Spotify and Klarna top Scandi founder factory charts amid “talent war”

Spotify and Klarna are the top founder factories across Sweden and Denmark as VCs engage in a "talent war" to unearth the unicorns of tomorrow.
Spotify and Klarna top Scandi founder factory charts amid “talent war”

All of tech and beyond know of the so-called PayPal Mafia, luminaries such as Elon Musk, Max Levchin and Steve Chen, who went on to greater fame, setting up the likes of Tesla, Affirm and YouTube.

Likewise, Sweden and Denmark have their own founder factoriessuccessful tech companies whose alumni have gone on to launch VC-backed startups.

In fact, founder factories have existed throughout modern VC history- with VCs believing that boasting VC operator experience helps build new startups.

But which are Denmark’s and Sweden’s top founder factories? worked with Signal, a Copenhagen-based data firm helping VCs and investors with investment decisions, to dig into the data.

The data shows that fintech Klarna and music streaming service Spotify alumni between them have launched over 200 VC-backed startups over the past ten years.

Top of the tree came Spotify boasting a whopping 124 alumni who have gone on to set up VC-backed startups, ahead of  Klarna (91) and third-placed mobile gaming startup King (39).

Spotify, valued at over $60bn; Klarna, which is reported to looking at a $20bn US IPO; and King, which was snapped by Activision Blizzard for $5.9bn in 2016, are three of Scandinavia’s most successful tech companies.

According to the founders of Signal, early-stage VCs are “aggressively engaging” with founder factory talent, which they say is sparking a “talent war”.

Jacob Houlberg, co-founder, Signal, said:

“Founder factories have always been a significant part of the venture capital industry, from the PayPal Mafia in the US to Spotify in Sweden, but today they are more prominent than ever, as VC investors actively seek out their alumni due to the companies' impressive track record of creating successful founders."

Simon Bøttkjær, co-founder, Signal, said:

“The rise of founder factories in a cyclical funding environment is sparking a talent war. Early-stage VCs are aggressively engaging with high potential talent from founder factories, to establish a relationship early in case they decide to create a new company."

Kevin Chong, general partner, Outward VC, said:

“People learn and unlearn invaluable lessons from scaling a startup and partnering with VCs. The experience is a real advantage. This is why we track alumni, particularly the earliest team members who took the business past an inflection point.”

The research shows the top founder factories in Sweden and Denmark- and how many VC-backed firms alumni from each founder factory have launched.


Spotify (music streaming) -124

Klarna (fintech)-91

King (mobile gaming)-39

Zettle (fintech)-29

Tink (fintech)-14


Unity Technologies (software development)-38

Trustpilot (reviews website)-21

Tradeshift (fintech)-19

Pleo (fintech)-12

Peakon (employee engagement platform)-9

The data comes courtesy of Signal identifying all the founders of VC-backed firms in Denmark (around 800) and Sweden (more than 1,000), from which it calculated the top founder factories and the startups they launched.

So which are some of the VC-backed firms launched by alumni from these founder factories?

In Sweden, Scrive, the electronic signature firm, was co-founded by Gracjan Polak, a former Klarna engineer; climatetech Cloover was co-founded by Cameron Borrett, a product manager at Klarna.

At Spotify, examples include growth forecasting firm Gilion, which was co-founded by former VP of analytics at Spotify Henrik Landgren; and Anyfin, the financial wellbeing startup, which was co-founded by Sven Perkmann, who worked as head of risk product at Klarna and a reporting analyst at Spotify.

In Denmark, the spend management platform Pleo was co-founded by Jeppe Rindom and Niccolo Perra, early employees at Tradeshift while Tradeshift senior product designer Sune Theodorsen was a co-founder of LifeX, the co-lving startup.

Meanwhile, former Unity R&D executive Martin Zielinski is a co-founder of Yaak Technologies, an autonomous driving platform while Issuu, the electronic publishing platform, was co-founded by Rubyn Bjerg Hansen, head of product at Unity.

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