Q&A with Patrick Mesterton, CEO and Co-Founder of Epicenter
Epicenter, a community of digital scale-ups, corporates, intrapreneurs, and entrepreneurs was founded in Stockholm in 2015 by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Today Epicenter is located in the heart of Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki and in Amsterdam. Epicenter offers unique methods to supercharge innovation and growth, weekly member activities and work- and event spaces. The concept and development of Epicenter rise from the founding team’s extensive knowledge in bringing up companies that are digitally innovative and increasingly impactful. Epicenter Amsterdam was launched in May 2018. How has the development of Epicenter Amsterdam been compared to your expectations? “I think in general it has been very rapid growth. In less than 1,5 year we have grown from zero members to over a hundred and from zero events to over two hundred events last year. Today in total we are over a thousand people in the building so of course a lot of things have happened. And compared to expectations, it has gone really, really well but a little bit slower than the Swedish build up. But Sweden was also five years ago, it’s a very different market situation in Sweden versus here, the locations are different and in Sweden we had a lot more time to prepare, we had about 1,5 years before we opened. Here it was a very, sort of rushed opening due to the opportunity that we caught. So here we did everything in three months. But if I look in terms of customer satisfaction and the energy in the building it has been far above expectations.” How do you make a digital innovation house like Epicenter work? “We are focusing on a few main things. Epicenter is about its members primarily, so it’s about the community and making the people in the community engage with each other. Our value proposition with this company is to help companies grow and innovate. Especially within digital because we think building new digital companies are very important for future economic growth. So we try to work with digital topics that we know are affecting our members and that they care about. That is why we run a lot of community events, that’s one thing we do to help. The other part we do is in the selection process of finding the companies that we want to join us. We try to look at what these companies can add in terms of value to the other members. What type of knowledge do they have? What type of technology do they have? So that they bring something tangible to the building as an added value. The same thing of course goes for how they can contribute to the community because they are the true competence partners and drivers. So we look at what new companies can add and also ask everyone already here what kind of companies they would like to see more of so we can also tangibly find companies to match them with and help them grow. The third thing we do is that we are very curious about technology so we like to explore technology as such in the building. Therefore we host a lot of events such as digital safaris where we have a lot of technology that companies, not only talk about but can use and play around with and elaborate with. The fourth thing we do is that we have built this building also from a very strong technology standpoint. So we work with a building app that controls everything from access control to the rooms, to signing up to events. But we also monitor everything in the building with censors so we can follow how the climate is, which seats are being used, where people are in the building at any point in time. In this way, we can not only optimize the community building but we can also use this information for a cleaning standpoint, for a health care standpoint in terms of air quality and other things like that. So we have many dimensions where we work with digital.” How can Swedish companies expanding to the Dutch market (Amsterdam) profit by establishing their business at Epicenter? “Good question. What we are is, of course, a sort of platform, a gateway for companies to grow and go international. The big value here is that if you come as a Swedish company and you want to establish in the Netherlands, we have basically a ready platform and a rolled out red carpet for you and an infrastructure in place that allows you to rapidly build your company. So, not only can we get you a very flexible type of office solution but we can also start helping you set up your company very tangible with doing the first couple of customer calls for you. We can set up meetings, we can do matchmaking for you, we can help to register your company at the KvK for example. And we can help with recruitment and things like that, because all of those elements, all those added services are established in the building. So we have helped a Swedish app company to get their first clients here. We work on a big project now with Vattenfall, where we help them set up their whole infrastructure where we manage company registration etc. Salt is another company we brought from Sweden which is now helping us to build a value proposition towards talents etc. This is how we want Epicenter to work and that is three good examples.” What is the next step for Epicenter? “Obviously we would like to continue growing. We believe that if we build these local eco-systems in markets that are relevant for our expanding clients, then we can help them with more value but we can also constantly add more interesting companies to our community. So we are a sort of adamant to find new business opportunities internationally. Our strategy is to go to capital cities in Europe, preliminary A-markets as we call them. We are very interested in Germany right now and we are also very interested in the UK and those types of markets. Because looking at how scale-up companies want to grow  these are markets of high interest because that can propel their business.” From your point of view, how is the partnership between Epicenter and the Swedish Chamber of Commerce? “To be honest it is a very, very good partnership. We have worked together since the early days when we opened Epicenter. We got an introduction to your General Manager through a mutual contact and since then we both saw the value, not only because we are Swedish, but through the platform that we have here with the competence, the knowledge, and our event spaces. So we have worked very actively in a sort of cooperation around knowledge sharing and helping propel both Swedish and Dutch businesses to each other. We are really working as competence partners, we are members of the Chamber and the Chamber is a member of Epicenter and we co-organize a lot of events. So we have a really good and strong partnership and we have also reached out to a lot of other Nordic countries and other Chambers with this as a model for them to explore on their markets. It has been a very successful partnership!” By Linn Hodell, Swedish Chamber of Commerce  
Meetings about #NordicTalk and upcoming Eurovision event
Last week we had two very successful and exciting meetings with Swedish fika. We discussed upcoming #NordicTalk about sustainable fashion and food together with the Nordic Chambers in preparation for the next #NordicTalks on October 8, 2020. We also discussed the possibilities for Nordic presence during the Eurovision Song Contest that will be held in Rotterdam in May. Together with Digit by Poetfarmer, FDCC, YP Nordics and the Swedish Church in the NL we discussed great possibilities for collaboration and fun events for Eurovision lovers! Stay tuned for more information.
Company visit at Inter IKEA Group
On Wednesday, February 19, we were very pleased to meet with the new CEO of Inter IKEA Group, Jon Abrahamsson Ring for a great talk about Inter IKEA Group, leadership, sustainability and collaborations. The interview will be published in the Swedish Chamber of Commerce Annual Review 2019 distributed to all members in April 2020.
