David Nikel

David Nikel is a British freelance journalist and blogger living in Trondheim. He writes extensively about all things Norway and works with Norwegian companies to improve their international communications.

Social media for startups
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 20, 2015

Startup Marketing 101: Social Media

If you’ve decided 2015 is the year you finally launch your startup, I’m sure you will have many marketing questions. What do you focus on? How do you get the word out? How do you find investors? Customers? Can you market your startup without spending a fortune?

Our new Startup Marketing 101 series will help you find the answers. I already discussed publishing to share your startup story, and now it’s time to focus in on that great productivity disaster: social media.

Social media strategy

Before you jump in with both feet and create profiles on every platform out there, stop, breathe, think.

The most important step you can take with social media is nothing to do with a particular platform. Take some time to work out why you are using social media, who you want to reach, and what you want to say. This activity will prioritise your tasks, give focus to a typically unfocused area, and give you the best chance of yielding results.

I will talk about each of the main social networks from a startup perspective, in particular which network(s) is best for what kind of startups. For each network, I’ve listed the number of users in Norway (stats from Ipsos MMI), but remember these numbers are meaningless if you are using social media to reach a global market.

Time is valuable for founders of fledgling startups, so I advise you to pick no more than two networks and do them well, rather than try to cover them all and do them all badly. Nothing gives a worse impression than an empty or inactive social profile, so beware.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn office

Invaluable for making new connections in the business world. Angel investors and VCs yes, but also suppliers, partners, mentors, journalists, accountants, lawyers – the list goes on.

Make the limited space in your profile count, especially the sub-heading directly underneath your name. Which sounds more attractive to you: “John Smith – Startup founder” or “John Smith – Disrupting the personal loan industry”?

Setup a simple company page listing your core benefits (rather than a rambling description of your startup) and importantly, a logo. This logo will then show up on your the profile pages of you and your employees. These little things make a difference, so be sure to do them!

Premium membership allows you to “cold call” prospects with direct messages, while the new “Pulse” publishing platform allows you to share your professional expertise (see our previous post for more on this)

Who uses it? Professionals from all industries, job-seekers, recruiters.

Users in Norway: 1,085,000

Who does it well? Read this old yet still relevant Forbes article for inspiration.

Use it if: you run a B2B startup or are looking to develop your personal professional network.

Facebook

Facebook offices

Once the King of social networks, the Facebook of today is better known as an advertising platform, and a very effective one at that. Facebook is comfortably the most used social network in Norway and therefore it makes sense for nearly all startup businesses to have a presence. Whether that’s for social sharing or for advertising (or both) is up to you.

Facebook’s effectiveness as a social network for business took a massive hit last year as the organic reach of posts (the average number of people who see a status update from your company page) dropped to as low as 5%. But the vast array of targeting options (you do tell Facebook everything about yourself, you know) means the advertising platform offers terrific value to startups who are able to clearly define their target market. Don’t waste money paying for “likes”, pay for clicks to a specific landing page instead.

Who uses it? Anyone and everyone. By far the most popular social network for those over 40 (in Norway).

Users in Norway: 3,127,000

Who does it well? See what Toyota Norway did.

Use it if: you run a B2C startup and/or have a clearly defined audience and want to experiment with a great value advertising platform.

Twitter

Twitter UK office

Perhaps more than any other social network, Twitter is about conversation. The biggest mistake startups can make with Twitter is to use the platform as a glorified RSS feed, pumping out information. The key to success on Twitter is to engage with your audience, connect with influencers in your industry, curate the best content out there (whether authored by you or others), and listen, listen, listen. It lends itself well to a first-level support operation, too.

Twitter connects well with third-party apps such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, allowing you to keep track of lists (industry influencers, journalists, brand champions, etc) and respond quickly to comments about your brand by setting up specific search queries.

It’s not so popular in Norway, but if you are targeting a global audience I suggest an active Twitter account is essential.

Who uses it? Most brands. Many startup founders run personal accounts as well as having a company account.

Users in Norway: 849,000

Who does it well? Sharpie (great informal tone matching their brand), British Airways (weather updates and first-line support).

Use it if: you are building a global brand and/or value instant feedback.

Instagram

Instagram logoThe simple photo-sharing app has built an impressive following in Scandinavia, where it was the second most popular network until Snapchat came along.

Product and travel related businesses can see benefits from building a following by sharing images of product development or snow conditions at a ski resort, for example.

It’s a simple tool with just one opportunity to send people to your website, so make the most of your profile text with a call to action and specific landing page. Hashtags drive traffic to your image, so learn the most relevant ones for your industry.

Who uses it? B2C brands, products, designers, travel companies.

Users in Norway: 1,138,000

Who does it well? Nike (over 11m followers), Sophia Amoruso (founder of fashion store Nastygal).

Use it if: you make something, or you can describe and amplify your brand using images.

Pinterest

PinterestDefinitely the most niche social network on this list, Pinterest is a visual pinboard allowing users to curate their own and other people’s images into collections.

Over two-thirds of Pinterest users are female, and it’s popular among fashion, food and lifestyle bloggers. In a similar way to Instagram, if you are building a brand in one of these areas, Pinterest is worth exploring.

Who uses it? predominantly female, popular with lifestyle bloggers.

Users in Norway: 209,000

Who does it well? Caribou Coffee (great case study).

Use it if: you have a visual product or are building a lifestyle brand.

Snapchat

Snapchat logoTo many, Snapchat is the new kid on the block. But would you believe it’s already the second most-popular social network in Norway, thanks to its spectacular popularity amongst 18-29 year-olds.

