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60David Nikel

David NikelFebruary 17, 2015

From Oslo to NYC via Berlin

The whole notion of a startup being “Norwegian” or any other nationality is rapidly becoming out of date.

Sure, a company will always be incorporated in a specific country, but is a startup really American if its development takes place in Asia, its sales office is in Dubai, and its content marketing is done from London?

Socius is a great example of a modern location-mobile startup that already counts people from Norway, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA in their ranks. Right now, they’re based in Berlin, but the idea was born in Norway and future plans lie stateside.

Co-founder Daniel Butler told me about the move to Berlin, and the challenges of running a startup both there and in Norway:

“In Oslo there is less chance for serendipity. There are less people, the scenes are small anyway, whether that be music, art or tech, people all know each other so you hit the ceiling quite quickly. The Axel Springer accelerator in Berlin was perfect for us. It’s run by a media house and as we are a media startup it made sense, plus its partnered with an incubator in Silicon Valley so you hit the ground running with international opportunities. Berlin is a cheap place to live and has significant spotlight as a startup destination.”

“The reality is even Berlin is not as buzzing as so many people think it is, but if you manage to ride the wave of publicity then it can be great.”

Right now, Socius is doing its best to ride that wave of publicity, having secured a high-profile partnership with the Berlinale Film Festival:

“Our experience with Berlinale has proven there’s a need for the curation of social content. Of the tens of thousands of posts tagged with the numerous festival hashtags, our platform showcased around 1,700 of them, whereas if you follow through the individual hashtags, you have to trawl through a whole load of repetitive stuff.”

The future is global

A lot of great ideas are born in Norway, but Socius proves you don’t have to restrict yourself to the outdated notion of a nation’s borders to succeed with a startup. The world is out there and Socius are going after it. Are you?

Join us at the Technoport 2015 innovation conference in Trondheim, Norway, as we seek to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset in Norwegian entrepreneurs, students, researchers and investors.

Captain America
2David Smith

David SmithJanuary 26, 2015

Doing Business in America

I’ve spent this month applying for jobs in Trondheim. It’s has made me think about some of the differences in business culture between the USA and Norway. I know a lot of people probably see shows like The Office and wonder how accurate that is to true US business culture. The answer is: it depends.

The US has a very aggressive “sink or swim” capitalism model that is supported by the availability of just about every imaginable good and service. In fact, the failure of some businesses and their replacement by a better-performing business is seen as a natural cycle. It is part of what drives the US business culture to continuously aim for peak performance. If you aren’t doing it well, someone else will, and you will be out of business. So, here are few basic concepts of US business culture:

Time is Money

Schedules, deadlines, and punctuality are essential assets of the working culture. If your project is not on time or early, you can expect to hear about it from your supervisor. If you are regularly late or if you consistently leave early, it will be noticed. Occasionally, picking kids up from sports or school events may be okay, but it is generally expected that you will work the full shift of your assigned hours. Likewise, business meetings generally are expected to start exactly on time and be very direct. Chatting and small talk should be done at another time and place.

If you really want to annoy your colleagues, show up to a meeting late and talk about things that are not directly related to the conversation. You will quickly notice people begin to check their watches or fiddle with pens as they wonder why on earth you are keeping them from the direct task at hand. In the US, attention spans are at a premium and anything not directly related to work is just causing that person to be away from their family or frozen TV dinner or gym class or whatever they have lined up for the evening.

Small talk

Most regular daily greetings such as “how are you?” or “Hi Bob, how are the wife and kids?” are generally more of an expression than a real question. As such, responses like “great”, “fine, thank you”, or “very well, and yourself?” are proper answers. These are not usually questions of interest so much as they are pleasantries. Go into too long of an explanation and you will likely find your partner looking at his/her watch and squirming for an escape route out of awkward conversation. Likewise, parting words such as “let’s get together sometime” or “we should do lunch” are also simple pleasantries, unless a date and time is suggested. Don’t be that weird guy who accidentally chases down a dinner meeting when all that was really meant was “goodnight, see ya later”.

Business cards

Photo by Tojosan

Business cards

This one in particular really cracks me up. In the US, business cards are exchanged almost as often as handshakes. Often, it is just the quickest and simplest way of transferring contact information. At cocktail parties or business luncheons, I generally go home with an entire pocketful of business cards. Throughout the night, I make it a point to keep a pen in my pocket and write notes following the conversation if I am interested in following-up.

For instance, if we speak about a particular position or program that I am interested in then I will most likely keep that card at the top of the stack and write a couple of short notes about our conversation so that I can start the conversation via email form where we left off. This shows initiative, attentiveness, and true interest. Most of the other business cards, however, go into a rolodex just in case it should prove useful later.

Yes. No. Maybe.

Generally speaking, in US business culture, “yes”, “no”, and “maybe” mean exactly that. In many Asian cultures that I have traveled to, the answer is almost always yes, simply out of courtesy. In the US, this is not the case. When we say no, we mean it. Likewise with yes. Maybe literally means “it’s a possibility, let’s follow up”.

Facts and figures

When I worked on Wall Street, we were told to read the Wall Street Journal daily and to be able to hold conversation on things such as the current prices of oil or gold, the general trends in the stock market, and any major news relating to the financial industry. You never know when you may find yourself in an elevator with an executive or on the trading floor with a curious visitor from one of the listed companies. Knowing specific details and numbers will set you apart from your coworkers immediately and give you a reputation for being quick and knowledgeable. You definitely don’t want to be that guy who responds with “yep, the market sure is up today” when in reality it’s down 50+ points on the DJI. When I worked at NYSE, I checked the main indexes at least every 15-20 minutes.

