Starting your own business – even when you have a good idea – can be daunting. Where do you begin and what kind of support can you expect? To inform aspiring sustainable entrepreneurs, we reached out to past Green Challenge participants, Eben Bayer from the USA and Svante Bengtsson from Sweden, who shared their experiences from different cultural perspectives.


What are the main cultural influences in your country when starting a business?

Eben: In the US, starting a business is viewed as a relatively glamorous endeavour. If you fail, most people will likely congratulate you and ask what you are planning to start next. There is also a downside to this, as we see many people starting businesses that aren’t helping other people or our planet. The US may be great at starting businesses, but we seem to be starting a lot of them for the wrong reasons. Still, the biggest benefit I see to US incorporation is the general societal acceptance of start-up endeavours.

Svante: Sweden, which has depended on large industrial companies for many decades, is going through a transformation. Many of the larger multinational businesses are moving job opportunities outside of Sweden and the government is turning its focus towards entrepreneurs and smaller businesses. A shift is taking place, where the importance of entrepreneurs is growing and the government is beginning to encourage and support entrepreneurs.

Are there any benefits for entrepreneurs in your country?

Eben: Considering most start-ups generate losses for the first few years of operations, tax breaks are not really an option. But there are multiple government programs in the US, which fund and can benefit small businesses that conduct research, including Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR).

Svante: The government offers grants in Sweden and it is a little easier to get a start-up loan, although interest rates are actually higher. There are also some small tax breaks for start-up companies. Although there aren’t any specific mechanisms to support sustainable entrepreneurs, you might find extra help from the energy agency, if you have an energy related sustainable business.


What kind of regulations do entrepreneurs need to consider when starting a company?

Eben: Surprisingly, there are almost no regulations to keep in mind in the US. It costs about $300 to register a limited liability corporation (LLC), and the incorporation documents can be found online for free. Investing another $20 in a book or two gives you everything you need to know to get going.


Svante: Actually there aren’t that many regulations in Sweden for starting a business. The leadership is making it easier for more people to start-up, so I’d say it is a relatively smooth process. It’s definitely easier than it was when Rehact started 10 years ago.


How easy is it to get funding for your start-up? 

Eben: Getting funding in the early days is hard for any venture. There is limited liquidity available to companies and that is mainly distributed to software companies, rather than to sustainable companies that focus on clean water, clean materials, clean energy, etc. Ecovative was fortunate to receive early funding from green business competitions, like the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, and also from investors who truly believe in this disruptive and impactful technology.


Svante: Getting funding is pretty difficult before you have proof of concept, when you can prove that you have a good business model. The exception to this the ICT sector, which gets most of the funding. I think this is a challenge for sustainable entrepreneurs in Sweden - There are many good concepts, but there are too few venture capitalists or business angels. The key is to use your network and keep looking until you find it.


Our quick comparison between Sweden and the USA reveals that sustainable entrepreneurs face similar challenges in both countries. There are very few regulations and there is strong societal support for start-ups, but finding funding can be difficult. That’s why we started the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 9 years ago. Because we want to find and help those entrepreneurs ready to make a difference in this world. You can enter the competition until June 1st!