The premise of the “visual conversation” app is simple – users can share pictures with their friends but the images self-destruct after a few seconds.

Snapchat is experimenting with advertising options and youth-oriented brands are queuing up to see if Snapchat could work for them.

Who uses it? under 30s.

Users in Norway: 1,218,000

Who does it well? watch this space.

Use it if: watch this space.

Bring it all together

There are others, notably Google+ and YouTube, although I’d say the latter is a place to share your startup story rather than a social network per se. But like I said at the top of this article, focus on just one or two of these networks and do them well.

Here at Technoport, we’ve focused on building our Facebook and Twitter presence, and let our student volunteers try out the other networks. We use Facebook to build our domestic network and share our blog posts within Norway and the Nordics. You’ll see more Trondheim-specific and conference-specific items on our Facebook feed, whereas we use Twitter to connect with the world: to innovators in global corporations, VCs in Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs in Africa, potential speakers for our conference, and so on. 90% of what we share on Twitter is other people’s content, positioning the Technoport brand as a global curator of innovation.

Or at least, that’s the plan. The point is, we have a plan, we are working to the plan, and we are seeing measurable results.

What’s your social media plan?

Talk startup strategy in person

Join us in Trondheim, Norway, on 18 & 19 March as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset at Technoport 2015.

Photo credits: Adam CohnMartin GyslerTwitter, pshabThomas HawkUGL_UIUC

CES 2015
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 14, 2015

What We Learned From CES 2015

Last week the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show once again took place in Las Vegas. Its timing in January means CES becomes a great preview and predictor of trends in consumer tech for the year ahead.

Here’s some of what we learned from this year’s event.

What the future of TV looks like

Are televisions still relevant in the days of internet streaming and tablets? LG claim a big fat yes with their 77-inch 4K Flexible OLED TV. Can’t decide if you want a curved or flat screen TV? This monster does both, transforming at the touch of a button!

OLEDs work by putting electricity through certain materials that glow red, blue or green. Each pixel can be turned off for an absolute black, unique among modern television technologies. All this means a grand slam for OLED technology: incredible contrast, remarkably thin, and more energy efficient than the competition.

We also saw demonstrations of HDR television, with Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Sony all showing the difference between screens with and without HDR capability. Netflix shot its recent Marco Polo series using HDR-cameras and we can’t wait to see the results (it’s not yet available on screen)

Meanwhile, Sling TV won Engadget’s Best of CES award in “Best Home Theatre Product” for their “designed for internet” take on a digital subscription service.

What auto-driving cars will be like

I’ve just about got to grips with the concept of using my watch for more than telling the time, but using it to drive a car? Woooah!

That was the response of most people who saw the lovely BMW i3 being controlled via voice commands on a smartwatch.

“The BMW I3 is a lovely hunk of automobile, the kind of vehicle you would save up for years to buy, and then polish with a diaper. Hold on there, sir. Do you really want to drive this masterpiece of engineering with a Samsung Gear S smartwatch?” – Mario Aguilar, Gizmodo

Mercedes-Benz unveiled their radical concept for a self-driving car. The ridiculous looking exterior is nothing compared to what goes on inside, where the front seats swivel 180 degrees.

Future tech at CES 2015

What the future connected home will look like

There is no stopping the connected home!

Smart home technology absolutely dominated CES 2015. An incredible amount of gadgets were on display. It would have been impossible to see all of them let alone write about all of them, so here’s just a few that caught our eyes.

Witricity enables remote charging of devices, such as a mobile phone placed on a desk or even an electric car parked in a garage, through its wireless electricity concept. EchoStar Sage allows you to get live alerts from security cameras and sensing equipment direct to your TV, with no subscription fees. Bang & Olufsen’s BeoSound Moment is sends tracks and playlists from your digital collection and streaming services to your speakers, but most importantly of all, it’s beautiful. On the topic of beautiful audio, we also love the design of the Naim Audio Mu-so wireless speaker.

One big surprise from LG was a new washing machine concept packed with technology including a second mini-washer drawer, recycling heat to improve energy efficiency, and spraying detergent directly onto clothes for supposedly faster cycle times.

What our future connected selves will look like

If you’re comfortable with attaching multiple devices to your body & uploading that data to the internet, then get ready to celebrate as wearables continue to develop at a rapid pace.

Belty, the self-adjusting belt, caused quite a stir as people slowly realised self-adjusting means self-tightening! JINS unveiled Meme, smartglasses with style (that actually look like glasses), while XelfleX showed off their smart textile technology that turns garments into active motion sensors. Are fitness bands over already?

Trade booth at CES 2015

Did you attend CES 2015 or follow it online? What caught your eye?

Photo credits: Samsung Tomorrownvidia.corporation,

Air India
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 12, 2015

Take Your Startup to India

The four-week TINC (Tech INCubator) program in Silicon Valley helps a bunch of Norwegian (and now, Nordic) startups get their foot in the door of the American market twice a year. NTNU alumni DirtyBit, feat.fm, Aalberg Audio, alongside the likes of Ensafer, Zwipe and Encap Security have all made the most of the program, which exposes your product or service to potential customers, investors and industry experts from Silicon Valley.

Following the success of TINC comes another Innovation Norway sponsored opportunity that’s arguably even better: a chance to learn all about the business environment in one of the world’s biggest emerging markets: India.

Why go to India?

