Lithuania’s visa just for entrepreneurs, Norway’s dreamiest business – and what would the founder of Hong Kong’s latest sunglasses brand spend €5,000 on?
Stockholm has produced more billion-dollar technology companies in the past 10 years than any other city in Europe. In this entrepreneurial climate, co-working spaces are popping up all around town. Yet few are as well conceived and well put together as shared workspace and members’ club Alma.
Housed in a former design school in Östermalm, this vast space opened in early 2017 care of architects Tham & Videgård and co-founders Fredrik Carlström and Anna Behring Lundh. Spread over five floors, it orbits around a double-height atrium kitchen decked out with communal tables, which are catered by chefs Martin Brag and Leo Frodell of the peerless Ett Hem hotel.
The palette is dusky throughout and underpinned by herringbone-patterned floors and shelving by Swedish firm Sjölinders. Any workspace that ups the stakes by investing this much in its initial fit-out is likely to draw dividends in the form of a discerning clientele. Plus: it’s a superb spot for a quick meeting if you are ever stuck for space in the Swedish capital.
With 10 years of flying between them, pilots Kristian Hessleberg and Leo Andersson have spent many nights in hotel beds across the world. But when it came to getting a good night’s sleep at home in Oslo, they struggled. It wasn’t just the jet lag – it was the lack of good sheets. So in response they founded Abate, with the aim of offering high-quality sheets at accessible prices.
The start-up launched in March, offering Egyptian-cotton sheets with a simple Scandi design, stitched in Portugal. “It has been a lot of work but the response has been great,” says Hessleberg. With hopes to expand their range, it seems like the venture is really taking off.
At a time when other nations are flirting with protectionism, Lithuania is opening its borders to entrepreneurial newcomers. In February the Baltic nation launched a special start-up visa to better attract talent from outside the EU.
“The local ecosystem has been thriving for six years now,” says Rimante Ribaciauskaite, head of Startup Lithuania, a government programme. “It’s a small community and that has the advantage of making it easy to reach out to big corporations, consultants and other start-ups.” Meanwhile, Vilnius will play host to the Login technology fair in May, which will help young businesses trumpet their concepts to a wider audience.
Hong Kong-based Paper Shades makes durable and affordable sunglasses out of recycled cardboard. “We wanted to create a product that feels great, won’t break the bank and is eco-friendly,” says Madi Chu, who co-founded the company last year with older brother and designer James. His experience of working with factories as a furniture designer spurred the idea. “There’s always a huge amount of waste created in the production cycle – we wanted to fix that,” he says. The duo are currently working on a water-resistant model to expand the collection.
Q. What would you spend €5,000 on?
Answer: “We’d throw a bash on the beach that brings together like-minded brands that promote a lifestyle where you can be eco-friendly and carefree. We’d showcase how far brands such as our own have come and how making the commitment to reduce environmental waste doesn’t always have to be a chore.”
Here’s a breakdown of the growing self-employed workforce.
US: 10 million self-employed workers
Germany: 4 million doing it for themselves
UK: 5 million going it alone
France: 3.1 million embracing liberté