Anne Kjaer Riechert
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 29, 2015

Innovating Towards Peace

Joining Pascal Finette for Technoport 2015’s Peace, Love & Entrepreneurship session is Anne Kjær Riechert, who works at the fascinating crossroads of innovation and global peace.

A graduate from the prestigious social innovation and change management school KaosPilot in Denmark, she has since worked as creative lead and corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultant for the brand strategy company Stoic, launched her own humanitarian project, Kids Have a Dream, and studied Peace Studies in Japan on a prestigious Rotary Peace Fellowship.

She moved to Berlin where she worked as the Manager of Public Affairs for Coca-Cola, and setup a Peace Innovation Lab in collaboration with Stanford University.

The Peace Innovation Lab network provides design frameworks, principles and methodologies for Persuasive Technology interventions to measurably increase positive engagement, at scale. They aim to improve social security, provide academic knowledge, facilitate business development, build personal capacity, and build strong local communities.

She was kind enough to sit down with Technoport for a Q&A ahead of what is sure to be an inspiring talk at Technoport 2015.

Anne Kjaer Riechert

How did you connect with the Peace Innovation Lab?

The Peace Innovation Lab was founded at Stanford University in 2010. I met them when I was doing research for OpenIDEO in Palo Alto. They were mixing technology, innovation & peace studies, an unusual triangle that I found exciting. Through my research spending a lot of time in the peacekeeping world there were very fluffy concepts, but I wanted hard facts to see if the interventions we made were working. Technology is such an enabler, it allows you to take effective real-time measurements and helps you scale up if what you are doing is working.

When I graduated, I could choose between continuing my research at Stanford, or collaborating in a different way. They encouraged me to start a Peace Lab in Berlin and basically gave me a wildcard to build up a presence.

What does the Berlin branch do?

When I arrived in Berlin the cross-sector networking was missing. There were meetups of course, but they were based on pizza and beer, and what happens happens. I don’t believe in that being the only way.

Now in Berlin, we are a grass-roots movement with 670 members from all sectors including government, academia, for-profit and non profit. Once a month we run a collaborative workshop for two hours, at which experts talk about a technology or social innovation topic. This is followed by a 90-minute brainstorming session, where we aim to come up with new concepts and/or discuss implications. Afterwards we always go out for a drink together, an informal but important part of the community.

Participating in a full 2-hour program inspires people and eases the collaboration process. It makes it easier to network with people later, because you know who they are, what they are interested in, and how to navigate the system better.

Do you have any advice for developing an entrepreneurial mindset?

The mindset for a social entrepreneur is a special kind of mindset. Triple bottom line thinking is crucial. Unfortunately a lot of time social entrepreneurs are so keen to make an impact that we forget the financial viability of what we are doing. The biggest challenge faced by social entrepreneurs is getting this balance right.

What can we look forward to at Technoport 2015?

I’m going to give my personal story to encourage the entrepreneurial mindset in people and to say just go for it.

I will describe how we developed the Peace Innovation Lab in Berlin, together with how and why it is radically different from the one at Stanford. We spent a long time working with Stanford on business models and spreadsheets before we realised we hadn’t built anything. We put away the computers and started building, sourced feedback and grew.

Meet Anne in Trondheim

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

Pascal Finette
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 27, 2015

Pascal Finette: From Palo Alto to Trondheim

Travelling to Technoport 2015 all the way from the heart of Silicon Valley is serial entrepreneur Pascal Finette, whose CV makes impressive reading. He’s founded a couple of technology startups, led eBay’s Platform Solutions Group in Europe, launched a consulting firm helping entrepreneurs with their strategy & operations, invested into early-stage tech startups, led Mozilla Labs, created Mozilla’s accelerator program WebFWD, headed up Mozilla’s Office of the Chair and invested into social impact organisations around the globe at Google.org. Phew!

He’ll speak at the Peace, Love & Entrepreneurship session, apt given his experience in creating the non-profit organizations Mentor for Good, POWERUP and The Coaching Fellowship (yes, he’s managed to cram all that into his career, too!)

Right now, he heads up the Startup Lab at Singularity University, which has a mission to “educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges” – now that’s a mission statement we at Technoport Towers can identify with!