I’m a big proponent of Think Global First and to me, this is a bigger opportunity than TINC for the majority of Norwegian startups I meet. I’ll give you a few reasons:

It’s well-known mobile is the first experience of the internet for many end users in emerging markets. But can you truly understand the implications of this for your startup (the design of your app, for example) without seeing it for yourself? Hold user interaction sessions where you can observe the behaviour of users for whom swiping and gesturing is more intuitive than point-and-click.

Forget the Nordic model. Investigate and understand cultural differences that could drive a totally different approach to innovation, design and development. Develop your emerging market business model based on real opportunities and real testing, not research or assumptions.

Generally, Indian startups are not well-funded at the early stage. See for yourself how to bootstrap a startup using lean and other methodologies.

To find out more, check out this interview with Marianne Jensen, Science and Technology Counsellor at Innovation Norway’s office in Delhi, on the Norway-India Chamber of Commerce blog:

“Some of the companies will dive straight into a deeper testing of their business concept and possibly initiate a partner search in India. Everyone will return to Norway with a lot of new knowledge and awareness of possibilities. I hope as many as possible start a process of fine tuning their business plan and head back to India or another emerging market again soon” – Marianne Jensen

The program

Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets is an intensive eight-day program from 28 February to 7 March. Startups will undertake a combination of training, networking, customer dialogues and end-user interaction, with the ultimate aim of being better prepared to do business in emerging markets.

However, Innovation Norway have set strict criteria on the kind of startups eligible for the program. The ideal candidate for this program is a Norwegian startup that aims for global markets, particularly emerging markets.

Other criteria include:

  • High growth/scalable business model
  • Substantial market potential
  • Unique technology especially in the areas of ICT, applications, mobile media
  • Strong and coachable management teams

The application deadline has passed, but I’ve just been told that Innovation Norway is still taking applications until the program is full.

So get a move on and apply now!

Are you thinking global?

Join us in Trondheim, Norway, on 18 & 19 March as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset at Technoport 2015.

Living together
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 9, 2015

Startup Marketing 101: Make Your Voice Heard

If you’ve decided 2015 is the year you finally launch your startup, I’m sure you will have many marketing questions. What do you focus on? How do you get the word out? How do you find investors? Customers? Can you market your startup without spending a fortune?

Our new Startup Marketing 101 series will help you find the answers. First up: a guide to publishing in the digital era, why do it, and how to use it to your advantage.

Content marketing

Content marketing is more than a trendy buzzword: it isn’t going anywhere. In 2015, content marketing is all about establishing authority, whether that’s to attract investment, partners or customers.

Working on a startup in silence is pointless: share your story.

Publishing thought-leadership articles, detailed tutorials, educational infographics, and solving people’s problems will get you and your startup noticed not just in your city, but around the world too.

Content marketing is often misunderstood and like any form of marketing, it requires a strategic plan to see any benefit. Spending hours toiling over a blog that noone reads, sending press releases to journalists that remain unopened, creating white papers without a clear idea of your target audience: if you’re doing these things then stop!

Here’s how to do it properly.

Blogging

Once the domain of lolcats and food pictures, blogs of today are powerful business tools. Used correctly, they can build a killer brand, inspire viral sharing of your stories, generate new customers and destroy the competition. Used incorrectly, they are a simple time-suck.

As a professional blogger, I advise most startups to start a blog. But do it as part of a clear strategy, knowing your purpose and intent. Is it to build your brand or is it to generate leads? Stick to just one of those aims and your chances of success will improve.

Examples:

  • Buffer Blog – the blog of the social media scheduling tool attracts new clients by tackling common pain points of its target audience: social media power users
  • The Cleanest Line – the blog of the online adventure travel store Patagonia builds the company brand by telling compelling adventure travel stories with barely a mention of their products
  • Crunch Blog – the blog of this online accountancy firm generates leads by offering hands-on business advice to its target market: small UK businesses, contractors and freelancers.

Evergreen content

Churning out blog post after blog post is exhausting work (I should know, I’ve been doing it since 2007!) but there’s also another downside: blog posts disappear off the radar after a week or two. Develop some high value, evergreen content alongside the regular posts and your startup can really make an impact.

Evergreen means content that will always be fresh and useful. Something that your target market can refer back to again and again.

White papers demonstrate in-depth knowledge and expertise on a topic and are considered a valuable marketing tool despite the lack of sales language. They should inform a reader about a specific problem and a specific solution from a technical perspective. They are common in large ICT companies but there is no reason why startups can’t utilise the format to great effect. Infographics are a visual way of representing data, while instructional videos also use a visual medium to explain: really important in these days of short attention spans and especially for explaining a new technology or process.

Examples:

Video and audio

Audio podcasts are growing in popularity, although it remains to be seen whether video-podcasts will move beyond the realm of attention-seeking teenagers. If you are developing a product, or simply prefer to talk rather than write, telling your story via video or audio could be best for you. New media and social networks are becoming more focused on video and audio, so it could be a smart move to start now.

Don’t invest in expensive equipment if you’re just trying it out. The newest smartphones and a white wall in a well-lit room will give you a “good enough” video quality, while a quality podcast microphone can be had for under $100. Also, keep them short: 2-4 minute updates should hold people’s attention, any longer, and they will switch off.

Examples:

If you have the energy, publishing a mix of all of the above is a great, albeit time-consuming, strategy to pursue.

But if you can’t justify the time investment that quality publishing requires – and as a new startup that’s a fair call – there is another emerging option: publishing on other people’s platforms. Content marketers will tell you it’s important to own your publishing platform, but if you approach this with specific aims in mind, publishing on other platforms can be incredibly effective at demonstrating authority and building your network.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular.

