative House

But Örebro is neither preoccupied with the past, nor stuck in a fairytale world. Instead, the city is firmly focused on its future as it develops a growing reputation as a centre for innovation, education, and living well. Located in central Sweden, between Stockholm and Gothenburg, the city is attractive to new businesses and families alike.

Whether you’re already familiar with Örebro or you’ve never even heard of it, here are seven surprising things about this startup hub in the heart of Sweden.

Sweden's secret startup hub: find out more about living and working in Örebro

1. How creativity powers business

A pioneering spirit permeates Örebro’s business life. The city was a textiles powerhouse in the 19th and 20th centuries and it's still an economic force. Many local companies are focused on making an international impact, such as Moon Smart Focus, which uses AI to make life easier for professional film-makers.

The founding of Creative House, an innovation and business hub, placed Örebro firmly on the map as a startup city and creative meeting place. It’s a nursery for exciting new companies, such as Deligate (which helps food stores cut waste), Yobber (a video recruitment tool) and Transfer Galaxy (a money transfer service). Former H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson is among the investors. 

Niclas Molinder, CEO of Creative House, has spoken of how he was inspired during a trip to New York to visit a startup community “on the 11th floor of this very plain building”. “When the lift opened, there was this ocean of creativity – and I thought this is what I want in Örebro,” he said. Now he has it – from an initial 15 companies, Creative House now boasts more than 100.

2. How the city breathes culture and sport

This is a place that takes its culture seriously. So seriously that Örebro is currently spending half a billion Swedish kronor (roughly €50m) on building an entire cultural district for the city. Just don’t go thinking that means there isn’t already a buzzing cultural scene. 

Örebro is also home to the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, is a fulcrum of Sweden’s hugely successful pop music industry, and hosts Scandinavia's largest biennial contemporary art event, OpenArt. This sees the city's streets, squares, restaurants, and shops taken over for 12 summer weeks by artists from all over the world.

Want an active lifestyle? Örebro is a great city to take part in any number of sports and activities. It’s renowned for its vibrant skateboarding community and regularly holds summer roller derbies as part of its City Sport Festival, which also features beach volleyball. 

Örebro is also a significant player in Swedish national sport, if you'd rather just be a spectator. Both the men's and women's football teams are in the top division, as well as the men's ice hockey team.

Photo: Business Region Örebro

3. The enviable connectivity 

Örebro’s claim to be the ‘Heart of Sweden’ is hard to argue against. The city lies about halfway between Stockholm and Gothenburg (with the capital a little quicker to reach by road) and about 70 percent of Sweden's population is within a radius of 300 km. 

The E20 motorway connection between Gothenburg and Stockholm runs directly through Örebro, as do cross-country railway lines. And the city isn’t just convenient for Sweden. From the nearby airport you can escape mid-winter by flying down to Tenerife in less than six hours, or, in the summer, to Croatia or several other European destinations. 

Find out more about the advantages you get with a move to Örebro

4. Just how close you are to nature

Of course, you might not want to fly anywhere – after all, Örebro, Sweden’s sixth largest city, is a gem. It’s also only a few minutes from vast nature reserves, such as Oset and Rynningeviken, where you find rich bird- and plant-life with picnic and barbecue areas. 

Photo: Getty Images

If you want to get active, you can enjoy the cycling or walking paths. The giant Lake Vänern – the largest lake in the European Union – is also only a short drive away.

Örebro's setting and its proximity to Stockholm and Gothenburg are among the many factors that give it a strong appeal for young families. Many are won over by the relaxed, almost vacation-like atmosphere: having a coffee in a terrace cafe — or eating at one of the city’s renowned restaurants — and then ambling between shops on the old cobbled streets are popular local pastimes.

5. The defiance of gender stereotypes

“We want more girls to try coding,” says Yasnia Deras Cruz, a systems science student and a co-founder of Koda-Yoga, one of Örebro’s most preogressive initiatives. As a newcomer to Örebro, Yasnia met yoga teacher Frida Wirsén, who studied sport management and media and communication at Örebro University, on a yoga course.

“Yasnia asked me what I thought about creating a meeting place where you combine yoga and coding. It felt like a great combination,” says Frida. “Yoga is a perfect way to have a work break, centre yourself and at the same time become more creative in your work.”

Last October Koda-Yoga had its first event – a day of yoga and coding for anyone over the age of 15 who identifies as female and wants to try programming and yoga. “The goal is to break the male dominance in the industry. We want girls to have a chance to learn something new, meet us as female role models, meet companies and create networks,” says Frida.

