Looking Abroad in Tech: The Inside Scoop on Norway’s Startup Scene
I’ve just returned from Oslo, where I attended Oslo Innovation Week. My post from last week featured top sites, good eats, and local tips when visiting Norway’s capital city (you can read it again here). At the conference I had the chance to speak with some incredible Norwegian-based entrepreneurs, investors, and creatives, and was able to learn more about some of the companies and resources available to Norway’s tech community. I’m involved with the tech and startup scene in New York, and it was refreshing to see that there’s a vibrant and growing startup community in Oslo. You can find amazing talent and great ideas around the world. Look out Silicon Valley!
Although Norway only has a population of just over 5 million people, their government takes good care to support what they like to call “innovation.” To them, it’s an important part of establishing themselves within not only the European startup business community but throughout the rest of the world. Innovation Norway is the government’s most important entity for helping small businesses excel, providing marketing, networking, and financial support. An important component to Innovation Norway is their presence abroad, as they support Norwegian founded businesses internationally. They are represented in 30 countries worldwide, including those in Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Oslo is a pretty small city, but it’s looking to make a big impact. There aren’t as many startup co-working spaces in Oslo as there are in San Francisco or New York. However, these spaces also acting as incubators, accelerators, networking hubs and tech education centers, provide entrepreneurs not just a place to work but also truly looks to help them succeed in the larger European tech community.
Below are four co-working spaces that are shaping the next generation of Norway’s movers and shakers in tech.
StartupLab hosted a few social networking events during Oslo Innovation Week. I enjoyed touring the lab, which is fittingly located within a University campus. StartupLab houses 60 startups and over 120 entrepreneurs. Two of the Lab’s resident startups are BubblMee and FilmGrail. BubblMee is a self-service mini shop, and they hope to merge the benefits of a physical retail shopping experience with the independence of ecommerce. FilmGrail is an app that aggregates movies from all available online platforms such as Netflix and iTunes, provides in-house ratings and recommendations, and points you to the platform where you can watch that particular film. Both companies are only functioning in Norway, however they hope to expand to Northern Europe in the near future.
Mesh focuses on events and providing internal legal, marketing, and business development support to its members. They have over 200 individuals and about 80 companies on their roster, including a crowd funding platform called FundedbyMe. Active in 11 countries in Europe and Asia, it’s most definitely a growing company to watch out for! Created in Sweden but with an office at Mesh in Oslo, FundedByMe is one of the first crowd funding platforms to offer not only reward-based, but also equity and loan based funding.
Oslo International Hub
Oslo International Hub’s 75 members can participate in a rich variety of daily programs and events. Some of the programs include access to an advisory team, a senior mentor, young and bright interns from abroad, and even to Norwegian students studying abroad that can help you grow a company in another city. The Hub’s startups come from a much wider range of industries, and include a company that allows you to control greenhouses remotely, a career development network for women, and a site and app that teaches you how to pickup members of the opposite sex.
Norway has a growing music and tech startup scene. MashUp Norway is a hub that provides free office space and resources for music and tech companies that win their MashUp competition. Some former winners and members of MashUp are feat.fm a social platform that gives you live, interactive concerts and Museai, a recording app that makes the songwriting process easier for musicians.
And finally, to seal the deal in Norwegian tech: The annual Norwegian Investment Forum occurred this year in partnership with Oslo Innovation Week. It’s a premier event in Norway, gathering a group of leading international and local investors. Thirty startups pitched their businesses to investors. Speakers included serial entrepreneur Jonas Kjellberg from Skype, American-Israeli journalist and author Saul Singer, who co-authored Start-up Nation, and Allan Young, founder of Runway, one of San Francisco’s largest incubators. The host of the forum was Anne Worsøe, founder Innovation House in Palo Alto and founder of the TINC program for Norwegian tech startups. Clearly Norway is looking to make some noise in the tech scene, and this year looks like they took some great strides to gather international tech leaders and influencers.