Swedish Sebastian Siemiatkowski began coding on a computer when he was 16. Two decades later his payments firm Klarna is valued at $46 billion and plans to go public probably early next year. Has Sweden become the Silicon Valley of Europe? It’s a reason to believe so.
Businessman and entrepreneur Sebastian Siemiatkowski has an impressive professional track record. In addition to serving as a role model and inspiration for young entrepreneurs, he serves as the CEO of the payment firm Klarna. In less than 15 years, the company became a $46B business and customers rave about their user experience.
Sweden – the world’s Broadband leader
In late 1990, the Swedish government policy was to put a computer in every home. At that time, personal computers were inaccessible for low-income families. “When the reform came into play, my mother bought us a computer the very next day,” Sebastian told Reuter.
Related: Doing Business in Sweden
Mr. Siemiatkowski co-founded Klarna in 2005, and has been the CEO and involved in governance as an advisor on the board since the company was launched. It all started with a beautifully simple business model: The need for customers to have more freedom when paying for their purchases, and the need for retailers to have a smooth desktop and payment solution. This simple business model soon proved to outrank other, more established brands.
In 2005, when Klarna was founded, there were 28 broadband subscriptions per 100 people in Sweden, compared with 17 in the United States – where dial-up was still far more common – and a global average of 3.7, according to data from the World Bank.
A seamless online payment system
The seamless online payment system of Klarna grew rapidly throughout Europe and more recent expansion includes North America. The financial startup is now a fully licensed bank with a customer base of 60 million and a merchant user base of 170,000.
As a CEO and founder, Mr. Siemiatkowski’s drive and customer-first approach reminds us of Steve Jobs. But he admits that his success only could happen in a country where broadband was the standard when other markets were too slow to implement it.
Entrepreneur of the year
Sebastian has received a great deal of praise and recognition for his contributions to the success of Klarna. He was awarded the European Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Tech Tour in 2012. Adecco named him Leader of the Year in 2015, and was also named the Global EY Entrepreneur of the Year award runner up.
“If you want to be a good leader, you need to learn about people’s behavior,” he said in an interview with Northzone. “I recommend reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni to explore this topic further. I’ve learned so much from it”.
The Swedish welfare system with its deep social safety net launched in the 1950s, is often viewed as counter to entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. Sebastian was only 23years of age when he co-founded Klarna.
Has Sweden become the Silicon Valley of Europe?
Sebastian Siemiatkowski has achieved a mark of success that has put him at the top in his niche. Klarna is a startup that has surpassed the billion-dollar figure in valuation. According to Elle, Klarna is currently worth approximately $5 billion. This staggering number makes Mr. Siemiatkowski a very wealthy man. A comparison with Steve Jobs is not far-fetched. Perhaps Sweden has become the Silicon Valley of Europe.
Has Sweden Become the Silicon Valley of Europe? written by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Klarna