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!

Live Crowdfunding
14Hermann Ørn Vidarsson

Hermann Ørn VidarssonDecember 8, 2014

Live Crowdfunding Experience: FAQ

Just like last year, the Live Crowdfunding Experience has sparked interest from startups the length and breadth of Norway.

We’re receiving many questions from curious entrepreneurs, so we took contact with Aleksander Langmyhr from FundedByMe, who in collaboration with Technoport, Innovation Norway, Kunnskapsparken Nord-Trøndelag and NTNU Accel, organises The Live Crowdfunding Experience.

Hello Aleksander. We have many exciting companies that have expressed interest in the event, while being a little unsure of the process. Can you explain how it works?

Hey, I can! The concept of equity crowdfunding is the still new so it’s understandable there are many questions. One can look at FundedByMe as a very good tool for companies considering raising capital to test interest in the market.

Let me take you through our process step by step.

Firstly, the company creates a presentation on the FundedByMe website. Those startups chosen for the Technoport event will be closely monitored by us to ensure they create the best possible presentation.

Do companies need this help?

Often they do. We have seen many good (and not so good) presentations on our site. I have personally worked with creating this type of presentation when I worked with the purchase and sale of large businesses, so the startups get a high level of help.

After companies have developed their presentation and are happy with it, they can publish it on the website. This is what we call “go live” on our site.

When your company is live on our site, anyone can view the presentation. If they think it’s interesting enough that they will consider investing, they can indicate their interest. This is done by pressing “invest” and indicating the sum they wish to invest.

So money is not transferred straight away?

Correct, there is no money transferred. It is only an indication that you are interested if the company chooses to fetch money at a later date. We see that almost all investors who express their interest do join the share issue, if and when the company implements it.

This leads me on to the next phase. When the company is “finished” on our platform, we have 45 days by default, so they see how many people have expressed an interest in investing.

And for how much …?

Yes that’s right, how many are interested in investing, and how much they have collectively indicated that they want to invest.

Sometimes the interest is very high and sometimes the interest is lower than we hoped for. Either way, the use of FundedByMe gives the company a good basis for deciding whether they choose to raise money or not.

After this process we come to the last step. When companies are finished on the platform (after about 45 days) they will decide whether to accept the investment offers or not.

So the startups can pick and choose?

Yes. If the company chooses to follow through with a share issue, they invite only the people they want to have as investors. If they are not experiencing enough interest and choose not to pick up the money, this of course is entirely up to them.

One last question, would you recommend companies to apply as a participant to Technoport 2015 in March?

Hehe, leading questions, but of course, yes! Normally, FundedByMe takes a percentages of money that companies choose to retrieve. For companies that are selected to participate in the Technoport event there is no charge at all, it’s completely free!

Everything is free?

Yes, everything is free, from our assistance to prepare a good presentation to the use of the platform itself. There are no direct costs for the startups, because our event partners Innovation Norway, Kunnskapsparken Nord-Trøndelag and NTNU Accel cover the cost.

In addition, participants will get a lot of attention through pitching on stage at Technoport 2015, in front of hundreds of people, just look how it went with Assistep Last year. Their participation did they subsequently received investment from a seed fund, in addition to over half a million kroner from investors who had expressed interest via the platform.

The deadline for applications is 15th December. See full details of the event and how to apply here.

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

On pivots and pitches
60David Nikel

David NikelNovember 23, 2014

On Pivoting: Lessons from an Oslo startup

This is a guest post from Per Harald Borgen, previously of Propell and now of Disco Fingers

This year my company pivoted from from running a digital book club for kids, to building a music composition tool for non-musicians, called Disco Fingers. We made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot during the process. Now I want to share those lessons learned, with a view to preventing other founders making the same mistakes we did.

In the beginning of 2013, our three person startup raised a small seed round form angel investors and Innovation Norway in order to build a digital book club for kids. We spent half a year building the app and an editor for assembling the books, while also gathering a network of illustrators, voice actors, musicians and writers, so we could quickly create titles for the book club.

In the spring of 2013, we launched the app, and branded it as a ‘Netflix for kids books’, promising parents one new book every Friday for a monthly price of $8. The launch got a lot of coverage in Norway and the app quickly established itself on the top 10 list in the Books category on the App Store.

However, both the app and the market itself grew much slower than anticipated. By the winter, it became clear that we would run out of money before reaching profitability if something didn’t change. We tried several different marketing tactics, but none proved scalable and affordable enough to gain sufficient growth.

In addition to this, the deadlines for publishing new titles forced us to compromise on the quality, which started eating away at our motivation. In our eyes, our product had failed.

As we weren’t 100% honest – maybe even to ourselves – about our sinking motivation, people around us kept encouraging us to improve the titles, continue marketing the service, keep on expanding to international markets, and more.

All these would have been good ideas, if we were still motivated.

