It’s our third day in Vasteras. I’ll be honest, being a city guy, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about spending 4 days in a small town (most people haven’t heard of) about an hour outside of Stockholm. But I have been pleasantly surprised. On paper, Vasteras appears to be just like any cold, dull industrial town. However, not only is it an economically significant town it is also ‘aesthetically pleasing’ in a very subtle way. There is a charmingly small river that runs through it and connects to a series of lakes. Once you get outside of the main town, the green landscape is very refreshing. I just returned to the hotel from a 3-hour bicycle ride with some of the guys in which we traversed a good portion of the town and beyond.
During our initial tour of Vasteras, the guide didn’t hesitate to point out to us an interesting concept for a hotel. The Woodpecker Hotel (pictured below) comes fully equipped with its own tree (obviously), elevated living space and a bucket tied to a rope in order to transfer goods and other (un) necessary objects up and down the tree. All this comes at a nightly rate of only SEK 1500 or roughly $240, Fair deal? Don’t answer that. The guide forgot to raise the issue of heeding nature’s calls once a resident is comfortably ensconced in his or her hotel room for the night. I suppose it is ideas like this that form the bedrock of Swedish innovation.
One morning we went to the Vasteras Science Park. The idea behind this place is to enable brilliant innovators to meet and network with venture capitalists looking for the next big thing. For me this was somewhat reminiscent of the Plug and Play Center near San Francisco. We met some very interesting entrepreneurs. One of them just happened to be from San Francisco. He has been living in Vasteras for a few years in order to be able to better market his “Giraf” robot to the Swedish and broader European market. This robot is remote-controlled by him via the Internet and moves around freely with a screen bearing his video-projected face. My first thought was: okay I’ve got to hear the story behind this. Apparently, he is marketing the “Giraf” to the municipalities in Europe. The robot is used to allow ‘caregivers’ to give elderly people attention in their homes from a distance rather than leave them alone for extended periods of time. Not only does it add a physical presence, it also serves as a security surveillance camera. The inventor was inspired by wanting to take care of his mother who his in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease.