This week I'm in Oslo to participate in Oslo Innovation Week, a 5 day event with over 60 individual events based around startups, tech and the creative industry. The events are organised by a multitude of event partners and are held at venues across the city of Oslo.
As the event is becoming a staple of the Nordic event year, I thought it would be worthwhile capturing the key moments from the week in this post, which I will update as and when interesting announcements happen.
Disclosure: Oslo Business Region have paid for my flights and accommodation to attend, but there is zero obligation for me to write anything.
Wednesday 14th October 13.00
HIT (Hub for Innovation in Telecom)
Disclosure: I was paid a fee by Norsentio to host the event, although I had no obligation to write anything.
Norsentio are a Norwegian company aiming to facilitate innovation and disruption in the Telecom sector, and in January next year will open up HIT, a Hub for Innovation in Telecom to help them do this.
In order to raise awareness of the project and to inspire people within the Telecom sector, they held an event as part of Oslo Innovation Week that featured a mix of startups and more established companies within the sector.
Having hosted the event, I was able to get a clear picture of both the opportunities and challenges that exist in the sector right now.
Overall, I was left with a bright impression for innovation in the Telecom sector especially as the main word used by the bigger companies over and over again, was partnerships. They were open and keen to partner with startups, and expressed desire to work with rather than against them.
There's a clear example of this being a successful way of doing things for larger Telecoms companies, with TeliaSonera partnering and investing in Spotify, as well as partnering with companies such as Zound Industries and Soundtrack Your Brand.
TeliaSonera spoke at the event, and I took the liberty as host to ask them why they waited 5 years to invest in Spotify after first partnering with them, and they stated that the reason why they invest is not for a financial return, but more as a sign of how strong their commitment to the partnership is, and to strengthen the relationship, giving a good insight into how larger Telecom companies can plug into the tech or startup scene further.
The plan for HIT, is for the hub to take 3 or 4 startups on from January 2016, and with a need proved for the initiative clearly on show at the event, I'll be following the progress with interest.
Tuesday 13th October 17.00
Angel Challenge (Investor workshop)
As we've tracked since the beginning of 2014, investment in Norwegian startups is gradually increasing, with venture capital both domestically and elsewhere in the Nordics beginning to back Norway's startups. However, in terms of maturity, the investment scene is still behind Sweden, Finland and Denmark. A vital part of any investment ecosystem is angel investors, and this is an area where Norway have been severely lacking both in terms of activity and knowledge.
Startup Norway have decided to tackle this problem by setting up Angel Challenge, a competition where one startup, whittled down from 80 will win a 1.25MNOK ($125,000) investment from the 25 angel investors who are participating in the programme (all 25 have invested 50,000NOK each).
Yesterday, I sat in on the investor workshop, which featured talks from Alliance and Northzone, and was designed to educate the angel investors further. Vitally, Angel Challenge is not solely about a startup getting money, it's about educating startups how to become more investable and most importantly it's about educating the angel investors too.
Although Norway needs more people making angel investments, it's startups are better off getting no money rather than stupid money, so this education piece is vital on both sides, and learning angel investing by doing it seems like a great way of learning.
Other cities in Norway have already expressed an interest in holding their own versions of Angel Challenge, so the potential is there for this initiative to transform the Norwegian angel ecosystem.
Monday 12th October 15.00
Gelato Group win the Oslo Innovation Award
Gelato Group, who've applied an intelligent cloud solution to the printing industry have been announced as the winners of the 2015 Oslo Innovation Award. Introduced in 2008, the accolade is awarded by the city of Oslo and Innovation Norway, and rewards companies or individuals who have highlighted the high level of innovation that exists in Oslo.
Gelato Group currently enables delivery materials in 40 countries and reaches 2 billion people over one single print cloud, and in the press release announcing them as the winner, the jury gave the following reasons for their decision to hand them the prize:
“Gelato Group is presented with the Oslo Innovation Award 2015 for the innovative way it has restructured and increased productivity in the distribution of print jobs globally. Through a highly intelligent cloud service and related software, they have disrupted a traditional industry and introduced the printing industry to the sharing economy. The printing industry counts for $800 billion revenue a year - 50 times bigger than the global music industry. In 2014 the revenue of Gelato Group was 170 million NOK. This year, revenue is trending towards more than 300 million NOK, with profits tripled compared to 2014."
Former winners of the Oslo Innovation Award include Opera, so Gelato Group have some big shoes to fill, but at the very least, it appears that following this victory, people will now at least have heard of them as up until now they've seemingly been operating under the radar.
Monday 12th October 12.00pm
'Gode ideer – fremtidens arbeidsplasser'
Although I don't start my experience until tomorrow, Oslo Innovation Week has kicked off in earnest today, with the first notable announcement coming from the Norwegian government.
The Norwegian Government has announced that they will dedicate 400MNOK ($50M) to make Norway an easier place to be an entrepreneur, rewarding those that aim to take risks in order to create new jobs both for themselves and others.
And creating jobs is clearly the main driver behind the announcement with the plan even being called 'Gode ideer – fremtidens arbeidsplasser' which translates as 'Good ideas- future jobs'.
Notably, the Government recognise that oil is becoming less of an important driving force in the Norwegian economy. and as such, reliance on other industries will be needed in order to support Norway's growing population.
The money is planned to be allocated as follows:
- Co-financing government projects together with private investors with 100MNOK, allowing private operators investing in young, innovative companies.
- 150MNOK for grants to entrepreneurs who have new ideas with great potential.
- 30MNOK to strengthen Innovation Norway's services geared towards entrepreneurs.
- 90MNOK for the FORNY2020 programme. (25MNOK of this will go towards a scholarship programme for students who want to become entrepreneurs)
- 10MNOK for Idelab, a programme that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.
- Launch Growth, a program to mobilise promising entrepreneurs who are otherwise underrepresented among Norwegian entrepreneurs today.
- 10MNOK for strengthening the national programme for supplier development.
On top of this the Government has pledged to simplify regulations for startups, and consider various measures to strengthen the incentives to employee ownership, including shares and options to employees.
I've not had the chance to judge the reaction of Norwegian's entrepreneurs and startups to this news as of yet, but will be updating the post with their reactions as the week progresses.
You can read the Norwegian Government's full plan here.