in Articles

Heads-up on TechCrunch’s Take at Norwegian Startups

Norwegian Startup Troll

See the full article on ArcticStartup.

TechCrunch recently published a timely article questioning if Norway is leaving its tech startups out in the cold. Here’s why the discussion needs another angle and the problem in fact is the problem.

Mike Butcher starts out comparing the ones of Spotify, Rovio, Tradeshift, and Everbread to the lack of evidence of successful startups from Norway, even pondering upon Opera as a half-fledged success. The arguments are as half the truth as pointing at Bipper and Wonderloop (both Norwegian semi-expats) as examples of the opposite.

Founder migration

Not very different from the case of Siri, Norwegians seems to take their startups elsewhere. But there's more to it.

Consider San Francisco-based DoubleTwist which Norwegian founder rose funding from Northzone and Index Ventures. Flattr was co-founded by the Norwegian co-founder of The Pirate Bay and is headquartered in Sweden. WooThemes and its Norwegian co-founder are virtually global. Attentio, by the founder of Zoomit, (later Kelkoo/Yahoo) is based in Brussels. Gauss was started by the co-founder of Plone and operates out of Cologne. Soundrop is now looking at New York. Maybe not yet media darlings, but they are Norwegian founders eventually bringing home experience.

If international presence isn't considered a step in the right direction, what is then?

Displaced success

So it seems that Norway isn't that disconnected to the international tech scene after all.

Playfish, co-founded by a Norwegian and operating offices in Tromsø, was acquired by EA for $400M. TrollTech, Funcom, NimSoft, Chipcon, and Falanx, to mention some, all had their exits. cXense is founded by the former founder of FAST, which was acquired by Microsoft. CFengine serves clients such as Facebook, Google, Cisco, and AT&T. Meltwater should need no further introduction -- all once startups and international at large.

Taken into account - in a culture that doesn't recognize success, there is no success.

Sleeping Pillow

As usual Innovation Norway takes the hit. Not only looking at international cases, I wouldn't blame them too much.

Unfortunately governmental funding has become a "sleeping pillow" to many aspiring entrepreneurs. Instead of hunting customers, too many entrepreneurs put their efforts and existence in chasing governmental grants. Subsidies do not make a startup, customers do. And with customers comes funding. In fact, the Norwegian VC market is still measured the largest and most active in the Nordic region.

Whether migration or displaced success is due to legislations, tax policies, the Jante Law, oil bonanza, a small home market, or access to the right capital - founders targeting international markets and getting down with real customers might be exactly what the Norwegian startup scene needs.

PS: For the CrunchBase stats I'd be happy to donate this list of Norwegian startups. The question is, is anyone at TechCrunch listening?

What do you think? Can Norway make startup migration sustainable?

Do you like what you see? Feel free to subscribe or follow me on Twitter.

  1. Hi Tor,

    I agree. I worked at Trolltech for several years and also at another smaller startup, Mohive, that was purchased. My belief is that there are people interested in building startups in Norway, but the community and ecosystem isn’t there yet.

    What Norway needs is a spark. Innovation Norway, for all its blessing and curses, is not the leader that is needed to build this community of startups. I believe there is a strong need to have a group that can pressure the government to ease taxes, help find funding, and essentially go to bat for the little guy/gal. But also a group that can help rally the troops and to help encourage startup creation.

    I follow blogs like – they do lots of work, but rarely even mention Norway.

    I guess that is what I miss.

  2. Thanks for your insights, Aron.

    The government is in this for the long haul. For all we know is pushing entrepreneurs out of their comfort zones, making them travel the seas and make their own money a better strategy than subsiding. The common interest should be to make this thing sustainable. So instead of complaining and pointing at the cliches all over again, as this TC article does, why not try to learn what works and tune in on how we can leverage that? That requires among other things tech media, indeed.

  3. Hi Ryan,

    Exaggeration is one thing. Scrappy research is another. But still, the article helps in sparking some longed for discussion, which is good. As you say, a part of the game. Thx for the mention. Would love to learn more about Drive.

  4. Its very sad post. Through this post i understand about the norway people life. I will go with business broker point. Its better to join them in YMCA. Their they will have a superb life with the successful projects.