Liveblogging the 2018 Nordic Innovation Conference, Seattle (3)–“The Nordic Startup Explosion”

Panel Discussion: The Nordic Startup Explosion

Moderator: Todd Bishop, Geekwire; Panelists: Fredrik Cassel (Creandum); Gro Eirin Dyrnes (Nordic Innovation House); Hartti Suomela (Business Finland); Dr. John Markus Lervik (Cognite AS)

Issues about technical competence, yet the need for marketing skills is clear.

One panelist says USA visa issues are discouraging now for Nordic entrepreneurs to want to come to USA versus staying in the positive business-setting of the Nordic region.

Panelist Hartti Suomela, Business Finland, points to major startup event in Helsinki, Slush.

Here is text from the Slush website:


During what is – let’s be honest – the sh*ttiest weather season of the year, Slush brings together the leading actors of the global tech scene to Helsinki for something very special. Described by many as “Burning Man meets TED”, the event has grown in just a few short years to 20,000 attendees and 1 million live stream viewers.

In 2017, over 2,600 startups, 1,500 venture capitalists, and 600 journalists from over 130 countries gathered to Slush to drive business, and to experience the phenomenal atmosphere.

Questions about venture capital market and angel funding; positive in Nordics, yet USA funding environment has “deeper war-chest, which allows for more mistakes.”

Nordic governments have more engaged role for start-up companies; have matching grants, for example.

Categories for upcoming positive startups: AI; machine-learning (panel notes China much involved in this; Finland government has also focused on this); Norway, oil/gas, maritime areas; 5G connectivity space with Ericsson and Nokia is good (and USA restrictions in this space against Chinese companies, so creates opportunities).

Direct local connection between financial sources and startups; even direct air connection can make a difference. Finnair now has a direct air connection from Finland to Silicon Valley.

One panelist says it’s OK if it’s hard to break into USA market, because it forces the Nordic companies to become more competitive, to be better.

A panelist says focus on Nordic entrepreneur strengths, don’t compete with China on labor costs or USA on equity wealth; compete with work-ethic, loyalty (much less employee turnover).

Another says: keep your focus on a niche; pursue wholeheartedly. This may be different from Silicon Valley.

Key take-aways:

1. Dyrnes: from Silicon Valley perspective, many surprising companies bringing passion to market; I’m optimistic.

2. Lervik: Nordic startups may be much more lowkey than others; yet much depth in these companies often; (typical Nordic culture attribute).

3. Suomela: focus on niche, get out early with product.

4. Cassel: Nordic society and technology now more important than ever.

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