People-spotting here is so modern that it wouldn’t be that weird to see a couple of pregnant men walking around talking to mothers, driverless cars parking themselves or air-bicycles being softly pedalled by children on the way back from school.
What would be weird, however, is a man without a checked shirt or beard. If London’s Shoreditch has beards, then Sweden’s Gothenburg owns beards. Bearded Londoners look like Beau Brummell, bearded Swedes look like Grizzly Adams.
This is Sweden’s second biggest city and it’s quietly cool. Surrounded by an archipelago of islands, defined by cafe culture and hipster bars, Gothenburg understandably attracts creative people and companies, those who know that small cities like this are the future of developed humanity, where businesses as well as families will prosper.
One such company based in the centre of the city used to be called Free Lunch Design and is now part of The Palringo Group, a messaging app that focuses on group-forming, games, chat and communities. The company now has more than 28 million global users and more than 350,000 special interest groups.
Magnus Alm was the CEO of Free Lunch Design, but now heads marketing for Palringo and when I enter his office, I am asked to take off my shoes, my Birkenstocks fitting in rather neatly with the array of discarded footwear by the door. Immediately, it’s clear this is a games company. Avatars of staff members adorn the walls, and Alm himself is wearing a red fez; it’s going to be an interesting couple of hours.
Free Lunch Design were a very successful company before the acquisition by Palringo in the Spring of 2014. The company had already worked with mega brands Disney, Paramount and Marvel, as well as having almost a million Likes on Facebook. To this day, the company is still one of Sweden’s biggest Facebook developers.
But that is past, now Alm is looking forward to a interesting future with Palringo and creating the new force in gaming, that of community. He has a good platform to work with. Palringo has more than 28 million users, of which there are 350,000 interest groups, some of which have two thousand members.
The idea is to meld chat-based applications with games, be they downloaded and fitted with a Palringo button to join these communities or by adding a games-based layer to the messaging technology itself.
“Game publishers can reap benefits by becoming platform owners such as messaging apps, social networks and communities…or platform owners becoming game publishers. Loyal users being presented by relevant and appealing content within an environment they feel comfortable can be a method to strike gold in the app stores,” says Alm.
As I stroll around (bare-footed) around Alm’s offices, the feeling is one of placidity and calm, games being organically created in a quiet and intelligent atmosphere. Here, we are a universe away from other entertainment companies where business is conducted in a frenetic fashion.
Palringo also seem to be hiring wisely and ramping up its marketing budget to bring community managers from outside the games and mobile industry, underscoring how important the curation of Palringo’s burgeoning communities is to the company.
As I bid farewell to the Palringo guys and put back on my shoes, there is a sense that while this company may not be manically shouting above their weight and promising the world, there is a calm, yes, Swedish, assurance here that suggests the future… although probably not the imagined pregnant fathers I mentioned earlier.