Let’s talk; barriers and opportunities

– I am happy to confirm that entrepreneurship is alive and well in Norway at the moment – and this is an exciting place to be right now, Julie Hanna says in her opening remark – extracting smiles from around the table.

This afternoon, quite a select group have found their way to the top floor at Innovation Norway HQ – with the shared purpose of talking, learning and maybe pinpointing areas in need of extra focus to better aid the growth of entrepreneurship.

Show me the money
This afternoon’s round table includes Kjartan Slette from Unacast, Johan Brand from Kahoot, Rolf Assev at StartupLab, Sindre Østgård from Tinius Trust, Lars Boilesen in Opera and Tom Fredrik Lehrman from DNB – as well as Julie Hanna, and with Bård Stranheim from Innovation Norway as moderator.

Bård: How can we attract more private money for entrepreneurs?
Rolf: – Matching is the simple answer.
Johan: – It’s about knowledge. I know money guys, and they don’t invest outside their comfort zone or area of expertise. We need to create initiatives where they can come, meet and learn.

Julie Hanna, Johan Brand and Kjartan Slette.
Julie Hanna, Johan Brand and Kjartan Slette. (Foto: Siv Eide)

Bård: How do you, Kjartan, experience selling yourself to investors?
Kjartan: – I have been in a company that missed the real selling window, ending up selling for pennies. Experience is the most important component, as I see it. We did not know how to do it. We looked at it too narrowly, we didn’t really dare, and that is painful today. One of the main things that drives me today is to avoid ever saying to myself “You could, but didn’t…”At the end of the day it is only us, the founders themselves, who can build our businesses.
Rolf: – You are right. It is really up to you. You don’t need anyone else. And some people are like that, while others need support. As with sports people, a good manager can for some make all the difference.
Julie: You, as founders, have to focus on what is within your control. You lead the way.

Power to the people
Bård: What is the next necessary competence program? A Tinc 2.0?
Johan: – We need to get companies talking, sharing, bringing each other to the table. Power couples, like Unacast and Opera, are a good example.
Lars: – A lot is happening here in Norway on the startup scene, but I don’t see enough happening in the education industry. This is where we have a big opportunity.

Bård: How can we create the best educational system, Julie?
– In Silicon Valley, there is really close cooperation in place between Stanford and the industry. This means that the industry is in there, talking, explaining. The private sector is informing the educational sector. These guys, (pointing at Johan and Kjartan) should be going into your universities, talking to the students.
Rolf: – We also need to learn coding from the start of our schooling. That is SO important, and it is not happening here yet.

Culture and mindset
Bård: To round up our talk, can you, Julie, advise us on 3 characteristics on culture, that the Norwegian startup scene needs?

Julie: I would say that these are the main three components in a healthy entrepreneurial culture;

  1. Mindset about failure.
    We have a saying that goes; Fail forward fast. In the US we are dispassionate and not stigmatizing about failure.
  2. Risk tolerance.
    Safety nets are fine. Comfort is different. Start with focusing on the aspirations – then you think less of the risk.
  3. Network effects.
    Trust-based relationships are key, they create hyper-efficient network effects.
    “We know we benefit from the system, and so we pay it forward.”


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