On my journey around the coworking spaces, Startup Weekends and other events that make up the Norwegian entrepreneurial scene, I continue to be astounded by the talented people I meet. People with great ideas and the drive to deliver on them and make a real impact.
But so many times I’m saddened to see the entrepreneur restricting themselves to their home market. The population of the world is an estimated 7.1 billion people. Norway’s population is just 5 million, or to put it another way, 0.07% of the world’s population. By focusing your innovative idea on Norway alone, you are missing out on 99.93% of the world.
I get it, I truly do. There is a high average disposable income and the language barrier (which does exist in Norway, despite the high comprehension of English) means it’s easy to replicate a successful business model from elsewhere in the world by just implementing it in Norwegian. But for truly innovative ideas, ideas with the potential to disrupt industries, consider going global first.
Here are some markets to consider.
The rise of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Norwegian and Flybe means the UK’s capital is now just as easy to reach from Oslo as any Norwegian city. Think about that for a moment. 65 million people and Europe’s biggest tech startup cluster on your doorstep without any real change in your travel habits or budget.
London’s tech startup scene is centred on the Silicon Roundabout between Hackney and Islington. Cisco, Facebook, Google, Intel and McKinsey & Company have all invested in the area to help create Tech City, an umbrella organisation driving the area’s growth.
Tech hangouts and coworking spaces litter London, offering space to network and a calendar of events all year round. The Trampery, Soho Collective, and TechSpace are just some to check out. As for the type of startups that can succeed in London, a recent “Tech City pulse” survey revealed the following breakdown of London’s digital economy:
One success story of using London as a platform for growth is the game-like educational tool Kahoot from Mobitroll, originally developed at NTNU.
Not a market in itself, but Silicon Valley gives you access to one of the biggest markets of them all: the USA, and of course, venture capital money, but it’s notoriously difficult to get noticed amid the ever-increasing number of wannabes. However, if you are serious about targeting the US, there are ways in.
Innovation Norway operate the TINC program a couple of time a year, offering 10 Norwegian companies a unique business development and networking opportunity in the heart of the Valley. Keep your eyes peeled on the Innovation House blog for news.
Successful Norwegian companies with a foot (or more!) in this corner of California include the collaborative video creation software WeVideo, the gesture recognition system of Elliptic Labs, and identity management innovators ForgeRock.
Will you take the advice of serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Jon Medved and “get your butt over to the US“?
The UK and USA are relatively easy to do business with as a Norwegian due to shared language and, to a certain extent, culture. Neither can be said for the world’s second-largest economy and home to over 1 billion people, China. Although the risks may be high, but the rewards of looking east are potentially enormous.
Now far more than the “workshop of the world”, China has a lot more to offer than cheap labour or cheap imports from Alibaba. Innovation Norway are attempting to repeat the success of their Silicon Valley operation and have opened Innovation House Shanghai, to connect Norwegian entrepreneurs and SMEs with the relevant networks in China:
“The country faces an historic shift from labor intensive industries to knowledge-based capital-intensive industries and as part of this transformation, the services sector will replace the industrial sector as the pivotal driver of economic growth. The Chinese Government strongly backs the increased openness towards international business and is building a hypermodern infrastructure across the country, surpassing that of many western countries, to facilitate this change. Wages are still relatively low compared to Norway, which also can make business very profitable.”
You may be surprised that I’m suggesting you check out one of Europe’s economic disaster stories, but some enterprising Norwegians are benefiting from the estimated 50,000 Norwegians living and working in Spain.
Several Norwegian entrepreneurs have set up call centres and other business support services in the Canary Islands and areas of high Norwegian population on the mainland. There’s a steady supply of Norwegian speaking staff despite the substantially lower salaries (though still above the Spanish average) because of the attractiveness of the Spanish climate, particularly in the Canaries. Lower salaries of course means the call centres can undercut their competition based in Norway.
There’s nothing wrong with starting your business in Norway, but plan global from the start. It makes things much easier if and when you decide to expand, and you may be surprised how quickly things develop.