Charlotte Danielsson, chairwoman of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco/Silicon Valley, takes pride in the “Småland work ethic” that she inherited from her parents. It is likewise from this familial bequest that she learned: “If there is a seemingly insurmountable problem, you can mold a solution by utilizing a combination of persistence, hard work and a willingness to look outside the box.”
In her first six months as chairwoman, Danielsson increased the chamber’s membership by a remarkable 100 percent. With SACC events now routinely filled to capacity and with the level of domestic and international business partnerships sharply augmented, networking opportunities for SACC members have never been better. And by revamping the SACC/SF-SV website, social media and communication processes, Danielsson feels the chamber can now more effectively facilitate business ventures.
Looking back on the Chamber’s busy year of change, Danielsson observes: “Assuming the leadership of an organization with such a long and rich history; I knew I wanted to make available to SACC-SF/SV members a diverse schedule of events that continue to not only build on the chamber’s proud tradition but also break new ground to reflect the fast changing and dynamic atmosphere which is the Bay Area today.”
During this past year, the chamber has rolled out three new SACC event series: Executive Insights, Global Questions/Local Answers and SofaTalks. The events are designed to capture the uniqueness of the Bay Area — with a Swedish twist. The Swedish-American Danielsson explained:
“There is a strong synergy between highly educated and innovative Swedish professionals and the entrepreneurial atmosphere of the Bay Area. At SACC, we want to harness the Swedish innovative spirit and foster the growth and success of ventures by connecting emerging ideas and people. This is the motivation behind all our events: We want to be a conduit of culture, a facilitator of trade relationships, a transmitter of business acumen and a conveyer of good will in order to promote business and culture.”
Throughout the year, the chamber has likewise organized a number of events with pioneering Swedish companies, such as Wrapp and Sticky, and hosted a venture lab, in which eight startups (from Chalmer’s University of Technology Program “Born Global”) pitched very promising ideas to a prominent venture capitalist panel. “In a world where markets change at warp speed, knowledge is critical to competitive advantage,” said Danielsson. “Our startup events provide forums for learning about pivotal business issues; we try to showcase the latest entrepreneurial trends and include information on how to best go about growing ventures amidst ongoing market shifts.”
In an increasingly interconnected world, the chamber works hard to expand global collaborations while increasing the international connections available to SACC-SF/SV members. This year the chamber helped to spearhead the formation of the Association of American European Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations (AAECCBA), an organization tasked to enhance collaboration among European organizations, companies and professionals in the Bay Area. Speaking at the California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) conference in May, Danielsson highlighted the longstanding commercial connections between the U.S. and Europe and outlined the key role played by European chambers in increasing foreign direct investment in California. The topic resonated with the international audience as negotiations continue between the EU and the U.S. concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
While the chamber is primarily a facilitator for business connections, it remains cognizant of the importance of cultural, familial and friendly connections. “The best business gets done between people who enjoy each other’s company and share common bonds,” said Danielsson. “To this end, we are very proud of our long heritage of sponsoring a truly unique program of cherished cultural events throughout the year, from the annual Christmas Luncheon to the Midsummer Picnic and August’s Crayfish Party.”
“These events offer the Swedish community and everyone ‘Swedish at heart’ a way of celebrating and nurturing Swedish roots when far from home, and they bring us together in our increasingly diverse Swedish identities. The celebration of our cultural heritage is valuable in and of itself, but it can have far reaching effects: The bonds of trust and friendship formed can only lead to a greater mutual appreciation of the importance of building bridges across the Atlantic and throughout the world.”