Beyond stocks in Stockholm: The entrepreneurship Study Tour

This week we packed our bags and met at 6am in Copenhagen’s airport to begin our Study Tour in Stockholm. 

Certain summer courses and sessions offer a Study Tour, and I felt ours was unique in how DIS worked to combine the forging of connections within business, adding to our practicum experiences, and leisure time for all of us. Essentially, every day we would meet with a startup founder to hear about their journey and speak with them about their experiences as an entrepreneur (and connect with them on LinkedIn after the fact).

The tour began as we touching down at a beautiful hotel in the heart of Stockholm. Its location was so central that our daily startup visits were never more than a ten minute walk. Our first day, lunch provided, we went on an walking tour as a group through Gamla Stan, the old town.

Walking through Stockholm, the difference from Copenhagen became clear. The first, and most immediate shift was the infrastructure. Becoming so used to Copenhagen’s bike-forward structure, the streets in Stockholm were clearly adjusted for cars as the city built itself up. In this way, it felt much more American, a feeling that brought comfort in some way, but also fought with the sense of belonging and home I have felt in Copenhagen over the past few weeks. I even caught myself and my classmates referring to Copenhagen as “home” along the trip.

However, Stockholm is inarguably gorgeous. It feels a bit more classically “European”, wit older buildings, winding stairs, and large historical monuments marking every neighborhood of the city. Although we came at the peak “quiet” week of the year, since Midsummer landed on the Friday of our trip and many people were traveling outside of the city to other parts of Sweden to celebrate, the peace and calm felt so refreshing, and contributed to a sense of relaxation in the city. 

During our time in the city, we met with five different startups. Each of them was so successful that their time dedicated to speaking to us felt very special. We met with founders from Hummy, a new AI powered social media focused on forging genuine connections within communities, Dema, an e-commerce analytics platform forged from the founder’s own need as a retail giant, and Brite, a financial technology frontrunner partnered with over 3800 banks in Europe.

Our visit to Brite was especially impactful as a woman-led tech company is rare, and to hear founder Lena Hackloer speak with such passion and wit about her company, its journey, and importantly the integrity she infuses within the working experience for her employees was deeply inspiring. This departure from traditional “business” talk made the experience of entrepreneurship feel so much more real, and really emphasized the amount of creativity, compassion, and drive that are often overlooked.

We were also able to meet with two Startup incubators and pitch the ideas we have been refining over the course of the past month to them. They served as an invaluable source of expertise and knowledge, providing great feedback on our presentations, model projections, and general product purpose. The experience with the startups legitimized the work we have put in thus far, providing that first step of discomfort in sharing ideas that holds so many back. The presentation jitters were real, but sort of proved to me that what I am doing is worthwhile, and has to be shared with others in order to grow. SCARY! 

When we weren’t in business casual, we spent a lot of time exploring and interacting with the city. For me and my roommate Sarah, that usually meant shopping. The city is home to a huge designer presence, with most notably acne studios being based there. Their presence is so notable that we accidentally routed to their headquarters instead of one of their five shops in the city. Pro tip: their archive is also located in a trendy neighborhood of the city, where you can source the previous season’s runway and sample looks. Big deal. 

A special day on the tour was when we got out of the city and took the ferry to a small island on the archipelago. There we took a chocolate tour of the island, where the owner of the island’s craft chocolate shop had hand-crafted special chocolates for us to experience the island through. It was such a special experience, and after, we were able to explore the island on our own. Sarah and got ice cream, swam, watched a swan hatch its eggs, and sat on rocks in the woods to look out over the water. It reminded me a lot of the north shore of Minnesota, and I was hit with a wave of, not quite homesickness, but more of an existential Deja-vu. After such an active week of presentations, and living in the city for the past month, some real, down-to-earth time in nature allowed me to think and just feel so grateful for the experience I was having. 

And really, the whole trip was full of this sense of gratitude. For Stockholm, for Copenhagen, for the opportunity to be doing this, and for the support and love I have been lucky to be surrounded with along the way. To have somewhere so far from home feel so close to it. Leaving Stockholm felt in some ways like a preview of leaving Copenhagen, a somewhat heartbreaking reminder of the fleetingness of time I have left here. But odds are good I’ll probably uproot my life and move here anyways so, all in all no big deal. 

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