Karl-Olof Hammarkvist, President of Handelshögskolan (Stockholm School of Economics)
Handelshögskolan (the Stockholm School of Economics, SSE) has a strong link to the Swedish business world and educates students in entrepreneurship. Karl-Olof Hammarkvist, President of Stockholm School of Economics, will tell how their work is done and how it began, and what results it has given.
“In the late 1990s, an initiative was launched to develop entrepreneurship. This was due to the realization that most of our economics graduates were going straight into large corporations,” says Karl-Olof and continues: “During this period there was also a big discussion going on in Sweden about how we needed to have more start-ups which, in time, could become the major corporations of the future. And that’s an issue that’s still being debated by politicians on a regular basis – how do we get more businesses launched?”
Inspired by this debate and with the support of the Erling-Persson Family Foundation, the School of Economics began to pursue research and education in the field of entrepreneurship. “Carin Holmqvist, Professor of Business Administration with a specialization in entrepreneurship, was appointed to build up the research and education area. This resulted in a number of PhD students and, over time, more teaching staff. Alongside conventional tuition, we also developed a Business Lab, an incubator, where our students are given the opportunity to study practical entrepreneurship.
Karl-Olof explains how the Business Lab works and how it delivers results. “The students, or ‘company’, applying to the incubator have a business idea that they want to realize. If taken on, they will get to spend 6-8 months in the Business Lab. Here they will get the support and coaching they need to launch and develop their own businesses as well as help, when the time comes, with dealing with banks and law firms.”
Society needs new businesses to ensure it retains its vitality.
Many of the groups that started at the Business Lab, are now active within the community in the form of established, successful companies. “I could list for you any number of different examples. It’s gone incredibly well and resulted in a wide range of businesses and products. These include Mutewatch, the wristwatch with a vibration alarm, and Klarna, a checkout solution that allows the customer to receive the product they want before paying. The fun part is that we have a very broad sample map of what has emerged from our Business Lab,” says Karl-Olof.
Karl-Olof stresses the fact that their main goal is to educate students who are passionate about entrepreneurship. “Today, a fairly large proportion of our students go out and start their own businesses. And that, I feel is largely thanks to the Foundation. I don’t actually think that we would have done so well in getting our students to consider running their own businesses if we hadn’t launched the Business Lab and focused on entrepreneurship. And so I think – without any exaggeration- that the Erling-Persson Family Foundation has made a contribution to society, for which we are very grateful. Society needs new businesses to ensure it retains its vitality. Without entrepreneurship, the economy will be impoverished in the long term, thereby threatening the country’s prosperity and competitiveness.”
Another area in which the Foundation has made a major contribution is the undergraduate programme in Retail Management. “We accept 60 students a year on a programme that is specifically focused on trade and marketing to consumers. The programme is run in close collaboration with industry and has become something of a role model for how we want to develop our programmes going forward. Here too, of course, the Erling-Persson Family Foundation has really made a difference.”