Pascal was kind enough to talk to Technoport about his experience and what we can expect from him at Technoport 2015:

Pascal Finette Open Innovation NASA

Making an impact

“Singularity University is fairly young, only six years old. The vast majority of our work is educational, and about two years ago we saw more startups that leveraged exponential technology so we set up a support system, to combine ongoing education with access to our community and network. Today we are three parts: a startup part, a corporate part where Fortune 500 companies reinvent themselves, then an impact partner part. The latter group have boots on the ground so they let us know what it’s really like out there. We are in Silicon Valley but it’s completely different to be out on the ground in Africa.”

“Our philosophy is simple: we bring people together to create transformative change. Our startup program brings together 80 people who all know each other and have a drive to change the world. It’s a ten-week project over the summer when we support them, bring in mentors, and other program elements that foster them and their confidence. A good chunk of the projects turn into companies. Of course, they are very early stage often with no market validation, so we may then bring them into our new accelerator.”

The entrepreneurial mindset

All this begs an obvious question that ties into the theme of Technoport 2015. Is the mindset of a social entrepreneur different from a “regular” entrepreneur, and if so, can people learn the qualities needed?

“I dislike the term social entrepreneur because it sounds like it’s different from entrepreneurship. It’s not. These people are entrepreneurs but they choose to solve a pressing social need. The skills required to solve problems are exactly the same, in fact it’s maybe a little harder because of funding sources.”

“When you look at what makes a social entrepreneur do what they do, it’s always that drive for impact, a sense for wanting to create something bigger than themselves, and a deep connection to the issue at hand, be it human trafficking, autism, whatever it is. Every human being has the capacity for that.”

“There’s an interesting trend with the new generation of “millennials”. Instead of the Wall Street boom or Dot Com boom, where the urge was to create as much money as they could, this generation seems to want to create a better planet. Perhaps it’s the hyper awareness due to today’s media, but whatever it is, I am hopeful we will see a lot more social entrepreneurs in their 20s.”

Pay it forward, every day

It should be obvious by now that Pascal is a subscriber to the “pay it forward” philosophy and as such, shares his thoughts on entrepreneurship with the thousands of subscribers to his daily email newsletter, The Heretic.

“A few years ago I had an urge to share my thoughts with the world. It began on Twitter but 140 characters was too limiting, and I couldn’t use my existing blog because it was syndicated through Planet Mozilla, so I wanted to create another place. something that is safer place. It’s turned into a really interesting experiment for me. Can I actually write something on a daily basis? I use it to reflect on something I read or heard during the day, so it’s become a wonderful way for me to reflect, sharpen my own thinking, perhaps reiterate a point I made to someone else and even expand on it.”

Meet Pascal in Trondheim

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

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
2

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

Technology Sector in Trondheim
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 21, 2015

The State of Trondheim’s Technology Sector

The Trondheim region is home to 554 technology companies employing over 10,000 people, generating more than NOK 14.4bn (USD $1.9bn) in revenues, according to a new report.

The Impello Analysis is an annual report from the Trondheim-based advisory firm Impello Management AS. Every year since 1996, the report analyses the state of the technology sector across the Trondheim region, which encompasses Orkdal, Melhus, Malvik, Leksvik, Stjørdal, Rissa, Midtre Gauldal, Klæbu, Skaun and the city of Trondheim itself.

The report highlights two companies for their impressive growth. Norbit ITS AS is one of the three leading European providers of road tolling systems. Their revenue grew by 209 % from 2012 to 2013. One Voice AS develop tools for risk management and crisis management and have seen 48% average revenue growth (CAGR) from 2009 to 2013.

What Trondheim offers the world

In addition to providing analysis on the raw numbers, the report asks key figures from Norway’s political and business environment challenging questions about the future of Trondheim as a technology city, providing a nice narrative to frame the report’s findings.

Monica Mæland, Norway’s Minister for Trade and Industry, says in the report:

“The amazing research and educational institutions are a driving force behind the technology industry in Trondheim. And not least, the close collaboration between those academic institutions and businesses. What happens in this environment fits nicely with the Government initiatives in areas such as oceans and energy.”

