The Magic of a Unicorn: How Sweden’s Fintech Industry is Taking Over the World
Sweden is one of the world’s leading forces in the fintech industry. Due to their quick adaption of the new financial technologies, it might soon become the first cashless economy in the world! The capital city of Stockholm is known for the various Unicorns that have been built up within the city borders. A Unicorn, in this context, is a start-up that went through scale-up and eventually grew into a business valued over $1bn. In fact, Stockholm produces more unicorn companies than any region outside Silicon Valley in relation to its population. Impressive examples of these include iZettle, Mitigram and Klarna, all of which have credited user experience as a vital component of their business.
‘Today, customer communication, design, usability and a clear focus is what it’s all about’ – Jacob de Geer, Co-founder of iZettle.
iZettle was launched in 2011 by founders Jacob de Geer and Magnus Nilsson. They offer card readers for mobile devices as well as point-of-sales systems for small businesses, allowing them to accept card payments in an easy, affordable way.
iZettle was the first to develop a chip-card reader and accompanying app for smartphone-based mobile commerce, and by 2018 they were already valued at over $500 million. That year, they also accepted an offer to be acquired by US company PayPal, in what now marks the company’s biggest deal in its history at $2.2bn. This makes sense, of course, since the company had grown it’s revenues tremendously, as well as having a strong presence in the European and Latin American markets, unlike PayPal’s more US-focus.
In regards to us here in the UK, they decided to enter the UK market back in 2012 in a very innovative way, appointing a local PR team and agency to implement a launch strategy with a limited budget of £25,000. They hosted a physical pop-up market aiming to replicate the type of business environment where iZettle can be used. This brought together a number of small businesses which were trading at the event, accepting card payments through their smartphone or tablet and providing instant feedback about iZettle’s product to the media. This benefitted not only iZettle but also the smaller businesses who were part of the event.
‘When trade finance is made seamless and technology is democratised, everyone benefits’ – Marjon Wohlén, Founder of Mitigram
Mitigram was founded in 2014 by Marjon Wohlén, after she envisioned a more digitised Trade Finance. It is defined as the market network for exporters, traders and financial institutions to access funding and risk coverage arising from cross-border trade activities, streamlining global trade finance and enabling effective communication and redistribution of trade finance needs.
Since its launch, Mitigram claims to have enabled over $75bn in trade flows, facilitated trade in over 100 markets and covered risks on over 1,000 financial institutions worldwide. This is a big feat for a company that is only 7 years old, especially seen as over 50% of all start-ups do not make it through the 5-year mark. In one single month in 2020, more than $2.4bn in Trade Finance deals were negotiated on the Mitigram platform, bringing the total to an excess of $55bn.
‘In order to succeed it’s absolutely crucial to provide an unbeaten consumer experience’ – Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Co-founder of Klarna.
Klarna was founded in 2005 by Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Victor Jakobsson and Niklas Adalberthe. It is a global payment service provider with the aim to make online shopping easier. They partner up with retailers and handle their payment processes, making it smoother and more flexible.
In 2019, 50,000 users a week were opting to ‘pay-later’ through Klarna, and the company held a post-money valuation of $5.5bn, making Klarna the largest fintech in Europe. They saw this success because they managed to strike the sweet balance of providing a very useful solution, while creating fun experiences for customers, keeping its branding light and fun. This is in direct opposition to the glooming reality of credit and possible debt their users may face if not careful. It’s impressive that they’ve managed to create this sense of a fun, casual nature to their finance company. The option to pay later also provides the chance for customers to live a lifestyle that they may not have otherwise been able to have, interest free, a lifestyle enforced by popular media icons such as Snoop Dogg.
All of these Swedish fintech Unicorns have mentioned how important a good, clear, understandable user experience is vital for a successful business. Whether it’s a focus on usability, the democratisation of tech, or customer experience, good UX encapsulates it all. It is not just an attractive design, but a thought-through, well-researched approach to who can use their service, as well as how, where, when and why. It’s a user-first approach that puts the consumer at the forefront of all design decisions.
Maisie Carroll and Elin Forsslund, Writer
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