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Random meetings can lead to great ideas. (The photo session was not a random meeting, though). Photo: Magnus Glans
Random meetings can lead to great ideas. (The photo session was not a random meeting, though). Photo: Magnus Glans

A co-living space for global entrepreneurs

Scandinavia has been a start-up hotbed in recent years. In Sweden,the place to be and grow is Hus 24, a co-living space for entrepreneurs.

Until recently, Hus 24 had a houseplant that notified its Twitter followers about its moisture levels. However, Shea Wilson, who set up the system, learned that there’s a limit to how much people care about this.

“I was going through a debugging phase, and wanted to graph the plant’s moisture content so I had the plant tweeting every five minutes, 24 hours a day, for two weeks,” he says. “I basically ended up spamming all of its followers and lost almost all of them.”

"This is one of the most passionate groups of people I've ever been around," says Shea Wilson. Photo: Magnus GlansThat was an experiment in the Internet of Things, which Wilson continued on another subject: a door. The computer that was running the plant’s social media campaign now acts as a web server for Hus 24’s front door, which the residents can unlock using a custom-made web app.

Hobby projects like this aside, the main goal of Hus 24 (hus is Swedish for “house”) is to create an inspirational start-up atmosphere and a network of like­minded people. Several companies that started at Hus 24 have already moved on once they began to hire more employees. Currently, the five-story building in Stockholm’s beautiful Old Town is home to 12 people.

Lisa Renander, one of the co­founders of the project, has had a passion for entrepreneurship since her late teens. As part of a school program called Young Achievers, she and a friend developed an idea to create an art exhibition on the streets of Sundsvall, her hometown. After graduating, they formed a company to make their exhibition a reality.

“It’s still running 15 years later in a few cities in Sweden,” she says. “That was my first interaction with entrepreneurship, when I understood how powerful it was to develop an idea and reach your goal.”

Renander’s next company, Go Enterprise, developed an educational tool to encourage schoolkids to become entrepreneurs and problem solvers. That led her to Stanford University, where she mentored students in technology entrepreneurship for a few months while co-living at Blackbox Mansion.

“The house, full of entrepreneurs, was exactly like in The Social Network movie,” she says. “There were a bunch of entrepreneurs walking around in a big house, brainstorming, running their own projects, and also sharing inspiration and contacts. That was like coming home.”

In California, Renander met Rob Meadows, now the CEO of Originate, a US-based company that builds and invests in software products. He and Renander founded Hus 24 in January 2012.

“I didn’t know if there were enough people in Sweden interested in this concept, and having Rob was important, because he was able to pay the rent the first few months, no matter what,” Renander says. “But we actually filled up the house from day one.”

The first residents were Swedes who had been living at Blackbox, but news of the house spread quickly. Today, the residents of Hus 24 are in their mid-20s and 30s and come from both Sweden and abroad.Located at a cobblestone street, Hus 24's building squeezes five floors into a compact space. Photo: Magnus Glans

Located on a cobblestone street, Hus 24’s building squeezes five floors into a compact space. People new to Hus 24 live in the largest room, where six people sleep in three bunk beds. The newest people start on the top bunk, then as others leave they move to the bottom bunk, then to the smaller rooms on the upper floors, which are shared by two people each. In the middle of the house there’s a shared kitchen and living room with several desks. On the windowsill is Shea Wilson’s infamous tweeting plant.

Originally from San Diego, Wilson moved into Hus 24 about a year ago. He works as a consultant for Scania, the truck and bus maker, and also runs his own software company that helps engineers set up physical tests for vehicles.

“Engineering is really a problem­solving mindset,” he says. “Even though I am the only formally trained mechanical engineer in the house, I think a lot of us here have that problem-solving mentality.

“There are a lot of people I can collaborate with and do cool stuff with. This is one of the most passionate groups of people I’ve ever been around. I think this house is a great platform for trying things.”

Another house resident is Jonatan Dahl from the northern suburbs of Stockholm. He works full time at Spotify as a web developer, creating internal tools to help other engineers at the company be more productive.

After completing his master’s thesis, Dahl had to leave his student apartment, so he moved directly into Hus 24 and got a spot in the shared room, which he says works well.

“What I like most about this place is that there are always people sitting in the living room working and doing things, and all of a sudden you start sharing ideas about some topic, like the future of artificial intelligence,” he says. “We have the engineers but we also have an actress. It’s a good mix.”

Fun is the word Ana Arab from Spain uses to describe the house. She moved to Sweden a few months ago to look after a family business and start her own security ­company.

“I love it,” she says. “This group reminds of the friends in the movie The Goonies. The atmosphere is amazing.

We have a sauna, and people are having fun, and they’re doing experiments in the living room.”

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One of the experiments that hasn’t worked out so well, though, is getting good WiFi coverage in the house. “The engineers here do a lot of experiments with the WiFi,” she says. “We have a plant that had a Twitter account, and I’m like, ‘Brilliant, now I need WiFi. I need to talk to my mom.’”

For Arab and others in the house, Hus 24 seems to be just as much about a sense of community as it is about sharing ideas and inspiration.

“I could have chosen to live in an apartment alone, or stay here with ­awesome people who helped me start my company,” she says. “People spend a lot of time looking for the right apartment, but they don’t think about finding the right neighbors.”


Text: Chad Henderson

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