LinkedIn Pulse

No longer just a social network for professionals. Just like Facebook has moved from social network to advertising platform, LinkedIn has morphed into a publishing platform. Do you receive those emails from “LinkedIn Pulse” or “LinkedIn Influencers” with content targeted towards your professional interests? Your knowledge and experience can be in those emails, targeted directly at potential customers, partners and investors. As LinkedIn’s publishing platform is still new, you can strike while the iron is hot and potentially make a big impact.

Examples:

Medium

The storytelling platform Medium is gaining popularity as an alternative to business blogging. Unlike with your own platform, you don’t control much of the look and feel of the published posts, but there is an in-built audience and the best posts will “rise to the top” and reach a much wider audience than you could hope for with your own fledgling blog. Here in the Nordics, Neil Murray closed his The Nordic Web blog and went all-in on Medium last year. He explains why here.

I don’t think Medium is a viable long-term strategy, but it could provide a real boost to your startup just when you need it most.

Examples:

Guest articles

If you operate in a defined niche, your best option could be to submit articles to online media covering that niche. Media giants like the Huffington Post accept guest articles but if you’re not a known name and lack a published portfolio, start smaller. If your startup is working on a new widget for the energy industry, consider articles for energy publications. If your aim is to build credibility in a specific niche, writing guest articles could be a winner for you.

Per Harald Borgen of Disco Fingers published a guest post here on Technoport about his experiences pivoting from one idea to another, an issue faced by many entrepreneurs but rarely discussed in the media. In sharing his story, he raised the profile of his new startup.

Examples:

Share your story

If you are a startup founder, student of entrepreneurship, or working on innovation within a company and you have a story to share, there could be a place for it here on the Technoport blog. To find out more details, get in touch with us at hello (at) technoport (dot) no

I firmly believe telling your story and sharing everything is the path to success. Good luck!

Next up in Startup Marketing 101: social media.

Share your startup story in person

Join us in Trondheim, Norway, on 18 & 19 March as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset at Technoport 2015.

Photo credit: Living together by Sergio Alvarez

Norwegian oil
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 5, 2015

Life After Oil – Good News for Entrepreneurship?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you’ll have heard about the oil price crash.

The price of a barrel of crude oil fell from over $110 to less than $55 in the space of just fifteen months.

It’s big news here in Norway as energy has driven the country’s economy for forty years.

Yes there will be short term pain, highlighted by the 7,000 job losses in the Norwegian oil industry last year. But I would argue the falling oil price can be good news for Norway and in particular the future of Norwegian entrepreneurship.

Put the problem-solvers to work

Firstly, Norway’s population is highly-educated and highly-skilled. Previously these technical experts simply rocked up to the oil industry and claimed their million-krone salaries. But with such jobs becoming less common, those skilled engineers could put their problem-solving minds to work on other technologies to change the world, in the energy industry or otherwise.

Persuading talented people to forego the oil industry in favour of risking it all on entrepreneurship has long been a problem for Norway. Perhaps we’re at a turning point.

Global competitiveness

Secondly, the Norwegian krone has dropped sharply against the Dollar, Euro and British Pound in the last few months. When I moved to Norway, GBP £1 bought roughly 8.5kr. Today, that same Pound buys 11.6kr. That’s quite the change. Norwegians might have to get used to spending more money on their holidays på Syden, but both incoming tourism and exports could flourish. In the space of a year, Norway has become more competitive on the international market.

If you as a startup founder price your product in US Dollars or Euro (and you should), the movement in the exchange rate will have been great news for your cash flow.

What does the future hold?

Is the currency movement temporary? Clearly linked to the big question of the oil price, really only time will tell.

Economic analyst and Forbes contributor Mike Patton has this to say:

“This current decline may cause some drillers to exit the market, especially if prices remain low for an extended period and their financial reserves expire. You see, there is a common belief (or hope) among oil companies that these lower prices are only temporary. Perhaps they’re correct. Perhaps they’re not. However, with fewer companies in this space, there will be less supply and if the global economy does indeed rebound, this combination could cause prices to trend higher. Maybe not back to prior levels though, at least not for a while.”

Whatever happens over the months and years to come, Norway seems to be waking up to the question of what happens when the oil runs out. For me, this is good news for Norwegian innovation and entrepreneurship.

Do you agree?

Is entrepreneurship the future for Norway?

Join us in Trondheim, Norway, on 18 & 19 March as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset at Technoport 2015.

Photo credit: Pete Markham

Hiking in Sunmøre
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 2, 2015

An Entrepreneur’s Morning Mindset

What’s the one thing successful people such as Richard Branson, Jack Dorsey, even Barack Obama swear by? The power of their routines.

At Technoport 2015 we’ll be awakening the entrepreneurial mindset. The power of habits, especially in the morning, is becoming a much-talked about “life hack”. Let’s examine why.

“Routine basically gives us the mental freedom to think about what’s actually important. That way we don’t have to think about all the mundane aspects of life. Getting to relegate all those things to sort of an automatic thought process, we gain all the mental bandwidth we need to do the really important things in life”, says Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.”

The reason routine is so important to our mornings comes down to the science of self-control. Researchers at the University of Nottingham and the National Institute of Education in Singapore concluded the longer the day goes on, the more fatigue your self-control experiences, so the more important it is to make those early morning hours count.

FastCompany examined the morning routines of some of the world’s most successful people.

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief at Vogue, starts each day at 5.45 with an hour-long tennis match. Benjamin Franklin had a fixed three-hour morning routine, while David Karp, founder of Tumblr, refuses to check his email until 10am.

