Why the world's millennials are moving to Stockholm
Publish date: 12 July 2015
Emily Essi, 25, has only been in Sweden for a couple of weeks. In early November she packed her bags and hopped on a plane to Stockholm, with no apartment and no job waiting for her – but every intention of staying.
It may sound rash, but the New Yorker has put a lot of thought into the decision. She's the epitome of a driven, international Millennial: she knows what she wants from life, and she's determined to get it.
In this case, the goal is joining Stockholm's startup scene. And Emily's not alone. Stockholm is not only the fastest growing city in Europe, but also its startup capital - and motivated Millennials are flocking to join the city's many successful tech companies.
But what is it that makes Stockholm the perfect match for this powerful generation? What is it that young, talented members of the labour force really want from work and life – and how does Stockholm, with its explosive startup scene, fit the bill?
“I definitely have different ideals and aspirations than my parents and grandparents,” Emily says.
“Being able to work closely with the innovators, the founders, is something you rarely get to do if you’re working for a corporation, large or small,” she says. “I’ve been lucky to try it – and once you get a taste for that work style and environment, you don't want to leave the startup scene.”
The New Yorker says she was initially attracted to Stockholm as a tourist, but was captivated by the robust tech scene, and inspired by the number of startups and young entrepreneurs in the city.
“The most appealing aspects to me were the high quality of life and the culture of innovation that encompasses Stockholm,” she explains.
“And then finding out that so many of my favourite apps and companies originated in Sweden – that sealed the deal. I just had to have more. So call me crazy - but one day I decided to pack up and move to Stockholm.”
Emily says that she’s not motivated by traditional ideas of success, “a six figure salary, white fence, three kids and a dog”, as she puts it.
“I’m looking for experiences that allow me to constantly develop and challenge myself. I want a career that allows me to impact lives, to improve the world we live in.”
Kirill Groshkov, 31, agrees.
“I think that the transition from previous generations to mine has put self-actualization on top of my hierarchy of needs,” he muses. “Making the world a better place, ethics, sustainability...all that means a lot to me.”
Kirill moved from Russia to Stockholm in 2014 in search of a better life, and the reality far exceeded his expectations.
“I think I must be the happiest person in the world, because I’m working in a great team in an exponentially growing ass-kicking startup, and I have a great social life and personal development outside of my job,” he remarks.
Working with a small but dedicated team at startup Natural Cycles (a popular birth control app), Kirill says he feels inspired every day both by his own company and the startup scene in general.
“The fact that the 'scene' even exists is pretty exciting,” he exclaims. “There are places like SUP46, Impact Hub, events like TEDx, Startup Weekend, unicorns waving their tails around and showing that everything is possible...there's a win-win spirit in the air.”
Kirill says that living in Stockholm means he can focus on integrating into a modern and multi-cultural society.
“A work-life balance actually exists here – your colleagues are happy for you when you leave the office early on a Friday to go on a weekend trip or go to a festival. I could say that 'work hard, party hard' is my motto now – and that's exactly what I was looking for in my career and lifestyle.”
It's a tough package to beat, acknowledges Frenchman Ariel Taieb.
The 31-year-old game designer spent three whirlwind years working in South Korea until a head hunter offered him a place at King – one of Sweden's most successful tech companies.
“In Korea everything moves at 100 miles an hour, both work and life in general,” Ariel says. ”It's a very intense country, and work is always the focus. It's an incredible place, and I didn't plan on coming back to Europe.”
Stockholm changed his mind. The Paris native confesses he didn't know anything about Scandinavia at the time, but after a weekend visit, he was hooked.
“The company freedom and attention to employees was what I was lacking in my previous position,” he explains. “And King is still the leader in the mobile gaming industry and it was interesting to join for this reason.”
A year and a half later, Ariel says he made the right decision:
“It's the largest of the capitals of Scandinavia, but it's also incredibly small - it's like a hyper village. It's a truly beautiful city, with enchanting landscapes too.”
He has also settled in at King, where he says the creative, international environment is “just amazing”.
“Everything is made to be creative, and it's a great place to grow personally and professionally,” he says. “It’s very international and a lot of people came like me, for work, and the work-life balance is really strong. And colleagues always look out for each other here.”
He says that working at the massive tech company feels "grandiose" - but also very personal, as each team works independently in their own way.
"It's proof that, even in a large company, it is possible to keep the startup spirit in the heart of the business," he says.
It's the same blend of small-town feel and booming tech market that prompted Shabnam Mirzoeva to move to Stockholm after finishing her studies at Jönköping Business School.
“Initially my plan was to get some work experience in Sweden and then to return back to Tajikistan,” the 25-year-old says. “But the working environment and the general start-up scene in Stockholm made me reconsider my plans, and instead immerse myself in this exciting adventure.”
Shabnam has been working at startup Sqore, an online platform hosting recruitment competitions, since 2013.
“What I look for in my career is encouragement to grow professionally – a place where you continuously get constructive feedback, and get to experiment and innovate,” she explains.
She adds that personal development is one of her top priorities, and that the Stockholm startup ecosystem seems perfectly tailored to meet that need.
“The best part about working at a Stockholm start-up is that I have been encouraged to think outside the box and take calculated risks,” she says. “When you work in a start-up you are an integral part of the team, you are in a space where you can experiment, pitch your ideas and learn how to think independently.”
The company's ethos of equality and creativity – a common theme in Stockholm startups – is a great motivator, and contributing to the best of her ability makes Shabnam feel like she is making a difference in the world.
As a Millennial working at a Stockholm startup, Shabnam also says she never needs to worry about her social life – which is well taken care of.
“Stockholm offers so many platforms – Meet-Up groups, conferences, workshops, seminars – to socialize and build relationships with like-minded people within the tech and startups industries. The city is culturally rich and diverse, which stimulates creativity and innovation.
“For me, Stockholm is the place to be.”