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fe at u re The entrepreneur

Many [Nordic entrepreneurs] still focus on Silicon Valley and for them, China is a backward country with environmental pollution.”

Marie Claire Maxwell took a 10-week internship in Beijing, and ended up staying in Asia for 10 years. Back in Sweden since 2009, she is now encouraging Nordic entrepreneurs to go to Asia, where much of the action is. Text: Jan Hökerberg, PHOTO: Jacob Lovén

Putting Asia on top of the agenda M

arie Claire Maxwell has always been a passionate community builder, from when she was a young environmental activist, through her 10 years in Asia, when she engaged in human rights and children’s rights, to social activities when she returned to Sweden. Today, her main focus is to help startups and tech companies in Nordic countries to connect with counterparts in Asia. She has co-founded Chinapreneurs, which is a platform to connect the Swedish and Chinese entrepreneur communities. She is also a board member of the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce in Sweden. Together with Cloudberry Communications, where she is a full-time employee, she has supported and initiated several startup ventures around Asia with companies and missions from Scandinavia. Maxwell was born in 1977 in Djursholm, a suburb north of Stockholm, and comes from an entrepreneurial family. At the age of seven, her family moved to the historical town of Sigtuna, where she later attended upper secondary school at Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Läroverket (SSHL), a private school with many students that have lived abroad. “The school has a great international network. For example, I got to know Helena Storm [Sweden’s current consul-general in Hong Kong] there,” she says. After graduating, she enrolled in a newly launched education platform in new media and information technology, which included a 10-week internship at Ericsson’s marketing and communications department in Beijing. “I was only 21 years old but Ericsson gave me a lot of responsibilities, such as arranging participation in a big trade fair in Guangzhou. 20 DRAGONNEWS • NO.02/2017

Those 10 weeks, which included drinking snake blood together with my colleagues, convinced me that I wanted to stay in Asia – which I also did for the next 10 years,” she says.

Marie Claire Maxwell is helping startups and tech companies in Nordic countries to connect with counterparts in Asia.

called Prampushers, which became a bestseller and made the Top 3 charts in Hong Kong book stores.

At that time, she married Jon Maxwell, an assistant professor at the University of Hong This was in 1998 – the dot-com era. Together with friends, Maxwell had plans to Kong, and they had two sons Samuel (11 start China’s first music website and was also years old today) and Theo (nine). A third involved in Beijing Scene, the first Englishson, Douglas (seven), was on his way when language entertainment magazine in China, tragedy struck the family. At a 2009 Chinese which lived a short life until it was, for New Year dads-and-kids football match Jon some unknown reason, shut down by the suddenly collapsed and died due to heart government. failure and a rare disease. New opportunities emerged and Maxwell “It was a very tough time and shortly moved to Hong Kong, where she and a friend, after that I had to take the difficult decision backed by some Swedish investors, to move back to Sweden with the founded a web agency called sons,” she says. Localize. She was also active in the “Inititially, in Sweden it was Swedish Chamber of Commerce in mainly about ‘survival’, but I have Hong Kong. always tried to be an optimistic The number “This was around the person. Somehow we managed to of years Marie millennium shift and a very exciting get through this difficult period Claire Maxwell time, even if I was one of the few thanks to the love and energy lived in Beijing Swedish young professionals in we’ve always had in our family. I’ve and Hong Kong. Hong Kong at that time. Most always tried to find ways to stay people in the Swedish community optimistic, and slowly we learned were expatriates sent out by big companies to live with our loss but naturally this will be together with their families,” she recalls. something we have to deal with all our lives,” When the dot-com bubble burst, she and she says. her partner decided to close down the agency’s “Our amazing friends in Hong Kong business, and Maxwell brought her clients, arranged a charity event that not only gave us such as Metro, Finnair and Invest in Sweden, financial support but also showed the power of to an advertising agency called Wybo, which love, not only from your immediate family.” later merged with another Swedish agency One thing that helped her was to become called Sandberg Trygg. active in a non-profit association called After some time, Maxwell left the agency Randiga Huset (The Striped House) that gives to get a degree from the Swedish Defence quality support to children and families when College, start a family and nurture a related a loved one has passed away. business idea. She founded a company and Her way of handling the sorrow after co-wrote a parenting guide for Hong Kong her husband passed away, as well as the life


Marie Claire Maxwell about ...

of being a single Mum with three boys, earned her a nomination for an award as Mother Hero of the Year by the Swedish magazine Mama. “In my work life I’ve always managed on my own, which helped me to overcome the situation at that time. Thankfully, I am fairly good at networking, developing new ideas and finding the right people to work with,” Maxwell says. For a number of years, she has been associated with the Swedish PR agency Cloudberry Communications, where she has been employee since last December, working as a senior consultant with business development focusing on tech and startups in Asia. She has also co-founded Chinapreneurs, a Swedish business network connecting people interested in entrepreneurship, tech and startups in China, with the aim of helping them find their way into the Chinese market. Clients and customer projects take her to Hong Kong and beyond in Asia quite frequently. In March 2016, she initiated Makerresan (The Maker Delegation), with a focus on Internet of Things (IoT) and hardware, for Swedish startups to visit Shenzhen and

Hong Kong and network with the ecosystem of producers, entrepreneurs and consumers in Asia. “Now that my children are older, it’s easier to go on trips like this and leave them at home with family or friends,” says Maxwell. In March this year, she initiated a Nordic VR Tour to Asia, a joint Nordic initiative to inspire and strengthen Nordic virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) ecosystems by establishing connections with like-minded people in China, Hong Kong and South Korea. “I’ve discovered that there’s a great need to share insights and entrepreneurial stories from Asia to put the region higher on the agenda for Nordic entrepreneurs. Many still focus on Silicon Valley and for them, China is a backward country with environmental pollution,” Maxwell says, adding that they are missing out on the innovative spirit of today’s Asia. At this moment, Maxwell is lobbying Nordic countries’ decision-makers to establish a Nordic Innovation House – or something similar – in Asia. There is one already in Silicon Valley, which has served as a soft landing platform for many Nordic startups in the US. “It would be a dream to see something like this happening in Asia as well. There may not be an only one, there could be several

... Hong Kong today compared to when she lived there 1999-2009: “Hong Kong is still one of the most exciting cities in the world. Whether they’ve gone through SARS or political turmoil they always have had an internal power and energy for renewal of the city.” ... how foreign companies can enter the China market today: “There is a new wave of companies coming in today. Before, they may have had to set up 200 physical stores, but now one single store on Tmall could be enough. This opens up for a large number of companies that previously had no chance to reach the Chinese market.” ... the venture capital (VC) market in China: “There is an enormous amount of VC capital available in China, but sometimes the investors are not sustainable and lack the mentorship that they have in the Nordic countries.”

hubs or jointly with existing accelerators and programmes. Hong Kong has a strength within IoT and hardware, Singapore is more into fintech, South Korea, Tokyo and Shenzhen know gaming, Shanghai is strong in e-commerce, and so on,” she says. b DRAGONNEWS • NO.02/2017 21

Dragon News - No.2, 2017  

Dragon News is a member magazine, published by the Editorial Committees of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and the Swedish Cham...

Dragon News - No.2, 2017  

Dragon News is a member magazine, published by the Editorial Committees of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and the Swedish Cham...