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All Technology and beyond that, know the so-called PayPal Mafia, which includes the likes of Elon Musk, Max Levchin and Steve Chen, who later achieved even greater fame by founding companies such as Tesla, Affirm and YouTube.

Sweden and Denmark also have their own foundries, successful technology companies whose graduates subsequently founded VC-backed start-ups.

Actually, Startup factories have existed throughout modern VC history, and VCs believed that experience as VC operators would be helpful in building new startups.

But which are Denmark and Sweden’s top startup factories?.EU worked with Signal, a Copenhagen-based data company that helps VCs and investors delve into data when making investment decisions.

The data shows that Fintech Klarna and the music streaming service Spotify have together launched over 200 VC-backed startups in the last ten years.

Spotify came in first with a whopping 124 graduates who later founded VC-backed start-ups, ahead of Klarna (91) and third-placed mobile gaming start-up King (39).

Spotify, valued at over $60 billion; Klarna, which is reportedly aiming for a $20 billion IPO in the US; and King, which was acquired by Activision Blizzard for $5.9 billion in 2016, are three of Scandinavia’s most successful technology companies.

According to Signal’s founders, early-stage VCs are “aggressively competing” for startup talent, which they believe is triggering a “war for talent.”

Jacob Houlberg, co-founder, signalsaid:

“Startup factories have always been a significant part of the venture capital industry, from the PayPal Mafia in the US to Spotify in Sweden. But today they are more prominent than ever, with VC investors actively seeking out their alumni due to the companies’ impressive track record of producing successful founders.”

Simon Bøttkjær, co-founder, signalsaid:

“The rise of incubators in a cyclical funding environment is creating a battle for the best talent. Early-stage VCs are aggressively seeking high-potential talent from incubators to build a relationship early in case they decide to start a new company.”

Kevin Chong, General Partner, Outward VC said:

“People learn and unlearn valuable lessons when scaling a startup and working with VCs. The experience is a real advantage. That’s why we pursue alumni, especially the first team members who leave the company through a Inflection Point.”

The study shows the top startup factories in Sweden and Denmark – and how many VC-funded companies have emerged from each startup factory have started.


Spotify (music streaming) -124

Klarna (fintech)-91

King (mobile gaming)-39

Zettle (fintech)-29

Tink (Fintech)-14


Unity Technologies (software development)-38

Trustpilot (review website)-21

Trade Shift (Fintech)-19

Pleo (fintech)-12

Peakon (Employee Engagement Platform)-9

The data comes from Signal. The company identified all founders of VC-backed companies in Denmark (around 800) and Sweden (more than 1,000) and used this as a basis to calculate the top startup factories and the startups they launched.

Which VC-backed companies were founded by alumni of these startup factories?

In Sweden, the electronic signature company Scrive has was co-founded by Gracjan Polak, a former Klarna engineer; Air conditioning technology Cloover was co-founded by Cameron Borrett, a product manager at Klarna.

Examples of Spotify include growth forecasting company Gilion, co-founded by former VP of Analytics at Spotify Henrik Landgren; and Anyfin, the financial wellness startup, Co-founder is Sven Perkmann, who worked as Head of Risk Product at Klarna and Reporting Analyst at Spotify.

In Denmark Spend management platform Pleo was co-founded by Jeppe Rindom and Niccolo Perra, early employees of Tradeshift, while Sune Theodorsen, senior product designer at Tradeshift, co-founded LifeX, the co-living startup.

Former Unity R&D manager Martin Zielinski is co-founder of Yaak Technologies, a autonomous driving platform, while Issuu, the electronic publishing platform, was co-founded by Ruby Bjerg Hansen, Product Manager at Unity.

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