Q&A with Patrick Mesterton, CEO and Co-Founder of Epicenter

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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