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How a Swedish family business/investment icon invests

Cristina Stenbeck has been rewarded for her 2021 decision to back Swedish green energy company Northvolt by news that it produced its first battery cell at the end of the year. 

Stenbeck – granddaughter of Hugo Stenbeck, pre-war co-founder of investment group Kinnevik – contributed to a $2.75 billion fundraising in June 2021.

Daniel Ek, the co-founder and CEO of music streaming platform Spotify is also an investor. Stenbeck sits on the board of directors at Spotify, a position she has held since 2017. She uses several investment offices, including Luxembourg-based Camshaft. She was co-owner of Verdere with her late brother Max Stenbeck, who passed away in 2015. Before he died Max also set up a New York City-based venture group – Max Ventures – which also invests Stenbeck money. 

Other Northvolt backers include Baillie Gifford, the Kamprad family’s IMAS Foundation, of Ikea fame, and Norrsken VC.

The race for battery cell dominance in Europe is accelerating. But Northvolt, with a notional value of $12 billion, is already seen as capable of mounting a challenge in Europe to Elon Musk. 

Why so?  It so happens Peter Carlsson, co-founder and CEO of Northvolt, was chief purchasing officer at Tesla before establishing Northvolt in 2017. 

He has gone on to place the company at the vanguard of Europe’s green revolution. Its giga-factory in Skelleftea, better known for mining gold, aims to generate 60 GWh annually. 

For Stenbeck, the Northvolt deal is a step away from consumer tech deals she masterminded as chairwoman of Kinnevik between 2007 and 2016. 

She stepped down from the board of directors in 2019 to focus more on personal investment opportunities but remains Kinnevik’s lead shareholder. 

During her tenure, she pushed Kinnevik into younger, tech-driven companies such as online fashion platform, Zalando, which it has backed since 2010, remaining its largest shareholder. 

Stenbeck has invested in a range of companies over the last few years, from sneaker retailers to legal tech companies. Back in 2019, Camshaft invested €1.69 million in Caliroots with venture capital manager, Verdane. The position was sold in October 2020. 

On the green theme, Stenbeck has backed Vay that has ambitions to become Europe’s driverless mobility service operator. Stenbeck was one of a number of investors, including VC firms Atomico, Creandum and Berlin-based Visionaries Club, to support Vay in its $30 million Series A funding round in September 2021 and in its more recent $95 million Series B round last month. Vay hopes the money will allow it to introduce its first tele-driver fleet in Hamburg later this year.

Stenbeck has also invested in H2 Green Steel, which raised $105 million in Series A funding last May. Other leading Swedish investors included the Wallenberg family, Spotify’s Daniel Ek, illustrating the extent of overlapping investment interests among Sweden’s family business/investment dynasties.  

H2 Green Steel plans on using disruptive technology to eliminate carbon emissions from the steel production process. In addition to its plant facility in Boden, the firm has entered into a €2.3 billion joint venture with Spanish renewable energy company Iberdrola, announced last December. 

Stenbeck’s interest in legal tech is illustrated by Swedish firm, PocketLaw. The firm was founded in 2019 by Kira Unger and Olga Beck-Friis as part of the MSA Innovation Lab, a legal tech incubator set up by Swedish law firm, Mannheimer Swartling. 

Stenbeck has invested alongside Susanna Campbell (a director at Kinnevik), Johan Andersson (CEO of Mellby Gård, a family-owned holding group owned by the Andersson family) and more recently, Christoffer Norman, the former operations chief of e-commerce marketplace, Avito. The firm announced its most recent fundraising in August, to expand its market footprint and grow its client base.

With the energy revolution likely to accelerate in the coming years, Sweden’s family investment community are likely to continue to lend their support to home-grown firms like Northvolt. 

But Stenbeck’s interests are not purely local. She is also the chairwoman of a philanthropic organization – the “Reach for Change” foundation that seeks to promote entrepreneurship in Africa, across Scandinavia, Russia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States in Europe and Asia.

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