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Lots of common ground between Hamburg and Sweden

Swedish Chamber of Commerce opens headquarters in Hamburg

“Hej och välkomna, come in and help yourselves,” says Sara Johansson and points to Glögg and Kanelbullar i.e. Swedish cinnamon buns. The Hamburg-born Swedish woman embodies the Scandinavian lifestyle like no other. “Hamburg and Sweden have a lot in common,” she says. Thus, the relocation of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce from Düsseldorf to Hamburg, which opens its new headquarters in Hammerbrook on Thursday (December 12, 2019) is a logical step for the entrepreneur. Johansson is the Managing Director of the Hamburg-based Baumgartner & Co. consultancy.

Sweden’s first agile community

Johansson likes to talk about Ängelholm, a small community in southern Sweden, during her transformation workshops. “It has achieved something outstanding with around 3,300 employees. Ängelholm is Sweden’s first agile community. The place has won several awards for the best customer service and noticeably increased employer attractiveness. Its process-orientated structure is entirely new and could become a benchmark for Germany’s public sector.”

Sara Johansson

Close ties between Hamburg and Sweden

The Swedish and north German economies have traditional close links. Around 1,000 companies across Hamburg do foreign trade with Sweden, and around 110 Swedish companies have branches in the Hanseatic city including many German headquarters. Sweden is hugely important for port traffic and ranks fourth among the Port of Hamburg’s top ten trading partners. “Hamburg and Sweden have had close links since the days of the Hanseatic League,” said Ingo Egloff, Chairman of Hafen Hamburg Marketing e. V.

Swedish start-up using AI to measure diversity

Matilda Kong, co-founder of the Swedish media start-up Ceretai based in Hamburg launched in early 2018 with the idea of building an automated tool for detecting norms and stereotypes in popular culture. “What our company does is to measure diversity and equality in media Content. We can do a full-scale diversity analysis of any video content. We worked with BBC, Tagesschau, and NDR for example”, Matilda said. Hamburg Invest had helped Ceretai to establish itself and the start-up was also backed by the IFB’s Innovation Starter Program InnoRampUp.

Matilda Kong

Strong location for founders

Speaking at Hamburg Invest’s stand during the Hanover Fair in April where Sweden was partner country, Michael Westhagemann, Senator for Economics, remarked: “No other EU country can boast as many successful start-ups in terms of population as Sweden.” Both the Swedish co-working provider Kinnarps Co Lab and Sweden’s Chamber of Commerce are opening in Sachsenstrasse, which Westhagemann termed “fitting”. He noted: “Sweden has 20 start-ups per 1,000 employees at present. As Sweden is a relatively small market with 10 million inhabitants, they have to orientate themselves on the world market early. Hamburg is traditionally a good place for launching onto the German market.” Dr. Rolf Strittmatter, Managing Director of Hamburg Invest, remarked: “Hamburg has always been a launching pad for Swedish companies seeking to enter the German market,” and expressed satisfaction with the relocation of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce’s office from the Rhine to the Elbe River.

Commonalities – what can be learned?

“Hamburg shows that it puts a lot of focus on creating a good start-up environment, which makes it attractive to establish a company here”, Matilda said. Johansson added: “The Swedes however, are much more open-minded about the pace of digitization. Transparency and the exchange of information are also far more pronounced. Technologies such as new payment systems have long been part of everyday life. Even beggars in Sweden have card readers.” Asked about what Swedes can learn from Germans, Johansson said: “The people of Hamburg are very clear and communicate more directly with each other without having to read between the lines. They are very well organised and goal-orientated.”

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