Today, Vice Mayor Hallstein Bjercke from the City of Oslo, journalist Cecilie Asker (Norway’s biggest daily newspaper) and entrepreneurs Jostein Svendsen CEO from WeVideo and Kjartan Slette Co-founder and COO of Unacast had a panel at the SXSW Startup Village to discuss the Oslo startup story.
A small country up in the north that has based most of their wealth on selling a commodity that is quickly going out of style. Oil, the black gold that transformed Norway into the world’s richest nation has been both a gift and curse. The gift part is obvious, and the curse was the size of the gift. There is no need to innovate or push boundaries when you have more money than you can spend, amassing in a joint national bank count.
Just outside Norway’s borders we have seen the Nordics release a tidal wave of innovative products, features and new companies upon the world, with Sweden and Finland taking the lead with (literally) game changing companies like e.g. Spotify and Supercell. And the financial valuation of those companies reflects the uniqueness of them. As an example, of 800 million dollars invested in Nordic startups last year, only 3 % was invested in Norwegian companies.
So why would anyone look to Oslo? Oslo is the fastest growing capital in Europe, and just like Austin, Oslo sees innovation as the new oil. This has lead to the Creative City alliance between the two cities, and an exchange of talent and networks.
We have the money, the work staff and the technical know-how, with many of us highly trained from decades working with sub sea engineering. And now we also have the urgency and dedication, as the nation increasingly comes to terms with the fact that oil won’t carry us into the future. We have done it before, when we first found oil, and now we are doing it again. Turning our nation around to fit the marked need.
Oslo is a small world city with great reach. The short distances geographically, hierarchically, socially and culturally – bonded with a high level of trust, makes collaboration possible and get´s things done in a speed unparalleled to none. When Oslo sees an opportunity, it seizes it. Like the X-Games dialogue starting in December 2014 turning into a decision already in March 2015.
The people of Oslo are tech-savvy, with high education and high income, holding multiple devices, and willing to spend money to try things out. This makes Oslo a very good market for piloting ideas. Oslo is a time machine to the future.
And not to forget – Oslo is considered one of the best places in the world to live, thanks to a very high quality of life.
An investor that fails to include the Norwegian startup scene in the portfolio composition stands to loose out of a lot of money. And miss out on the next part of Nordic tidal wave. An army of new innovative companies is about to take over the world. Xeneta is changing the global container freight business model, Kahoot is changing class learning and education forever, WeVideo is moving video editing up in the clouds and Unacast is changing the global ad industry by merging online and offline behavior.
And these are just a few of the many companies that are hungry to prove that we are more than oil, turning Oslo into an incubation city.