Friday, September 15, 2000

The Cyber Scene in Stockholm

Let the games begin!

The past week’s events have all been somewhat overshadowed by the battle of the giants just about to commence. No, I am not talking about the Olympic games. Rather, I am referring to the allocation of licenses to operate third generation mobile telephony (3g). However, the word ‘telephony’ is slightly misused in this instance: The matter to be settled by Swedish authorities is which operators will be permitted to provide mobile Internet services on the prestigious Swedish market.

The deadline for application for the sought-after licenses was last Friday (September 1), 3pm. By then, representatives from the ten candidate consortia – including Swedish incumbents Telia and international competitors Sonera, T-Mobile International (Deutsche Telecom) and Orange - gathered outside the Post & Telecommunications Agency in Stockholm to hand in their paperwork. Some skeptics scorned the technologically adept applicants for not submitting their bids by e-mail. Nevertheless - bearing media attention in mind - the industry opted for party publicity, rather than electronic efficiency.

As always, Swedish Internet access agitator and media magnet Jonas Birgersson (CEO, Bredbandsbolaget) stole the show. He showed up at the gathering in an impeccably shiny 1935 Volvo - wearing his trademark fleece sweater, of course – followed by a WW2 full-sized truck loaded with a box, containing his consortium’s application. Birgersson’s competitors, it seems, are now getting more and more intimidated by his antics. “There ARE other players on the market, you know”, one antagonist sourly commented.

Another hot contender for the coveted ‘IT-guru du jour’ title is Alexander Bard. Mostly known as a pop icon in bands such as Army of Lovers, he is currently focusing his efforts on new media ventures and analyzing the societal implications of Internet. In line with this, he is co-authoring a book about ‘netocracy’: A societal model where Internet proficient ‘netocrats’ will constitute a new ruling class. The focus on The New Sociology, rather than The New Economy has attracted a new set of people to the cyber scene: At the release party on Thursday August 31 the Internet entrepreneurs of Stockholm were coupled with various black-clad social critics, ordinarily moderately interested in Internet issues.

A more traditional blend of people attended the Cypoint launch party: 400 members of the Internet/New media and Venture Capital community turned out to celebrate the merger of WebTeknik, E-Zone and Bobby United into one solid unit. In the process, the partygoers got to see stand-up comedian Fredrik Lindstrom and R&B queen Titiyo perform. The venue was the hangout of choice for many a new media entrepreneur - Grodan Sergel, on the bottom floor of the so-called High-Tech building, home of several Stockholm dotcoms.

Generally, the past week’s Stockholm scene was characterized by a certain friskiness, possibly fueled by recent reports resurrecting the concept of Internet retailing. That same mindset was very much present at the Cypoint party. Thus, when local techno heroes Antiloop stepped to the turntables, the crowd allowed itself to assertively enter the dance floor and what proves to be a promising fall…