The latter is a fascinating one. For many of us, checking email and social media feeds is automatic within moments of waking up, or certainly before we’ve started an important task. Constantly checking email and social media hijacks our focus and sets a reactive, rather than proactive, tone for our workday.

Email pebbles

We are all different, physiologically and psychologically, so I’m not about to list a miracle morning routine that will guarantee you success, this is something you need to consider yourself for your own circumstances.

Just don’t underestimate its importance.

Expected to arrive at the office by 9 and leave by 5, employees have a routine baked into their contracts. Entrepreneurs don’t, so creating the right morning routine is critical to productivity and success.

Here’s a few ideas to get you thinking about creating your own entrepreneurial morning mindset.

1. Wake 30 minutes earlier

For many this seems unthinkable, but the solution is simple. Just go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Do you really need to watch that third episode of Breaking Bad, or search for another lolcat to share on your Tumblr?

Waking earlier gives us the time needed to fit in our new morning routine.

2. Look after number one

Exercise and healthy eating. Two hot topics at this time of year and both ideally suited to a morning routine. If you find yourself regularly skipping that after-work zumba session or lunchtime walk, try switching your exercise to the early morning, when your willpower is at its peak.

If you, like me, find the thought of a workout about as pleasant as root canal surgery, just explore different options. Last year I began to walk the 40 minutes from my home to DIGS instead of taking the bus. The difference in my focus was remarkable.

3. To list or not to list?

When was the last time you felt you didn’t achieve anything in the day? Had you actually planned to?

To do List

Debate rages about whether to-do lists are good or bad. For me, they work brilliantly, as the feeling of achievement as I cross off each item throughout the day spurs me on. But even if they don’t work for you, knowing what you need to do today as soon as you wake up can only be a good thing. It focuses your mind, prioritises your day, and almost certainly stops you procrastinating and delaying the start of your working day.

One common tip from entrepreneurs is to organise your day the night before, just before you go to bed. This has the added benefit of a “brain dump” that may even improve the quality of your sleep. Give it a try!

4. Do the same one thing, every day

In the last few months of 2014 I committed to write 500 words every morning. Why? Well, first and foremost, I’m a writer, and if I’m not writing words, I’m not getting paid. But more importantly, I have many long-term projects that need regular attention to move them forward, yet often got lost in the mire of daily work which I deemed more important (the downside of to-do lists)

If I manage to write just 500 words every day this year, that’ll be 182,500 words in total, or over two decent-sized novels. That’s the power of committing to a small “unimportant” task every day.

I use a great little app called Commit, which pops up on my phone once a day to ask a simple question, “Did you do X today?”. The frustration at breaking the chain of days is a surprising motivator.

Does it work? Yes. In December, I released my first Kindle book, which I’d planned all year but made almost no progress on until I started this new habit.

Can you do something similar? Maybe not writing, but how about producing X lines of code, contacting X customers, or reaching out to X new prospects?

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” “And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something” – Steve Jobs

If you create a morning routine full of positive habits that work for you, the rest of your day will seem like a walk in the park.

Join us for Technoport 2015 as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset.

Early Bird tickets are on sale now.

Photo credits: Hiking in Sunnmøre by Severin Sadjina, email pebbles by Will Lion, making a list and checking it twice by kylesteed.

Technoport 2014
60David Nikel

David NikelDecember 18, 2014

Technoport Review of the Year 2014

It’s that time of the year the snow falls, temperature drops and we all try to look graceful as we slip over on the ice. Yes, winter has arrived at Technoport Towers here in Trondheim, which means the end of the year is nigh.

We’ll be looking forward to 2015 in future posts (including one helping you to make entrepreneurial resolutions for the New Year!) but for now, here’s a recap on all the amazing stuff that’s happened in 2014, not just for Technoport but for the whole of Trondheim’s innovation community.

Of course, none of this would be possible without our seven wonderful members: NTNU, SINTEF, Statoil, the Municipality of Trondheim, the county authority of Sør-Trøndelag, Innovation Norway, and Sparebank 1 SMN. Thanks also to our partners: Transnova, Enova, The county authority of Nord-Trøndelag, and Kjeldsberg Eiendom.

January

With preparations for our Live Crowdfunding Experiment in full swing, we went crowdfunding crazy on the blog, with articles on the tax implications, frequently asked questions, and a look at success stories such as 3Doodler.

“Whether crowdfunding income is taxable to the recipient depends not on the type of financing, but on the purpose of financing,” explained Ståle Lorås, Partner at BDO.

February

We tested out our new Share the Problem crowdsourcing concept with a pilot project involving Statoil.

“There is definitely is a business opportunity here, just waiting for the right solvers. If someone can provide Statoil with a simple device with wireless transmission of a few essential metrics, which transform the huge amount of data in a user friendly way into a environmental desition tool for operators, they could sell a lot of devices” – Gøril Forbord, Technoport CEO

Meanwhile down in Oslo, Trondheim startups took home the honours from the high-profile pitching competition at By:larm Interactive.

March

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak visited our friends at Spark NTNU and Start NTNU, speaking to 500 students about Apple’s beginnings and giving advice to the next generation of innovators. The event attracted the attention of the national media.

Wozniak NTNU

April

The main event! Technoport 2014 gathered hundreds of entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and investors together to meet and share best practices and ideas. David Rowan, editor of WIRED UK, revealed some of the “future” technologies that are already with us, such as OMsignal’s biometric-tracking technology and the DNA-hackers of BioCurious.

