Kista in Stockholm, the Crown Jewel of Scandinavia’s Silicon Valley

It may not naturally strike you when you look at the architecture of Stockholm, but this city is the Silicon Valley of Scandinavia.

Stockholm is the home of Skype, Spotify, Candy Crush, Minecraft and iZettle among other startups (and here) that have gone big, every 20 out of 1000 employees in Sweden works in a startup, 18% of Stockholm’s labour force work as ‘programmers’, the city is known as a ‘Unicorn Factory‘ (a Unicorn is a start-up that is valued at above one billion USD). And the city is just getting started.

The people in charge of planning Stockholm’s future have some bold plans being effected on the face of the city – there is life science cluster just north of the city in the Hagastaden district and the new economic city around Arenastaden, to name a few. But today’s focus, is Kista, the crown jewel of technology in Stockholm.

While Stockholm city is usually considered the incubator of tech and unicorn startups, there is no district unlike its namesake in San Francisco, Huaqiangbei in Shenzhen, or Blk71 in Singapore that is the focal point of startup founding of the city.

Stockholm’s tech scene is more similar to that of Tel Aviv in Israel where the whole city is a technology incubator.

Kista is the closest to a tech hub in Stockholm, I call it the Crown Jewel. This district in the northern Stockholm borough of Rinkeby-Kista is already the technology hub of the city; in fact it is the largest Information Communications Technology cluster in the Europe and second only to Silicon Valley. The difference between Kista and these areas is Kista’s confluence includes global firms Microsoft, IBM, Ericsson, Samsung and universities like the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Stockholm University’s technology and infocomm technology units. What Kista lacks is startups, many startups are located within Stockholm city proper.

And to think Kista is located in a borough thought to be the ghetto of Stockholm – Rinkeby-Tensta.

Rinkeby-Tensta has been an economically depressed area in Stockholm for a long time going back to the 1970s, when many people moved in to Stockholm from the suburbs of Sweden and the former Eastern Europe to work in the city. The borough today has many individuals from outside of Europe particularly those seeking refuge from conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. According to a report from the Swedish Defence University, some of the individuals who move to this area falling prey to the recruiting efforts of militant groups. The area has come under the unfortunate magnifying glass after various media groups focused on these news issues to declare the area a war zone. Just goes to show there are always a few narratives to an issue, things are never so straight forward and simple.

Back to Kista.

Kista’s demographics differ from the larger borough in that it is the unofficial Little India of Stockholm and many Indians working in the tech industry for companies such as Nokia, Sony and Ericsson live near their work place, so popular that the famous South Indian Restaurant Saravana Baavan opened a chain office here.

Stockholm and Sweden met expectations when hype around its “Next Silicon Valley” tag began building a decade ago, the question is what’s going to happen next?

How will this Crown Jewel of Stockholm continue to fare in the tech world? Will Stockholm build on its amazing start-up reputation?

Watch this space.


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