Cut the cord

So around Christmas 2013, we decided to disappoint them both. We changed the subscription service from weekly to monthly updates, while cutting the price by 60%, which freed up 95% of our time, as we basically froze both the production and the technical development. We stacked up a bunch of titles, so that we didn’t have to think about the book club for over a half year.

As a result, a few subscribers got angry and ended their subscription, but all in all, the transition went pretty smoothly.

Our investors were super supportive when we spoke to them with complete honesty. We hadn’t communicated well enough how tired we were of making medium quality kids books, but when we finally did, their only reaction was: ’Ok, thats fair. What will you do next?’. Had we been more honest earlier on, we could easily have saved 2-3 months.

Lesson learned: Be completely honest to everybody (including yourself) about your motivation. If the team start losing motivation, and you know it won’t change, you are doing everybody a disservice of you keep pushing in the same direction. Don’t even care about the customers you have pre-comitted yourself to. Do whatever it takes to change. Because if you don’t, your company is dead.

You are a startup, not a consulting company

During our pivot, we also tried to get some relevant consultant work, so that we could buy ourselves more time. We called tons of agencies and companies, went to a bunch of meetings and got a few jobs.

However, this disturbed the our identity as a startup, and due to mix of skills. Plus, our team and mix of skills weren’t suited for doing consultant work. As a result, the gigs ended up costing more than they paid.

The solution we ended up with after our pivot was much more viable. We basically decided that every Tuesday was ‘consultant work’-days, so that each one of us could make the extra money on the side. Every Wednesday is a motivational boost, returning from boring consulting stuff to our exciting new product. It also turned out to be a lot easier for us to find work separately, than it was to find jobs that all three of us could contribute to.

Even though we have gotten several relevant job offers today, we say no to all of them. When the three of us work together, we are a startup, not a consulting firm.

Lesson learned: Be a 100% startup when you are at the office together. If some founders need more income, it’s better to take one day off per week to make some extra money on the side. This might not work for all companies, but for us, it has been critical.

One chance to pivot, make it count

When we decided to pivot, we spent a lot of time thinking about what we should pivot to. As a startup, you are always moving 110 miles per hour. While that speed is great for the highway, you must slow down when you are doing a turn.

At first, we tested out a couple of directions, which turned out to be dead ends, for many reasons.

This wasted even more of our precious time.

It wasn’t until we sat down with an outside mentor that we started figuring out the right direction. We slowed down completely, and analysed why we had lost our motivation, what we had done wrong, and why the hell we were doing a startup at all. We had to dig deep and find our inner drive.

It sounds like a cliché, but it’s really important.

We finally landed on a path which led us to the product we have been working on for eight months and finally launched, something which seemed unthinkable a year ago.

Lesson learned: If if it’s not clear what direction you are pivoting too, slow down and spend some time finding the right path. Consider getting someone from the outside to help you with this process. If you pivot in the wrong direction, you probably won’t get a second chance.

So if I am to sum up our hard learned lessons, they are: be completely honest with yourself and others so that you can take action as soon as possible. Try to stay away from consulting, but if you have to do it, consider letting everybody do it by themselves rather than together as a firm. Finally, slow down when you are pivoting, it’s really important to choose the right direction.

If you are in a similar situation and want to chat with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Disco Fingers.

Photo credit: Dean Meyers

Skjermbilde 2014-11-20 kl. 11.38.12
14Hermann Ørn Vidarsson

Hermann Ørn VidarssonNovember 20, 2014

Call for Pitches

The Live Crowdfunding Experiment last year was a success. More than 1MNOK was raised for the 4 companies participating last April. And we are ready for a second run, but not as an experiment, this time it is an experience.
At Technoport 2015, you have the chance to get attention from investors, valuable investments and the network to accelerate YOUR business.

What is equity crowdfunding?
Funding a company by selling shares to crowd investors
in exchange for partial ownership. Equity crowdfunding
investors are entitled to dividends from future profits
and receive a share of the value when shares are sold.

Why live crowdfunding?
Your company will get valuable exposure through the presence
at Technoport 2015. You get a forum to speak
to potential investors, and the opportunity to pitch
in front of a crowd ready to commit. In addition, your company will be featured on FundedByMe,com, a European funding platform.

Who can participate?
Startups that wish to participate should
– Be technology related.
– Be registered as a limited company (Aksjeselskap)

How do I apply?
To register your interest, simply send an application to
aleksander(at)fundedbyme(dot)com. You can also send him
questions or call him at +47 45 15 32 85

The application must include:
A one-pager describing:
● Your business
● How much capital you are seeking
● The valuation of your business
● What you will achieve with this investment
After the deadline an independent jury will pick the most
promising companies with the best/highest potential for
success in the Live Crowdfunding Experiment.

The chosen startups will receive:
● A free campaign on FundedByMe and counseling throughout the campaign preparations
● Two delegate passes to Technoport 2015
● Stand at Technoport 2015
● Participation in “pitch camp” to perfect your pitch

Skjermbilde 2014-11-20 kl. 11.02.17