We were privileged to be joined by Keri Damen, all the way from Toronto, Canada. She is Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at the MaRS Discovery District and spoke about the similarities between Norway and Canada. Skype’s Jonas Kjellberg talked about focusing on your millions of potential customers, not marketing strategies, with this simple yet powerful statement: “There are many marketing professors, but very few sales professors.”

Pär Almqvist, Chief Marketing Officer at OMC Power, described how his company builds small-scale power plants with renewable sources where there is no reliable power grid today, mainly in one district of India where some of the country’s poorest people live. Evocative images and hard-hitting stats showed the positive impact of OMC’s work, but also the sheer amount of people out there who need solutions like this. Leila Janah told the story of her company Samasource. It’s outsourcing with a twist – as Samasource create thousands of “micro-work” tasks from major corporate projects, and assign them to individuals in places like Uganda, Ghana and Haiti that are trained to do those jobs.

And of course, last but not least, the headline-grabbing Live Crowdfunding Experiment, where local startup Assistep raised almost 600,000kr.

Live Crowdfunding Experiment

May

We said goodbye to our wonderful trio of Brits: Farah, Megan and Rob. They did a terrific job preparing for the conference aswell as giving us an international perspective on many issues here on the blog. Rob published a post about his lessons learned working on the Share the Problem concept.

We also said goodbye to Aurora and Andreas, our student leaders who worked tirelessly to spread the Technoport message throughout the year, and welcomed Jonas and Thomas on board.

Down in Oslo, people and startups from Trondheim won four prizes at the Nordic Startup Awards.

Summer

With the conference done and dusted, attention turned to reflection and looking at how we can do more to build Trondheim’s entrepreneurial scene. Representatives from Leiv Eiriksson Nyskaping, the NTNU Technology Transfer Office, Entreprenørskolen, DIGS and other interested parties gathered for a Technoport workshop on the high seas!

“It’s about not only lowering the barriers for the currently employed, but lowering the barriers for anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur. We mean psychological barriers as well as money. We can’t have too many people working on lowering these barriers.” – Gøril Forbord, Technoport CEO

Trondheim’s fledgling maker scene took off in the biggest possible way with a featured Maker Faire on the city’s main square. During the Maker Faire, Technoport helped to organise a breakfast meeting with Hugh Forrest, director of SXSWi, who described how the festival has put Austin, Texas, on the innovation map.

Elsewhere, news curation website TrondheimTech was launched, while we welcomed new students to Trondheim by introducing them to the must-have apps for living in Trondheim.

Trondheim Maker Faire 2014

September

Innovation Norway supported and helped to organise Emax Norge in Lillehammer, an initiative designed to inspire young people into entrepreneurship. Technoport was invited to check out the event, where the winning team of the business simulation game won a trip to the Innovation Norway environment in China.

October

Our Share the Problem concept continued with Transnova asking how we can reduce the number of cars on the roads and increase public transport usage in Norwegian cities by 2040.

Trondheim hit the headlines as NTNU researchers May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser shared the 2014 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine with John O’Keefe. The prize was awarded for work identifying the cells that make up the positioning system in the brain.

Thoughts turned to next year as we announced the first three speakers for Technoport 2015: Samantha Quist, Martin Kupp and Tobias Stone.

November

A new technology to drive better online discussions won Startup Weekend Trondheim, an event made possible by Technoport through our sponsorship, while we also helped our friends at NxtMedia to manage the NxtMedia Conference exploring innovative future media models.

Startup Weekend Trondheim

As a follow-up from the summer workshop, Technoport helped to organise Tech, Hugs & Rock n Roll – a party at DIGS for Trondheim’s entrepreneurial community, intended to facilitate networking, and also fun!

Anita Krohn Traaseth, the new CEO of Innovation Norway, spoke openly and honestly to us about the challenges and opportunities for Norway in the future.

December

The full program for Technoport 2015 was released and Early Bird tickets were snapped up by those keen to secure their seat at Trondheim’s innovation meeting place in March. Early Bird tickets are still available, but be sure to buy your ticket before the end of the year to save 1,000kr.

Instead of giving gifts to their employees, NTNU spent the money to record this terrific Christmas video here in Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral:

It’s been quite a year. Thanks to you – our members, partners, supporters and readers of the Technoport Playground – for helping to achieve all of the above.

What’s in store for 2015? Watch this space and find out. Better still, make it happen!

Eliot Peper Uncommon Stock
60David Nikel

David NikelDecember 11, 2014

Entrepreneurial Lessons in Fiction

Books about business and entrepreneurship are everywhere these days and tend to follow a simple formula: an entrepreneur shares their story about success or failure, what they learned, and how you can apply those lessons to your own startup journey. Some are good, many are bad. As a writer, my Kindle is full of both! I like to read both good and bad business books to inspire and amuse.

While listening to a podcast recently, something caught my attention: a fiction book about entrepreneurship. Within seconds I owned a copy and I’ve just finished reading it.

Uncommon StockUncommon Stock is the debut novel of Eliot Peper, and creates pretty much an entire new genre: the startup thriller.

James is an archetypal nerd, introverted and constantly wearing dorky t-shirts. Mara is a keen hiker and loves her college environment in Colorado with its access to the outdoors, her love of which she shares with her boyfriend Craig. When James approaches her with a business idea, she is plunged into the entrepreneurship bubble with little idea of the highs, lows and adrenaline rush to come.

Despite this being a novel, there’s elements of non-fiction learning in here too, as James and Mara’s mentors impart sound business advice throughout their journey. Although these sessions can seem a little unnatural at times, the book is better for including them.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but let’s just say there’s plenty of twists and turns (some expected, others not) along their startup journey and you are left desperately waiting for book two.

