Earlier this year, Catrin Anckarman stepped into the new position as CEO at one of the most active SACC organizations in the US, the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce — San Francisco.
Swedes in the States founder, Natalie Söderberg, sat down with her to discuss the Nordic eco-system in San Francisco, which direction the Chamber is heading under her leadership and how they can best support Swedish citizens living in the San Francisco/Bay area.
Tell us more about the SACC organization in San Francisco. What are the main focuses and goals of this chapter?
SACC SF has been a leading facilitator for trade and knowledge exchange in the Bay Area for 70 years. We are a non-profit, non-governmental, 100% independent, business-focused organization, by professionals for professionals.
Our main focuses are connecting Sweden with San Francisco and the Bay Area and
strengthening the Swedish American business community in their settlement and development in the Bay Area.
We achieve this by creating professional and social events, we offer business services and we help promote our partners and professionals. Each year we offer internships for Swedish students who want to experience the American Business culture and grow their network in this fast-paced environment.
How has the organization changed since you stepped up as the new CEO a few months ago?
I have increased collaboration with other Swedish organizations and as a result, we have upcoming events such as Women in Tech where Sweden’s Ambassador, Karin Olofsdotter will attend as the opening speaker.
In October, we are launching a new speaker series, Learning From Leaders. Former U.S Ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji will share some of her thoughts on the current and future path for Swedish-American business relations. With elections in Sweden and here, it will no doubt be an interesting evening.
We will launch a new concept where we will invite our members to smaller and more tailored networking events. Events are the engine of San Francisco and the Bay Area, there is a lot to choose from. We want to offer smaller networking opportunities and gather professionals with common interests or experiences.
San Francisco and Silicon Valley are two important places for Nordic entrepreneurs. For many, it’s the ultimate city to expand to when moving into the U.S. market. What type of support can the SACC organization offer these entrepreneurs and startups?
Our member network includes many different types of industries whom all have a vast experience of doing business here.
We can quickly connect them to the business network and the local services and contacts they need. Knowledge sharing and a network are fundamental. In addition, we help promote them through our channels and customized events.
We also offer conference space and virtual office here in San Francisco needed by companies before making the decision to move.
What is your previous experience of working in Silicon Valley and San Francisco?
Everywhere I went I would see people constantly searching their bags for their phones, I decided I had to solve this problem. I started my mission to design a handbag that would store my iPhone and let me use the screen without removing the iPhone from the bag. I started from scratch learning all there was to know about manufacturing and design. I created prototypes here and in China and learned very quickly learned 3 things – Don’t do things on your own, move quickly and ask for help!
At the same time, I had many requests from my network regarding business connections and it felt like a natural step to create a business with a focus on creating customized executive business trips for Board of Directors. Together with a fellow Swede, we started Locglo. And very soon collaborated with companies such as Bonnier, Beiersdorf and Sweco. At the same time, some friends needed help with their startup and I went to work for a Swedish startup called Iperial, now called Idenfendo.com.
Tell us more about the monthly events that SACC SF hosts.
Apart from our Executive business events we also provide the Swedish – American Community with events such as European Startup pitch nights, a Swedish Heritage Night with the San Jose Sharks hockey team and our Annual Christmas Event. The Christmas Event is appreciated by many, it’s a chance to catch up with friends, enjoy some traditional Swedish food and invite colleagues to a taste of Swedish culture
What advice would you give to anyone looking to move or expand a business into San Francisco?
Do your research! Things move faster here and you have to be ready for that. Plan several visits to extend your network and really understand the unique business culture. Business is more transactional here and people change jobs and places more often than in Sweden.
Are there any young companies in the Valley that we should keep an eye on?
We have many promising companies here along with promising people within Swedish and US companies. Out of obvious reasons we tend to focus on tech when we talk about the Valley but we also have successes within industries such as the wine industry, restaurants, VCs, startups, to our corporates such as Ericsson.
We see an increased focus on in autonomous transportation, FinTech along with the focus on collaboration between academia and corporates. Some interesting companies that have a presence here are Coala Life, Idefendo.com, Synch Law, Jayway and Combain.