6. The young, forward-thinking university

The city may have a long history. But Örebro University reflects the freshness and zest that drives the city today – it was only formally established as Sweden’s 12th university in 1999. 

Örebro University now provides students with one of Sweden's most forward-thinking medical educations – more than 50 researchers focus on the use of artificial intelligence in medicine. Indeed, Örebro is third only to the world-famous Karolinska Institute and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, when it comes to citations of its scientific publications. 

7. And not forgetting … the affordability!

So, surely this kind of idyllic, cultured, innovative and convenient city must be a little on the expensive side to live in, right? It’s not. To buy an apartment in Örebro city centre, or in the suburbs, costs a staggering 65 percent less than in Stockholm. Savings on rent can be nearly as large.

Eating out costs around 25 percent less than in the Swedish capital and the overall cost of living is more than 20 percent lower. Örebro is that rare combination of storied neighbourhoods and modern gusto – an up-and-coming city whose time has now come.

Want to know more about the life and career opportunities in Örebro? Find out more through Smart Move – a joint initiative between Business Region Örebro, Örebrokompaniet, the Chamber of Commerce Mälardalen and Örebro University.



What are the 26 French ‘unicorns’ hailed by the government?

France now has 26 'unicorns', something Emmanuel Macron's government sees as a major success. Here's what this means and how it affects France's future.

People dressed as unicorns attend a tech summit.
People dressed as unicorns attend a tech summit. France now counts 26 start-ups valued at more than $1 billion. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron set what seemed like an ambitious objective: having 25 French start-ups valued at over $1 billion by 2025. 

These companies are colloquially referred to as “unicorns” or licornes in French. 

The target was very on-brand. Macron had sold himself at a youthful, ambitious and liberalising president keen to lead France towards modernity. 

To achieve this goal, the government lifted regulations; hired liaison officers to manage relations between tech entrepreneurs and government ministers; created a new kind of visa to allow entrepreneurs, innovators and investors to move to France; and launched an incubator scheme known as the French Tech Tremplin (“French Tech Trampoline”) to help underrepresented groups such as women, poor people and those in the countryside to launch tech start-ups. 

Just three years later, it appears these efforts have paid off. 

“They told us that it was impossible – that creating a start-up nation was just an act. But collectively we have got there three years ahead of schedule,” said Emmanuel Macron on Monday, sporting a Steve Jobs-style polo neck as he celebrated the fact that France now had 25 ‘unicorns’. 

On Tuesday, La French Tech, a body run by civil servants aimed at creating a healthy environment for start-ups in France heralded another success – a 26th licorne

The latest addition is a company called Spendesk – it runs a platform that allows small and medium sized businesses to manage spending, expenses, budgets, payment approvals and invoices through a single integrated platform. It is already used by thousands of clients. 

Spendesk recently raised a further $100 million, pushing its overall value past the $1 billion mark. It plans to employ a further 700 people in France. 

La French Tech couldn’t contain its joy. 

“We don’t ask ourselves what is going on, we know it: #FrenchTech is booming #26unicorns”, wrote the organisation in its Twitter account. 

La French Tech claims that beyond the 25 ‘unicorns’ valued at $1 billion or more, there are a further 20,000 tech start-ups in France and that half of French people use their services daily. The organisation says that this sector has already created 1 million jobs – and that this figure should double by 2050. 

“French tech is obviously about more than these unicorns, but I see them as an example, a model for the rest of the ecosytem,” said Macron on Tuesday. 

So who are the other unicorns leading the way? 


This start-up was created in 2016 and offers health insurance coverage for individuals and businesses. What differentiates it from standard health insurance providers, or mutuelles, is that it functions through an easy-to-use app. Individuals can send medical bills directly from their smartphone and be reimbursed almost immediately. Doctors can be reached through the app’s messaging and video call services. Employers can manage arrêts de travail the comings and goings of poorly staff directly through the interface. It is currently available in France, Belgium and Spain, counting 230,000 members. 


Ankorstore is an online marketplace aimed at supporting independent wholesalers – from florists to concept stores. It pitches itself as a platform to buy “authentic products and brands that e-commerce giants such as Amazon do not offer.” It is present in 23 European countries with offices in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.


This carpooling service has more than 100 million members across 22 countries. It connects drivers with people looking for a lift on a highly accessible app and website based platform. BlaBlaCar allows people to save money on transport and said that it saves 1.6 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2018 through ride-sharing – the platform has grown significantly since then. This company has also started running a bus service, BlaBlaBus. 