Thankfully, book two has just been released!

As a writer, I’m pleased to see innovation in the field with an author choosing to share advice through storytelling rather than yet another “boring business book”. Expect to learn about developing a business idea, validating customer demand, and the difference between angel investment and venture capital. I won’t go as far as to say it can teach you entrepreneurship, but this is a story you’ll remember, and is therefore the perfect conduit for learning these lessons.

Great job, Eliot!

Startup Lab Oslo
60David Nikel

David NikelDecember 5, 2014

A Look Inside Oslo’s Startup Lab

I first called in at Startup Lab almost 18 months ago to interview a startup based there. While I was impressed with their work, I didn’t take away a great impression of the environment.

Having heard whispers of change, I returned to Startup Lab this week and was greeted by an entirely different atmosphere. Based at Oslo Science Park (Forskningsparken), the incubator is home to 65 fledgling companies, with a further 17 having outgrown the facility and moved on. Some startups have private offices but many sit together in a giant open plan workspace, complete with moveable desks.

“We have a very flexible setup. It’s low cost, easy to terminate the agreement with just one months notice, and everything is on wheels. You can add or remove desks easily so there’s no need to commit to a certain size of office months in advance. On top of that is our value-add services, such as the Founders Fund, weekly workshops and free sessions with external experts” – Kjetil Holmefjord, Incubator Manager

Despite the feel of a coworking space, Startup Lab is an incubator and companies must apply, as over 450 have done. There is no automatic acceptance. In fact, Startup Lab feels more like the “next step” for those ideas that were conceived in coworking spaces. Just one in five applicants are accepted, so there’s a feel that the startups you meet here are genuinely “best of breed”.

“It’s not only the idea, but also the individual. Do we believe in that person’s ability to lead the project and grow the company internationally? If you only have the ambition to do something in one part of Norway then this is not the place for you.” – Tor Bækkelund, Partner at Startup Lab

Trondheim is represented by digital receipt startup dSAFE, presentation system SlideDog, and DirtyBit Games, all of which originated from projects at NTNU. Other startups that caught my eye include the social-focused film streaming marketplace Filmgrail and enterprise architecture documentation service Ardoq. There’s an interesting group of media startups too, including travel guide builder Stay.com, advertising network United Bloggers and journalism-startup BylineMe.

Startup Lab from above

Funding the next generation

A major project within Startup Lab is the Founders Fund, a new take on angel investment. Primarily intended for members of the incubator, the fund takes a maximum 15% equity but works as closely with them as if they were majority owners.

The Founders Fund offers a one-time investment only, although the group do help startups ready to raise more money with introductions, etc. And of course, individual investors from the Fund are free to invest further privately. The individuals certainly have the capability to invest further, as most are influential names from some of Norway’s technology success stories including Opera Software, Chipcon, GET and Mamut.

Resident companies

A window to the world

Much like we do here at Technoport, Startup Lab encourages its members to think global first. Despite having desk space at Nordic Innovation House, the partners encourage startups to get out and network on a trip to Silicon Valley.

“What’s the point in going to Silicon Valley for a month? It’s to network, test your idea, gain feedback, and improve your product, so why sit with fellow Scandinavians? We encourage startups to utilise our network of incubators and sit with Americans.” – Tor Bækkelund

Til Fremtiden!

Founded in 1984, Oslo Science Park began on the land of the University of Oslo with the aim of helping to grow existing businesses. In the early days of the internet a lot of internet companies were founded here, and the first node for Norway’s internet sits in the basement. Startup Lab itself was only founded in 2012, As much as the history of this site is important, it’s obvious the focus is on the future.

There’s lessons to be learned here for Trondheim and other Norwegian cities in how to build an incubator that puts the interests of startups front and centre. Bækkelund told me he believes the centre will produce several major startups over the next five years, and from what I saw, everything is in place to achieve that.

Open Desk Space

Innovasjon Norge
60David Nikel

David NikelNovember 27, 2014

Q&A with Anita Krohn Traaseth, Innovation Norway

A few eyebrows were raised when Innovation Norway announced their new choice of CEO earlier this year. Rather than opt for a “safe” choice from within, the board appointed Anita Krohn Traaseth, head of Hewlett Packard Norway and outspoken blogger on Tinteguri. After her first few months, she was kind enough to take time to tell me her thoughts on the organisation and the future of innovation in Norway.

Anita Krohn Traaseth

How were your first few months at Innovation Norway?

I’ve had 100 “speed dates”, taking 10 minutes with my colleagues, customers and other partners. The more meetings I have, the clearer the competences and need for Innovation Norway becomes in my mind. A lot of people in Norway have opinions about the organisation, who we are what we do, and there is a gap between the facts and myths.

We got clear feedback form our owners that even though our budget was raised for 2015, we are being asked to work differently. I’m impressed by the knowledge of our people and their willingness to change.

So it’s so far, so good. I’m an intrapreneur and this is a dream job for me.

What can you bring from the private sector?

It’s important to understand that Innovation Norway is a hybrid, somewhere between public and private sector. We have some established myths about both sectors because its easy to generalise but there are huge differences inside each. understanding the role of IN is key and not losing sight of history. we are not ten years old, we are 162 years old. The history of Norway investing in specific programs to enhance innovation is long.

We have a huge responsibility for tax money so we need to do things right. If we do things wrong, we are on the cover of the newspapers. Trying to balance the demand for quality in everything we do, while being innovative ourselves and taking risks is something we need to improve on. We need a larger focus on making decisions ahead of delivering documents, using lean methodologies.