“I must also say that Nobel Prize winners May-Britt and Edvard Moser are evidence not only for the outstanding efforts they have made in medicine, but also of Trondheim’s strength in research.” – (translated from Norwegian)

Following the report’s publication this week, Professor Johan E. Hustad, Prorector of Innovation at NTNU, said the focus of the University was paying off:

“This year’s report again highlights the importance of placing innovation and entrepreneurship high on the agenda at NTNU, to create spin-off enterprises from the work of our employees and our students. Turning cutting-edge technologies and new ideas into companies with global potential is of the upmost importance in a country that basically relies on natural resources like hydropower, oil and gas as well as fisheries and aquaculture.”

Revolve NTNU electric racing car

Revolve NTNU electric racing car

Bridging the gap

It’s in this space between knowledge and business that Technoport seeks to make a difference. Our 2015 conference will attempt to awaken the entrepreneurial mindset in Norway’s researchers, students, and others working in the “knowledge economy”, to help bridge the gap between great research and commercial success. Technoport CEO Gøril Forbord explains:

“Our goal is to stimulate innovation locally, nationally and internationally. We promote discussion about innovation and arrange conferences and events where people can meet. That’s it, simply because we believe innovation will happen when people meet. We can help to further develop Trondheim’s technology sector by innovating ourselves to create better arenas for networking and facilitate more connections between academia and business.

“One thing we can’t lose sight of is the needs of the individual entrepreneur. Technoport is funded by Governmental organiations and large businesses, but it’s important for us all to remember it’s people, not organisations, that create innovation.”

Discuss what’s next for Trondheim

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

Print magazines
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 21, 2015

The Future of Print in the Digital Age

When it comes to news, there can be no doubt consumer behaviour has shifted from print to digital.

Trashy headlines, comedy distractions and celebrity exclusives now belong to the likes of BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post & TMZ rather than the tabloid press. Twitter breaks news faster than any newspaper ever could, while engaged political bloggers arguably have more sway than columnists ever did. Legacy newspaper brands are struggling to make it pay online, whereas digital-first blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable thrive with the ability to satisfy its news-hungry audience multiple times per day.

So print is dead.

Or is it?

Wil Lee-Wright

Wil Lee-Wright

“There is a vacuum in print and it is open for entrepreneurial journalists to explore”, claims Wil Lee-Wright, Editor-in-Chief at The List, a new English language print magazine for Trondheim, targeting foreigners living in and visiting the town.

“Myself, our team, my friends and family all actively seek out print publications. Of course we’re engaged with digital content but print is something we all crave. A digital platform alone won’t satisfy the needs of our audience. New international workers, asylum seekers, business travellers and tourists won’t necessarily know about the digital platform, but they will see our magazine out on the streets. We also offer digital content and anticipate doing more in the future, but the print magazine will remain our way of introducing people to the brand.”

A sustainable business?

Even if there is a demand for print publications, is it possible to build a sustainable business given the powerful targeting available with online media? Wil is convinced it is.

“From our pre-launch research we found that in places with saturated markets like London, there has been a move towards the free press. The List is a free publication but with high production values, so much so that some people aren’t quite sure if our magazine is free! This quality, together with the fact that no other publication is targeting this audience, means we have a very attractive proposition for advertisers. We are already achieving sustainable advertising rates because we offer access to a unique audience, whilst remaining accessible to all.”

Tarmo Virki

Tarmo Virki

Tarmo Virki, co-founder of CoFounder magazine, agrees.

“The differentiator is being able to reach a very specific target group. Newspapers and general interest print magazines aim as wide as the internet does, but there is one key difference. On the internet you can target advertising, so today print has to target too.”

The Finnish-Estonian publication targets the thriving technology startup scene in Europe, and launched its debut issue at the Slush conference in November 2014.

“We have seen a lot of free media like the Metro newspaper trying to create a platform through distributing the paper publication to as many people as possible. We will operate a subscription model, but continue to distribute at industry conferences too. Issue 2 will be available at the CeBIT conference in Germany.”

A credible voice

Both The List and CoFounder are professionally designed, quality publications, the kind of magazine you’ll leave on your kitchen table and refer to again and again. This offers readers – and advertisers – something they struggle to find online, a long-term, permanent relationship. That print ad lasts forever.

Print offers journalists the chance to unshackle themselves from click-bait headlines and SEO keyword-driven copy, and explore topics with a depth and narrative that’s increasingly hard to find online.

This article from Niemann Storyboard suggests “Launching a print magazine today is courageous; some would say foolhardy.”

I say courageous, yes, but foolhardy, no. A future in which we consume news online but read more thoughtful, longer-form interviews and features in print is one I’m all for.