News from the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Sweden
On Thursday the 13th of February the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Sweden held their Annual General Meeting at the Dutch Embassy in Stockholm. At this meeting, Chairman Maarten Merckx resigned as Chairman and board member after almost 10 years leading the Dutch Chamber and Els Berkers was chosen as the new Chair. The Swedish Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands would like to thank Maarten for the excellent and pleasant collaboration during these years. We are also very pleased to congratulate Els Berkers and wish her lots of success. We are looking forward to continuing the good cooperation with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce for the years to come.
News from the Dutch Embassy in Stockholm
In the Annual Report presented of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce we can also read that Mrs. Ines Coppoolse Ambassador of the Netherlands to Sweden, after 5 years in Sweden, now will  start preparing for a new challenge as the Dutch Ministerial Council has decided to nominate her as the next Ambassador to Canada. The new Ambassador of the Netherlands to Sweden taking over in August will be Mr. Bengt van Loosdrecht, who has a Swedish mother and is currently the Dutch Ambassador to Ethiopia.
The Swedish Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Ambassador Ines Coppoolse for the great collaboration and generous hosting of the Annual Swedish Business Trip to Stockholm every year. We wish her and her family lots of success and prosperity at the new assignment in Canada. We are looking forward to continuing the excellent collaboration with the Dutch Embassy in Stockholm and to meet with Ambassador Bengt van Loosdrecht.
The Swedish Delegation for Circular Economy is visiting the Netherlands March 9-12, 2020
Meet them at Urbanisation Forum, March 10, 2020. More information tbc.
Company visit at Budbee
On Tuesday, February 18, we were happy to meet with Jørgen Höppener, General Manager at Budbee Netherlands for an inspiring interview! Stay tuned for our Annual Review, which will be out in April to read the interview and more!      
Jon Abrahamsson Ring new CEO of Inter IKEA Group
“Torbjörn Lööf, who has successfully led Inter IKEA Group, headed by Inter IKEA Holding B.V., for the last seven years, has decided to end his assignment,” says Anders Dahlvig, chairman of Inter IKEA Holding B.V. “His successor will be Jon Abrahamsson Ring, who today leads IKEA franchising. ”To facilitate a good handover, Jon will first become Inter IKEA Group Deputy CEO as from 1 March, reporting to Torbjörn. He will start as CEO on 1 September. His succession will be announced in due time. Torbjörn Lööf joined IKEA in 1989, and he has since held various leadership roles throughout the IKEA business. Before his present position, he led the development of the IKEA offer and the IKEA supply chain as the Managing Director at IKEA of Sweden AB. He became CEO of Inter IKEA in 2013. Under his leadership, Inter IKEA Group launched a new long-term direction to make IKEA even more affordable, accessible and sustainable. Also during Torbjörn’s leadership Inter IKEA performed a major business transformation – successfully acquiring and integrating all IKEA range, supply and industry activities and restructuring the IKEA franchise system. Equipped with a new structure and direction, IKEA has expanded to more than 15 new markets during Torbjörn’s leadership – making it one of the most intense period of international expansion for IKEA. Soon, IKEA will also enter South America, with the first store expected to open in Chile in 2021. “I have had more than 30 fantastic years with IKEA and the privilege to have many exciting assignments with the opportunity to live in different countries. IKEA has had a remarkable development during these years and it has been a big inspiration for me to be part of this journey. When I now have taken the decision to end my current assignment and time with IKEA, I do it with a lot of proudness of what we together have achieved. I will always carry with me the memories from all the wonderful meetings with IKEA colleagues and partners from around the world. It is all the people working at IKEA that makes us unique”, says Torbjörn Lööf. Jon Abrahamsson Ring started his career as a trainee at IKEA Örebro in 1998 after completing his Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Umeå University. A year later he moved to IKEA Canada, where he worked for four years. He then spent four years as assistant to IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad before becoming Deputy Retail Manager for IKEA China. In 2008 Jon left the IKEA business to become CEO of the fashion brand Filippa K and – later – CEO of gardening brand Plantagen. He re-joined IKEA when he started working for Inter IKEA Systems in 2017. ”IKEA is in my heart and I truly believe in our vision to create a better everyday life for the many. IKEA is on a great journey, which is only in the beginning, and we will continue to stay true to who we are and what makes us unique: our culture and values, our vision and our business idea. And we must remain curious about our customers’ needs and dreams and their lives at home” says Jon and continues: “I am humbled by this opportunity, but also very proud and happy. I want to thank Torbjörn for his generous guidance and support, and Anders and the board for their trust in me.” “With a new IKEA direction and a solid franchise system in place, it’s a good time for Torbjörn to hand over responsibility as CEO of Inter IKEA Group,” says Anders Dahlvig and continues: “I sincerely thank Torbjörn for his important contribution to IKEA over many years. I have had the pleasure to work with him both in his role as MD of IKEA of Sweden and now as CEO of Inter IKEA Group. I have very much appreciated his leadership, commitment to the IKEA values, common sense approach to things, openness and vision about what is right for IKEA. I am sure we will find ways to continue our cooperation in one way or another in the future.” “I am very happy that Jon has accepted the position as CEO of Inter IKEA Group. Jon brings with him a leadership solidly grounded in our IKEA values, a broad IKEA experience, a commitment to our long-term direction, a healthy sense of urgency and a strong strategic ability that I am confident will greatly contribute to IKEA’s continued journey to create a better everyday life for the many people”, says Anders.
  Inter IKEA Group                                                                                                                                                       11 February 2020Delft, The Netherla PRESS RELEASE