Symptoms of the Norwegian Startup Ecosystem

This post originally ran on ArcticStartup.

Norwegian Startup Ecosystem - ArcticStartup

As inventors of the object-oriented programming language and the modern GSM technology, you would expect Norway to have the perfect ingredients for a vibrant startup scene. If you, however, search this or any other notable tech blog for news on early-stage Norwegian startups, you would find next to nothing.

While Nordic and Baltic startups seems to thrive, why don’t we see any ventures emerging out of Norway, several Nordic and European professionals questioned me. After talking to a handful of entrepreneurs, investors, and scholars about why this is the case, I discovered seven symptoms of the Norwegian start-up ecosystem that might explain why Norway’s tech innovation is lagging behind that of its neighbors.

Found and lost

Called “black gold” the Norwegian oil imperium is the usual suspect and by long the cliché. But it is still the most used argument in explaining why Norway lags behind its Nordic counterparts. As Finnish Travelling Salesman (Kristoffer Lawson) reports from his visit to Norway in autumn 2010: “Software is not at Norway's heart”. That needs a closer look.

As mentioned above, Norwegian researchers developed the object-oriented programming language back in 1960, which was later used for creating Java and many of today’s popular web application frameworks. In fact, oil & energy industry is still dependent on specialized software to work its magic. Similarly, this industry needs communication systems and infrastructure. That is why today many Norwegian software developers work and have their customers in this space.

The problem, however, is that this space is pretty much owned by large service providers and consulting companies, and much of supply and demand exists inside of Norway. Although the oil & energy industry might not have a direct impact on tech startup scene, it plays a substantial role on the industry structure that makes up the startup ecosystem.

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