My Swedish Career: ‘Food is a very strong vehicle for connecting people’

My Swedish Career: 'Food is a very strong vehicle for connecting people'
"The food industry is huge, and we still have so few people working on food innovation and tech," says Federico Ronca. Photo: Private
When Italian Federico Ronca moved to Stockholm, he seized the opportunity to change his career path to focus on making a positive social and environmental impact. In both his role at Sweden Foodtech and through his side-business Aperitivo Stockholm, he connects people and businesses through food.

After working at a startup incubator for Telecom Italia, Federico moved to Sweden with his girlfriend when she was offered a job in Stockholm.

“My first impression of Sweden was positive, people were very welcoming,” he recalls. “I started going to all the possible meetups related to startups and innovation, join events, try to meet people and create a network.

“Coming from Italy I was a bit scared. Because if you move to Italy without speaking Italian it will be quite tough to integrate. What was super important to me [in Stockholm] was that by just speaking English you get the opportunity to integrate. At the events, everything is with an international approach.”

But while the wide use of English in Sweden was an advantage in some ways, he also saw it as a disadvantage for integration into Swedish society. 

“For a few months I tried to learn the Swedish language, but then I dropped it because I decided to focus on other priorities,” he tells The Local.

“I can still survive here and feel integrated. But I've been here for three years, and I start to feel a bit bad and impolite not being able to speak Swedish. I know that there are some opportunities that I miss because I can't speak Swedish. I think if you want to go deeper and also learn more about the society and get closer to some Swedish people you need to know the language.”

After moving to Sweden, he faced the challenge of building a network from scratch, and decided to use the opportunity to take his career in a new direction.


Photo: Private

In Italy he had studied political science before working for an organization promoting social entrepreneurship and social impact.

“What we were doing was recruiting good ideas in order to create an impact on the Italian system from a business and political point of view, with the final goal of presenting a report with these ideas to the Italian government,” he says. “That gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of entrepreneurs and get in touch with the startup world. Trying to learn something about new solutions excited me a lot.”

But he adds: “I was getting bored with working with digital startups in general. Moving to Stockholm gave me the opportunity to look for a job that would connect me with something more social and sustainable.”

After connecting with Sweden Foodtech, an accelerator for companies driving innovation in the food industry, he first took a volunteer job at an event, which later turned into a consultant role. 

“This organization is changing the food system, connecting innovative businesses to make a positive political and environmental impact. The food industry is huge, and we still have so few people working on food innovation and tech,” Federico notes.

The most important lesson Federico has learned from working in tech in Sweden is the focus on sustainability. 

“When you work with startups and scale-ups you always focus on how to grow the business faster and how to make more money,” he says.

“In Stockholm, even in the tech world, there is a focus on how to grow in a sustainable way. Friendly for the environment, but also sustainable in terms of work and life balance and impact on the society. I think that's very interesting.”

But as for what Swedes could learn from Italians, he believes they could benefit from some Mediterranean spontaneity. 

“In Sweden everything is planned and structured. Even with friends, everything should be planned in advance,” he notes.

“That is one of the reasons why I started my side-project. It is named Aperitivo Stockholm, an afterwork event in Italian style. It is something that you don't need to plan. Together with some other Italian friends, we are bringing the Italian aperitivo vibes to Sweden.”

Every two weeks the event is organized in a different venue with different Italian products.

“Our idea was to not only focus on the food, but as well on the social aspect. Using the food as an excuse of integration, meeting people and socialize. The main purpose was to create a community of people sharing the same values around good food, drinks and friends. Food is a very strong vehicle to connect people,” he says.


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