Part of what makes Stockholm such a thriving and influential international startup hub is the support that the City of Stockholm offers to entrepreneurs who have ideas that can have a positive impact on its citizens, ideas that will improve their lives.
Take the Stockholm Innovation Scholarship, for example. Every year, the City of Stockholm asks a panel of experts to sift through hundreds of applications to select the top innovations in five categories: Simplify Everyday Life, Creative Industries, Life Science and Health, Travel and Tourism, and Social Impact and Sustainability. The winner of each category receives 100,000 kronor.
This year’s winners included Laundrop, a mobile laundry service (Simplify Everyday Life), Wahzaa, a royalty-free samples provider for musicians (Creative Industries), and Tobias Tree (Life Science and Health), a communication tool for doctors, researchers and specialists.
A masterclass in sustainability
The Social Impact and Sustainability scholarship winner, Sopköket, is a startup that salvages leftover ingredients from grocery stores to prepare a variety of global dishes. Sopköket’s gradual growth from being a mobile food truck in 2015 to being a viable restaurant and frozen food business, exemplifies the importance of the City of Stockholm’s support to entrepreneurs who want to make people’s lives better.
“We have had a lot of support from Stockholm municipality,” says Filip Lundin, Sopköket’s founder and CEO. “Our growth has been organic, but we have survived thanks to grants from public bodies and prize money from the city.”
Lundin’s company is remarkable in that it not only offers a masterclass in sustainability and circular economy but also adheres to an inclusive and generous recruitment policy – many of Sopköket’s staff were previously long-term unemployed.
“We like to create jobs for people that are from difficult backgrounds or marginalised groups,” says Lundin. “That’s one of our three main objectives. There’s also the rescued ingredients – we have as a goal to have at least 50 percent rescued food per meal, and so far we’ve rescued 35 tons of food. And then we also give food to people in need. We have given away 27,000 meals since 2015.”
And from this spring, Sopköket will be not only selling food in its Södermalm restaurant, but also in frozen food sections in supermarkets and from its own e-shop.
Lundin says Sopköket was inspired by his Indian heritage. “My dad is half Indian so I have a huge family in India. We have always cooked at home in Stockholm – we never ate ready-made meals. I’ve also had a strong entrepreneurial mindset since I was a kid and an interest in sustainability issues – with Sopköket, I get to combine these two!”
Stephanie Mazzotta’s prize-winning start-up, Hidden Gems, the winner of the Travel and Tourism category, also focuses on making life a little better by helping people find relatively unknown and less-crowded tourist attractions in the Stockholm region.
“It’s a data-driven web platform that allows users to set up filters,” says Stephanie, an Italian-Australian who’s lived in Stockholm since 2018 and worked in tech for 20 years. “We call it an intelligent exploration guide for something new to see or do without having to endure crowds. It enables people to find off-the-beaten-track places and activities in the Stockholm area without having to spend hours searching online.”
Hidden Gems, which will launch in the Spring, aims to highlight lesser known attractions and areas of interest away from the centre of Stockholm but if there are times when the more famous city centre attractions are quieter, it will also alert the user.
“People are still cautious about going out, so many places in Stockholm that have usually been busy are still totally quiet. So we wanted to provide a guide for people to assess how crowded or how quiet a place would be.”
But, as with Sopköket, this innovation has heart. Stephanie also wants her innovation to provide the vulnerable and people with disabilities with more opportunities to get out.
“Mobility inequality has really been exacerbated by the pandemic. The main obstacles for those with restricted mobility are crowding on public transport and whether or not amenities at the end destination are available to them. Will there be a ramp and suitable bathroom facilities? We want to give people with disabilities the option to travel to places they’ve not been able to before – and also new options that they never knew existed.”
Stockholm is ‘way ahead’
As with Filip, Stephanie says she owes a debt of gratitude to Stockholm. “Stockholm is way ahead of many other cities, especially in terms of encouraging international women and providing a really supportive ecosystem in which for women to work.”
But Stephanie also underlines the importance of civic support for innovations that aim to help people. “Grants from public bodies are really important for the early stages of social innovations, to give them time to show results and come up with new revenue streams.”