Helping students to become the next generation of start-ups is a huge area of focus within Microsoft right now. So our new lead for start-ups and student projects for Microsoft in Sweden – Therese Thorstorp – is a great fit, not just because of her IT know-how, but because she herself a student until only a couple of years ago, so she remembers what it is like bridging that scary gap between graduation and entering the world of work.

Therese shares her view on the challenges and opportunities of the Swedish market, in her own words, but first, here’s a little bit more information about her background.

Therese Thorstorp, Students and Startups Projects Lead, Stockholm, Sweden

“I studied at Stockholm, University, where I was lucky enough to be nominated for and then become a finalist for the IT Girl of the Year, which is an annual competition in Sweden. At the finals of the event, I met the local Microsoft team and we kept in touch. After I graduated, I was an IT consultant for a while, before Microsoft contacted me to see if I was introduced in joining them in an exciting new role that combines entrepreneurial and academic skills.

“It’s only a few years since I was a student myself, so I can remember what it was like and that really helps me to connect with the students here in Sweden. And it is great sitting in meetings with my old professors!”

“Sweden is a challenging market for start-ups. We only have a population of around 9 million people, so the domestic market is very limited, meaning that most businesses have to focus on export from very early in their evolution. Innovation is part of our DNA – we know we have to innovate to survive – and we have some great role Swedish models, including the founders of Skype, Spotify, H&M and Ikea. Swedish start-ups have the confidence to know they can take on the world.”

Free education

“We are also lucky to have such a high calibre of education system. Education is free in Sweden, so it is easier for students to gain places at the universities of their choice compared to some other countries.”

“I’m currently organising a major tour of Swedish universities, starting on October 27th, which will include guest speakers and technology workshops, including a chance for students to get hands-on experience of Windows 8. We aim to show Swedish students how developing Windows 8 can help them get their great ideas to market more quickly.”

Size is a challenge

“The university tour is just the first of a number of events, which will also include a Windows 8 introduction day for start-ups in November and a Windows 8 Hackathon hosted at Skype’s offices. These will take advantage of the thriving meet-up scene for entrepreneurs in Stockholm, but it is equally important that we reach out to other areas. There is a huge amount of innovation outside of the capital city, but apart from Gothenberg – our second largest city – there is less of a physical meet-up culture. Sweden is a very big country and it can be hard for innovators out in rural areas to connect with potential partners, investors, customers and other supporters.”

“At the moment, I’m meeting as many students and start-ups in the country as possible. I’m awed by the high level of innovation, which we’re seeing in all kinds of market areas, but particularly around social community and consumer applications. Out of a long list, if I have to pick just two, I’d like to namecheck Blicko, a very cool start-up was created by three former students from the Royal School of Technology who are making a social jukebox application . Users collaborate by suggesting and voting on songs to achieve a dynamic playlist that truly reflects listeners’ preferences. I’d also like to call out Tipser, who are developing a social ecommerce solution – watch this space for more information!”

These are exciting times to be involved in student and start-ups in Sweden and I love being part of a team that is doing its best to make a difference for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”