Two and a half weeks in Sweden has changed some of my perceptions on business policy as well as national social policy, and has also squashed some of my previous perceptions on entrepreneurship internationally.
1. Entrepreneurs are the same everywhere. The motivations that drive entrepreneurs are more or less the same. They may be taking advantage of an opportunity for change, following their passions, or both. Some businesses come out of necessity, some come out of passion. While the business structure may look different from country to country due to how the government enforces policy, the entrepreneur is typically a driven individual. I say typically, because the entrepreneurs who are not driven are the ones who are failing.
2. How do these entrepreneurs start their businesses? From the entrepreneurs that I have spoke to, they either wanted to be an entrepreneur and created their business to fill that desire, or they followed their passions and registered an official business as a way to be fair to the government and pay their bills. Whether people want to be "entrepreneurs" or not, once they register with the government, they get the role and both passionistas and business-minded people want to succeed. In Sweden, they register with the government and get accountants to manage their books, just like in the United States. This leads us to the next question...
3. How do entrepreneurs get assistance from the government? Entrepreneurs can get help from the unemployment agency for labor assistance and subsidization in early days of starting a business, but a great way for entrepreneurs to be supported is to seek support. The government will give businesses advice and point them in the right direction if the entrepreneur asks. Naturally, if an entrepreneur is looking for the best ways to pay their taxes, the recipient of those taxes is going to try an make it as easy as possible to get paid. Not all people look for assistance, but those who do get similar treatment that American businesses would get if they were looking towards community small business associations.
I thought entrepreneurship in Sweden would be radically different due to the more liberal government, but it isn't. Sure, the taxes are high, but the nation is beginning to think more about "entrepreneurship" and there is more resources than ever for aspiring entrepreneurs. The work ethic is similar to the USA, and the pressure to start small businesses is not exactly the same, but the need in Sweden to start businesses is strong (at least for young people). Education levels are high, diversity is surprisingly high (I thought it would just be a bunch of Blonde Girls, but I was sadly mistaken), and spread of ideas is rapid. This country may be super liberal, but It was not the "socialist/communist" country that I had came here expecting to see. I wish America had the same social policies as Sweden (guns are banned, army is used for defense only, universal healthcare, completely govt' sponsored schooling, higher taxes on the rich). While I have been here in the USA, I have been reading American articles about the USA and America seems more frustratingly corrupt than even... But the thing I love the most about America is our huge entrepreneur communities, and the desire to grow and build and learn and spread ideas.
I have learned a lot about Sweden, but I think my biggest revelation is that Sweden culture is just like Minnesota... with more tubes of paste and bread and cheese. Swedish business functions a lot like an American business would run, but the people who own the businesses don't get as insanely rich as they do in the United States. There's money and opportunity in Sweden, but its enough to be comfortable. Its certainly not like the excessive lifestyles in the USA.
Hej då Sweden, I've had a great time here! Back to the USA in the morning.