Swedish Matchmaker Looks to
Bring Companies Here
Sweden brought the wonderful worlds of Abba, Ikea furniture, Volvo cars and Ericcson mobile phones to America. Now Kent Berg is hoping to bring more companies here via a beachhead in Orange County.
Berg founded Newport Beach-based SwedeLinkCalifornia two years ago to help Swedish companies set up operations in Southern California and pitch Swedish goods to the Americans. Since Sweden doesn’t have much of a consumer market,the country’s population only is 9 million,Swedish companies rely on exports for the bulk of their sales.
“They all want to get into the U.S. market because of purchasing power here,” Berg said.
Berg, a native of Sweden, has been doing business in Southern California for two decades, in real estate and medical equipment manufacturing. But he is taking his business activity up a few notches by playing matchmaker, research analyst, capital finder and party host.
SwedeLinkCalifornia helps companies do market research and plugs them into its network of universities, capital sources and businesses. It also helps Swedish companies start up operations here. The office works only with small and midsize companies and covers industries including telecommunications, biomedicine, biotechology and computer gear.
“It’s a good place to start companies here,” Berg said.
Instead of introducing Swedish companies in other areas of the country, Swede-LinkCalifornia promotes the OC area because of the large employee base and the diversity and volume of companies here.
“With a new emphasis on wireless information technology, it is a good match,the Tech Coast and Sweden. UC San Diego, UC Irvine and the state (government) are putting up a lot of money for research and development,” Berg said. “We tell them it is a good place to start.”
Berg said Swedish venture capitalists are looking to bring their portfolio companies to the states. SwedeLinkCalifornia itself works with 10 Swedish companies. One of them, Q-Sense AB, a developer of sensor systems for biomedical and chemical research, has started operations locally and is subletting space from SwedeLinkCalifornia to get started.
But the road goes the other way, too. SwedeLinkCalifornia also is trying to work with American companies that want to make a foray into Scandinavia. The group is working with the Orange County Business Council, the Swedish-American Business Council and universities to cultivate interest in Sweden.
“To do this we need a good network in this area,” Berg said. n