What do you think?

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

Electric car
1Jonas Opedal

Jonas OpedalJanuary 16, 2015

A $1bn Electric Car Failure

The idea was simple enough.

As simple as revolutionising an entire industry can be, anyhow. Putting electric vehicles on people’s radars for good and fixing one of its biggest drawbacks, range anxiety (distance travelled per charge)

How, you ask? By rethinking the whole charging procedure and dramatically reducing the charging time.

A good idea, you ask? According to investors, yes. Better Place raised almost $1 billion in funding without a ready product.

Who, you ask? A serial entrepreneur named Shai Agassi, a guy charismatic as few others, was able to convince investors he would sell millions of electric cars in Israel and the rest of the world.

Innovative technology

Instead of relying on the traditional stop-and-wait-while-your-battery/tank-is-refilled, which for an electric car takes a long time, Agassi wanted to think new. His solution was to exchange the whole battery package under the car, fully automatic, and replace it with a fully charged one. This meant that you would be able to be in and out of a charging station, leaving with a full battery in less than 5 minutes, not much longer than the time taken to refill a regular petrol tank. This, combined with a vast network of battery swapping stations throughout cities and the countryside, would mean the end of range anxiety.

Better Place was founded in 2007 and immediately drew investors’ attention. They wanted to build affordable electric family cars in a market consisting almost solely of Tesla Roadsters. After hitting it off with current CEO of Nissan and Renault, Agassi suggested at a TED talk in 2009 that Renault cars would enter the market with “mass volume – mass volume being the first year, 100,000 cars”. This would mean half the new-car market in Israel at the time, and he later told Time magazine that they would eliminate new sales of petrol cars by 2015.

The final order to Nissan-Renault, placed in 2009, committed Better Place to buy 100,000 cars between 2011 and 2016. Their planned business model would borrow from the telecom industry in that they would subsidise the vehicles and make use of monthly subscriptions for the charging networks. Eternal optimism dominated in these early days and Agassi soon told reporters that the cars would price about half of a petrol car, this without having agreed on prices with Renault-Nissan.

The huge investments meant Agassi was soon on the lookout for expansion beyond the Israeli borders. Better Place focused huge amounts of time and money on lobbying politicians and planning for new markets, first out would be Denmark and Australia. In addition, instead of hiring experienced people from the motor industry, his managing group consisted of both his brother, sister and father, and later also his girlfriend and her friends.

His attempts to get other car manufacturers on board did not go well, scaring away German manufacturers with his ideological and top-down point of view. In fact, while meeting with General Motors, Agassi suggested to them that they would deliver their cars for free, and laughed at their plans for the new Chevrolet Volt. As you can imagine, the meeting did not end on good terms.

When the first cars were finally ready for delivery in 2012, reality hit hard. The driving range was substantially lower than promised and priced at the same level as petrol cars. The monthly subscription added $3,000 a year plus charging, and the battery station infrastructure ended up costing $2m. At that time, they were losing $500,000 each day. In May 2013, Better Place declared bankruptcy having sold just 1,500 cars.

Lessons learned

Better Place had a big opportunity to push the electric car revolution, with huge funding and massive public interest. In the end it was probably mismanagement that ruined the big adventure. But was it ever a good idea?

The short answer is yes.

Let us first look at the investors and the media. Both gave of their resources in vast amounts, underlining that the idea must have had some things going for it. Also, Better Place did manage to build a working vehicle and charging stations, albeit not exactly with the specification and price they had promised. In other words, the technology was possible.

Another convincing argument is that Tesla supports the technology. This video from Tesla depicts the Model S switching battery in only 90 seconds, substantially faster than Better Place allowed.

On stage, Elon Musk proclaims: “The only decision you’ll make when you come to our Tesla Stations is; do you prefer faster or free?”, suggesting that swapping stations might not be too far away.

So far, noone has picked up the baton from Better Place. Probably the number of electric cars is still too few to justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on switching equipment. The vast number of different batteries and standards of charging must also seem cooling for the industry, allowing one type of car per different station.

Instead, industry focus is now on improving battery and supercharging technologies. But with growing number of vehicles, and Tesla pushing innovation, that might change in the not all too distant future.

What do you think?

How can we learn from failures?

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

Photo credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

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.