Can you tell us about the Innovation Index?

We are part of the EU Commission’s Innovation Index that comes out every year. Currently Norway is ranked as average, as we have been for years, and journalists write articles about how bad we are and we must invest more in R&D. I think this is wrong. It’s time to start asking what is behind the data? Is it based on the old way of innovating? We are not the first ones asking questions. The UK took their own responsibility in 2009 to define their own innovation indicators relevant for them.

The poblem with the figures for Norway is our economy is dominated by natural resources. Statoil is defined as a low-tech company because their investment in R&D is internal and not measured by the criteria.

Different countries give their input to the index and divide questions about innovation and about R&D, but in Norway we combine it. SSB surveyed Norwegian companies about their key innovation areas and top of the list was they are doing it internally. Less than 5% involved research institutes.

When it comes to protecting innovations, the most important thing for us is to implement them and get the market advantage. Elon Musk gave away patents and was celebrated for it here in Norway, but our own DNV has been doing the same thing for over 100 years.

It’s time to ask some questions about these indicators. We should be part of benchmarking, but why can’t we define our own innovation criteria?

What is the future for the Norwegian startup “industry”?

One of the biggest things preventing Norway having a startup culture is the lack of self-esteem. Saul Singer was in Oslo two weeks ago and he told us the first word he was introduced to by Norwegians was janteloven. What kind of a message is janteloven for the next generation of entrepreneurs?

At the same time we need to build breadth. I am for keeping that, because this is the only way we can build similar to sports, a culture across the country. We are the sum of all our parts and we need to celebrate success on a national level. For example, so many Norwegians have never heard of the small startups in Sogn go Fjordane with worldwide success. We need to build a culture of being proud. We need to cheer for failures. The road to success is failure, not janteloven.

With high salaries and some of the best working conditions in the world, why would any Norwegian risk it all to become an entrepreneur?

It’s a very good question. As in most countries, entrepreneurs are not driven by necessity, they are driven by passion and the ability to make a difference. Social security reduces many of the risks associated with innovation. It may seem like a paradox but the fact is a comprehensive welfare system makes it easier. We have the system to allow entrepreneurs to fail. but the question is why aren’t they doing it? It comes back to what you say, we don’t have a culture of individuals, we have a culture of team sports and making a difference in peace, conversations, thats where we have our national pride. I think we need to combine this in the future with solving big issues like india.

Economists say in 2050 India will be the largest economy. We cannot compete with the millions of people in India. They are our future competition so this is the time to cooperate and help them solve their basic problems like energy and waste, areas that we have expertise in.

Should Innovation Norway money be sent directly to startups or used to fund the ecosystem?

We definitely have to do both and we’ve had this dual approach in Norway for many years. Trying to structure innovation by saying “this is the successful way, this is how we will structure incubators”, I just don’t believe in it. I believe in triggering innovation. we have to give the opportunities to home-grown entrepreneurs as we do to the research institutes.

I agree with the advice from Saul Singer. We need to not have so many conversations about how to structure incubators and focus more on the companies we are supporting. Push them, show them the way, and then support them further. You get more creative the less money you have.

DN published interesting new research about the factors behind successful entrepreneurs. Firstly, they have bigger dreams, worldwide dreams. Secondly, they wake up early in the morning and get on with it. Thirdly, they are not stopped by a lack of capital and they work through failures.

Is innovation possible outside a capitalist economy like the USA, especially given Norway’s high cost of living?

Obviously the market has become global and people will move to areas where they get the best chance. Our research institutes are world leading and have no recruitment problem, because people want to be where the action is.

But Norway is a capitalist system, we are more productive than the American economy, and their Government has  been stimulating innovation more than Norway. We need to be more clear on what Norway has to offer, such as a high quality of life. Startup Extreme is a great example of something unique we can do to attract people, that’s not based on politics or tax.

Should Norway cooperate or compete with our Nordic neighbours?

We have great potential of clustering ourselves as a Nordic region. Cities are fighting each other to be the technology capital but this is useless. Within Oslo the argument was whether to build the technology hub at Nydalen or Fornebu. This was a waste of time. Visiting Americans asked why we were spending time discussing this, when to them Norway itself is just a campus of the Scandinavian or Nordic market, and thats the market that’s interesting to them. This regional cluster has huge potential in the world, but first of all we need to work things out in Norway at a regional level. The new-look Innovation House in Palo Alto is a great example of Nordic cooperation, so we are starting the process.

We are two keen bloggers, I can’t resist asking you about what blogging does for you?
As a blogger and bestselling author, it was a brave choice of the board of to hire me. I am visible, have opinions and want to change things, but there is a balance between leading a Government-owned company and being visible. It can be handled in a very healthy way

I think there was a desire to bring in a high-profile figure to make Innovation Norway more visible. I’ve long been active in debates about commercialising technology, so what I can do with this profile is speak up more about what we need, what we do, make it more visible. For example, we don’t disucss whether to be a social company, we have to be a social company. If we are not there and available, if we don’t understand innovation dialogue, then we don’t understand the real time consequences. i want to be part of the discussion.

Leaders don’t have to blog. I drain myself mentally by writing, as I need to put a demanding life into perspective. i have chosen to continue blogging while in this job because I want to encourage young people into entrepreneurship but show the vulnerable side. When i share my thoughts, I make new connections and find opportunities for me and my colleagues. It is a risk, but someone has to do it!

Photo credit: Jo Michael