BlaBlaCar launched BlaBlaBus in 2019.

BlaBlaCar launched BlaBlaBus in 2019. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)


Backmarket is a website for buying used, unused or reconditioned electronic devices. The company sells everything from cameras, to laptops, to iPhones – at well below the market rate. Many of the products come with a warranty. The company is keen to emphasise its role in reducing electronic waste and carbon emissions involved in manufacturing new products.


This start-up has existed since 2012. It acts as a tool to allow website and app designers to monitor how their users behave while on their webpage/app. Contentsquare provides analytical information that can help to tailor websites to improve the digital experiences of users. 


Deezer is an online music streaming services similar to Spotify. It was founded in 2007 and counts 16 million active users. 


Doctolib is a platform that connects patients to medical professionals. Creating an account is free and allows you to book medical appointments, with filters such as the kind of care you want, the area of the medical practice and the languages spoken by the doctor. It runs via a user-friendly app and website and is available in France, Italy and Germany. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become the main way that French people have booked vaccination appointments. 


This company was founded by two engineers in 2014 and manufactures intralogistic robots. The technology is used in warehouses of retailers, supermarkets, e-commerce and industry. In essence, it is used to remove human labour from the supply chain. 


iad is a network where people can sign up to learn how to become an independent real estate agent – it also serves as a site where people can look for property to buy or rent. 14 percent of all properties sold in France in 2020 went through this platform according to one study. 


Ivalua is a tool used by organisations to manage spending and supplies. It operates largely though Artificial Intelligence and provides a wide range of functions designed to improve collaboration and decision-making. 


Ledger is a company that provides individuals and businesses an easy way to buy and sell cryptocurrencies and store these currency on USB-type hardware. If you get sick of that guy at work who never stops talking about Bitcoin, this is probably not one for you. 


This is a payment app that allows people with French bank accounts to send and receive money with other users, and is often used by friends to reimburse each other with small amounts for dinner, drinks, holidays etc. If you hold your savings in the app, you can benefit from a 0.6 percent interest rate. It also allows you to pay for things overseas without incurring fees. 


ManoMano is an online marketplace specialised in DIY and gardening equipment. It employs 800 people in 4 offices and operates across 6 European markets: France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. It’s website sells products from more than 3,600 retail partners and stocks more than 10 million products. 


Patients can download this app after undergoing dental work. They can then use the secured system to send pictures of their teeth to their dentist (if the dentist is subscribed to the service). The start-up boasts that it can allow dentists and orthodontistes to carry out remote consultations and that the AI technology embedded in the app can automatically detect dental problems. 


Meero is a company that connects professional photographers to clients and vice versa. It organises one photo shoot every 25 seconds and has more than 30,000 customers around the world. 


Mirakl is a cloud-based e-commerce company that allows retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers to access a single online market place. The start-up aims to help other businesses scale-up their operations rapidly and describes its staff as “Mirakl workers” (as in the French ‘miracle’ pronounced me-rackluh). 


This start-up was founded in 1999 and is now Europe’s biggest cloud provider, offering both public and private information storage solutions. They also provide domain name registration, telecoms services and internet connection. 


Payfit is an automated payroll service that allows employers to save time dealing with spreadsheets and other systems. It is an intuitive bit of software already being used by 6,500 small and medium-sized businesses.


Qonto provides financial services to freelancers, self-employed people, small businesses, charities and new businesses. It provides solutions for managing expenses, accounting, invoices and payments. 


This company is based in Paris and helps global insurance companies to detect fraudulent insurance claims via artificial intelligence technology. 


This is a fantasy football game where users build and manage squads, trading, selling and buying players. It makes use of blockchain technology. French footballer Antoine Griezmann is a major investor. 

A tradable player card from Sorare.

A tradable player card from Sorare. Credit: Sorare


This is a financial and networking service for businesses and employees. It essentially is a bank card with an app that allows employers to issue anonymous surveys to employees, facilitate communication via a messaging service, organise collections and plan events. 

Vestiare Collective

This is an online marketplace for second-hand luxury fashion. Be aware that some items still cost thousands of euros, so they’re only ‘bargains’ in relative terms. 


This is an online and app-based service. Users can create an account for free to be alerted of upcoming sales of up to 70 percent on their favourite brands. It is available in eight European countries including the UK. 


Voodoo is a French mobile game developer and publisher. It provides help for video game developers to promote their work and councils them on the development process. In the past, Voodoo has come under fire for producing games that appear to be closely modelled on other games already on the market.