Sweden, although small geographically, has produced many successful entrepreneurs. The country's entrepreneurial track record goes back all the way to Ivar Kreuger, who, during the early- to mid-20th century, was known as the "match king." Through savvy business endeavors, he controlled a majority of the world's match supply.
Since then, there have been many Swedish entrepreneurs to follow in Kreuger's footsteps and achieve world-changing success. The following are the top six most successful Swedish entrepreneurs.
- Swedes have made their mark on the global economy by establishing global businesses and brands.
- Daniel Ek, Ivar Kreuger and Sebastian Siemiatkowski are just three such entrepreneurs whom we profile here.
- Before his death, Swedish-born Ingvar Kamprad, who founded IKEA, was the world's wealthiest man.
Ingvar Kamprad was the founder of Swedish furniture store giant IKEA, and one of the world's richest people according to Forbes. He founded IKEA at the age of 17 following his vision for creating a better everyday life for people. His vision turned into a multi-billionaire business with 412 IKEA stores in 49 markets as of 2017. Kamprad kept IKEA as a tightly controlled private company under the Ikano Group, so financial details are limited. However, the company did report sales of 43 billion Euro in 2017.
Kamprad founded the company in 1943 with a small gift from his father. It originally sold small items like wallets, picture frames and ballpoint pens. The company did not focus on furniture until 1948 and soon began to operate by mail order, not opening a showroom until 1953. Kamprad sourced furniture from local designers, and helped develop the flat-pack system for transporting ready-to-assemble products that could be picked up easily in store or transported by truck.The first store opened in Sweden in 1958, and the United States saw its first IKEA in 1985. The name IKEA was created by Kamprad as a reflection to his humble beginnings in Southern Sweden. It stands for Ingvar Kamorad from Elmtaryd Agunnaryd, the town where he was raised.
Kamprad died on January 27th, 2018 at the age of 91 in his home country after an illness, according to the company. IKEA had become one of the world's most recognized brands and is widely known for stylish, functional and affordable self-assembled furniture.
Daniel Ek is a serial entrepreneur whose latest venture is the extremely popular music company Spotify. Ek grew up just south of Stockholm with his single mom and started his first company at the age of 14. Two years later, he applied to Google, only to be turned down. To reconcile the rejection by Google, Ek did not sulk but actually tried to create his own search engine.
Ek briefly attended the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm before dropping out to start the technology startup Tradedoubler. It was there that he met Martin Lorentzon, his partner who helped co-found Spotify. In addition to Spotify, Ek has also been the CEO of the file-sharing company uTorrent and the chief technology officer (CTO) of both Stardoll and Jajja Communications.
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the co-founder and CEO of Klarna, an e-commerce payment solution that takes away risk for small businesses and individual consumers. The goal of Klarna is to create a level of trust that allows otherwise weary or paranoid consumers to make transactions online with their credit card information.
Siemiatkowski, similarly to Ek, showed his entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. Taking his childhood friend and eventual co-founder along with him, Siemiatkowski traveled the world for 143 days with almost no money and by vowing to take no airplanes. Upon returning, he took a job at a local Burger King, where the idea for Klarna was sparked. While many investors did not see the value in the company, Siemiatkowski forged ahead, growing the company into the 1000+ employee organization it is in 2019. Klarna is currently estimated to be worth 19.44 billion SEK ($2 billion USD).
While Hjalmar Winbladh is known as the CEO of the company Wrapp, he too began as a young entrepreneur. Right after graduating college, Winbladh started a courier business called Pedal. From there, he started the first Internet mobile system called Send It, which was sold to Microsoft for $200 million in 1999.
Winbladh stayed on with Microsoft for a few years before starting his next venture, Rebtel Networks, a Skype-like service that allows users to make calls over the Internet. Rebtel Networks has seen a lot of success and is one of the largest voice over IP (VOIP) solutions in the world. While he still sits on the board of Rebtel Networks, Winbladh left as acting CEO to found Wrapp in 2011, a company he still leads in 2019.
Jacob De Geer and Magnus Nilsson
Jacob De Geer and Magnus Nilsson are two heady entrepreneurs who created the company iZettle, a mobile app that turns any smartphone or tablet into a credit card processor, similarly to Square. No credit card information is stored over the phone; it is instead processed through iZettle's encrypted connection.
De Geer started his entrepreneurial path as the first employee of Tradedoubler, learning from Daniel Ek himself. After meeting Nilsson, the two co-founders launched iZettle's first mobile app in 2011 to much acclaim. Soon after launching, the company was listed as one of Stockholm's top startups by Tech Europe.
While she ranks last on this list, Isabella Löwengrip is extremely successful in her own right. At the age of 16, Löwengrip ran a blog that garnered over half a million readers a week and was valued at 5 million SEK. From there, she started her first company, Blondinbella AB, and has four companies under her belt: a magazine, a clothing line, a blog network and an investment trust company. In 2008, Löwengrip was the most Googled Swedish celebrity, and she has parlayed that exposure and success into helping young girls love themselves.