Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Malmö

Malmö (Sweden) is a relatively small city with a population of under a half a million but has a thriving startup scene that punches above its weight class.

Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden and the most populous in Skåne, the southern region in Sweden. It borders Copenhagen (Denmark), 25 minutes across the Öresund bridge, and many residents work there.

The two cities, and neighbouring Helsingborg and Lund, form the transnational Oresund Region, Scandinavia’s most densely populated zone.

Malmö is the world’s fourth-most inventive city in the world based on the number of patent applications per 10,000 residents. It enjoys a high degree of entrepreneurial recycling with several high-growth companies and exits.

A handful of entrepreneurs have given back into the local ecosystem through investments, mentorship and development of community programs.

Different training and accelerator programs geared towards supporting the next evolution of fast-growth start-ups. Being a small town in Sweden, the living standards are high and the community open, supportive and friendly. One could argue that Malmö is a paradise for start-ups despite its size.

Affordable Places to Live, Work and Congregate

Martin Thörnkvist, director of The Conference, observes a strong “sharing is caring” mentality throughout the community. People are eager to help others with contacts and advice. He figures that is because of the relatively small size of Malmö and that it’s in the shadow of larger innovation centres in Berlin, Stockholm, and Copenhagen.

In terms of entrepreneurial density, small start-ups are scattered throughout the city; however there is a media innovation center called Media Evolution City that houses a number of different types of creative companies. The Foo Café, a rallying point for meet-ups, hosts groups like Startup Dojo and Fuck Up Nights.

Entrepreneurs can choose among different programs. For the most part they are entrepreneur-led but have a healthy relationship with government funding and support. They are diverse in that they look to integrate themselves with the entire region and involve many different audience segments.

Fast Track Malmö is a start-up accelerator combined with an export program. A regional economic development plan, Invest in Skåne, works with the export side.

The main goal of Invest in Skåne is to connect international companies with business opportunities in Southern Sweden and to help southern Swedish companies internationalize their offerings. The accelerator component of Fast Track Malmö is run by MINC which is a longstanding accelerator with two great exits under its belt, Polar Rose and Algotrim.

MINC LONG from Jonathan Saruk on Vimeo.

The Ground is also a co-working space focused on supporting technology ventures. There’s also Malmö Start-ups, a recently launched community initiative to unite the start-up scene in Malmö and surrounding cities.

Their run a number of programs that enable various groups to connect with start-up communities. One example is Independence Day, where students connect with local start-ups. Their Women Founders Breakfast promotes more women entrepreneurs.

There are also formal training programs. The Game Assembly is a 2½-year game-training and production program. Hyper Island – a privately run digital training school that started in a former military prison on the island of Stumholmen in Southeastern Sweden – has now expanded to New York, London, São Paulo, Manchester, Singapore, and Stockholm.

The University of Malmö offers a wide range of programs related to the innovation sector. Finally, there are a number of conferences in the city including The Conference and Nordic Next.

Entrepreneurial Recycling

A small handful of entrepreneurs in Malmö have had some great exits re-invested in the ecosystem by launching new companies, financing others and creating community building programs.

Apple bought Polar Rose (image recognition software) in 2010 for US$29 million. Founder Jan-Erik Solem, after a few years at Apple, returned to Malmö and started a new company, Mapillary, which has raised US$1.5 million seed money from Sequoia Capital.

Jan-Erik is an active member in the Malmö start-up scene acting as a mentor and investor in other ventures, and a key figure behind The Ground, a co-working space for tech start-ups.

Also in 2010, UX firm The Astonishing Tribe (TAT) was sold to Blackberry. Founder Hampus Jakobsson, now an important organizer, played a key role setting up Malmö Startups and Fast Track Malmö.

Besides software-based start-ups, Malmö has some of the world’s largest game studios, among them MassiveKingMediocre and Tarsier Studios.

There is a high degree of entrepreneurial recycling that occurs in Malmö through investment and mentorship, as well as through community building programs like co-working spaces, accelerators, and events.


Malmö is blessed with an incredibly high entrepreneurial density. For a small town it has a world-class start-up ecosystem, one which is led by entrepreneurs who have been successful and reinvest back in the community.

When compared to the other cities analyzed in this report, it’s important to note that Malmö is the smallest of the cities with the highest GDP per capita and lowest unemployment rate, which gives it a baseline advantage. Despite these advantages, Malmö still manages to impress and is a model of what a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem looks like.

Mark Greenspan
Mark Greenspan has spent the last 17 years supporting the growth of digital media companies by building a wide variety of industry recognized training and business development programs. Mark built nextMEDIA and The Digis, Canada’s most influential series of digital media conferences and award shows which was eventually sold to Brunico. Most recently he founded The Digital Growth Lab which created influenceTHIS, a Canadian marketplace for influencer marketing and social content creation.
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