Mind your manners

In American business culture, proper greetings and good manners are a necessity. Opening doors for others, especially for women, holding the elevator door, and using words such as “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me” are expected. In some places around the world it is perfectly fine to run through an open door and then let it crash in someone else’s face. Not in the US. Don’t be that person.

Dress to impress

There is a saying that “clothes make the man”. While this is not directly true, it does have some truth to it. Whether your suit costs $100 or $2,000 is not so much of an issue but what does matter is how you wear it. A suit that fits well, a belt that matches your shoes (brown/brown or black/black), trousers that are properly tailored, hair that is neatly combed, and general hygiene are extremely important. I believe that you should show up to work every day as if it were an interview. Depending on your sector and job function, casual clothing may be more appropriate; however, even casual clothing should be clean, well fitting, and professional. Never be sloppy. You are a direct representation of the organization you work for.

After work drinks

Grabbing beers or cocktails after work is an extremely common part of US business culture. It is a good way to get to know your coworkers, relax, and have fun. Business culture in the US is so formal and strict that getting a chance to know one another outside of business is a really great way to build personal relationships. However, make sure that you don’t drink too much or make a fool of yourself. Although you may not be working, you can guarantee that it will be held in a negative light if you are clearly drunk. Limit yourself to one or two casual drinks and then head home. It shows self-control, professionalism, and still lets people see that you can take the tie off and relax after work.

Remember, although you are off the clock, you walk a fine line anytime you are together with coworkers. You should always be professional. If it’s your desire to go out and have a lot of drinks, that’s fine, but part ways first and head to another venue. If you’re the one dancing on top of the bar all night, it will definitely get some laughs, but it may also cost you your next promotion.

Have fun!

Even though all of these previous tips make it sound like US business culture is scary and always serious, that’s not the case. Work should be fun, regardless of what you do. My first day at the New York Stock Exchange as an intern, I “high-fived” everyone in the office; and then I sat down at my desk and got to work. It was my way of saying “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m friendly and I like to have fun but I’m also here to get work done.”

By being the positive, upbeat, happy guy at work, I always build amazing relationships and help others realize that even though there is work to be done, there is also room to smile. Everyone wishes work was more like The Office and a little fun goes a looong way in US business culture if you do it properly.

In my next post, I will cover some of the most interesting aspects of Norwegian business culture and how they pose difficulties or benefits to foreigners.

Do you have the mindset to succeed globally?

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

Beijing skyline China

Julie MalvikJanuary 23, 2015

An Internship in Beijing

Two Norwegian economics students from Trondheim Business School, Jakob Matthiasen (25) and Hilde Bøe Tjøm (23), have both been undertaking an internship at the investment company Origio Partners PLC in China´s capital, Beijing.

Talking to Technoport, they share their opinions and experiences on how it is to be a part of a working environment in one of the world’s largest economies.

Origo interns

Jakob Matthiasen (L) and Hilde Bøe Tjøm (R) at Origo

Why did you choose to undertake an internship in China?

Hilde: “I applied for the internship because I wanted to challenge myself in a country and a culture totally different than Norway. China has rapidly grown to become one of the world’s largest economies, and the country is an important trading partner for Norway and the rest of the world. Having the opportunity to work in a Chinese company for one month was therefore very appealing.”

Jakob: “An internship in China is a rare opportunity, and when you come across such possibilities, you have to grasp them. To dive head first into the second largest economy of the world is a privilege.”

Politicians are often out in the media to talk about the significance of studying or working in China, yet we have not seen Norwegian companies highlight the same importance. What can you offer compared to students that have not been to Asia?

Jakob: “I believe that China will play a central role in world economics and politics in the future. Having actually worked in China, and experienced Chinese business life first-hand will come in handy, as China is gradually internationalizing. Furthermore, having worked explicitly with Chinese equity markets and their importance and development, I might have a better understanding of anticipated shifts in global asset management.”

Hilde: “I am studying economics. In this context it is interesting to experience Chinese corporate culture and learn about Chinese business models that apparently has been successfully. I think everyone has something to gain from working or studying in a country outside the Western Hemisphere.”

Jakob and Hilde in traditional Chinese formal clothes

Jakob and Hilde in traditional Chinese formal clothes

Could you see yourself working in China in the future?

Jakob: “Maybe. China is bound to be one of the most important countries in the world in the near future, and to live in and experience the development China is undergoing will be fascinating,” Matthiasen said. However, there are downsides. “The pollution. I don’t think I can live in a city where I cannot see the sun and sky, or sometimes four, five blocks ahead, on a regular basis due to smog.”

Hilde: “Having spent two weeks in China without speaking a single word of Chinese, I realise that if I were working here I would definitely have to learn the language. However, if an opportunity were to appear at the appropriate time in my life, I could definitely see myself working in China for some years.”

Why would you recommend China to other students?

Jakob: “Beijing as a city is exhilarating. There is so much to do and experience, and never a dull moment. It is what you make it; you can sit in your apartment and watch series, which is nice after a hard day’s work, or you can go outside and embrace the unknown.”

“I did get around a bit, and got to do the mandatory tourist attractions like the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Silk Market and I even tried eating scorpion. On the other hand, Beijing is enormous, and we’d probably need years to really get to know the city.”

How would you would you describe working in Beijing compared to Trondheim?

Jakob: “Beijing as a working environment surprised me. It was a lot less formal than I thought beforehand, and just not that different.”

“Beijing is a major international business hub, with nationalities from all over the globe, yet it felt like I could have been at work back home in Norway. Which was comforting; there is no shortage of feeling lost when you move outside the international business areas.”

Do you have the mindset to succeed globally?

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

Featured image credit: Trey Ratcliff