I had the pleasure to attend a panel at an event arranged by Silicon Vikings Oslo Chapter on October 16th. The headline was “Silicon Vikings Valley Night” with John Montgomery, Jennifer Vessels and Eva Bjørseth as speakers and panelists. Great people from Silicon Valley. I wasn’t part of this, not until the day before when I met Tone S. Ringstad, the President of the Oslo Chapter of Silicon Vikings, at Norwegian Investment Forum where I was pitching Ensafer. She asked if I could join the panel as a Norwegian entrepreneur going back and forth between Norway and Silicon Valley with Ensafer

What is Silicon Vikings?

Silicon Vikings is a great network between the nordics and Silicon Valley. From their web site:

“Silicon Vikings is a non-profit member organization for networking and promotion of technologies and businesses intersecting Silicon Valley (San Francisco Bay Area, California, U.S.A.) and the Nordic region (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden). Silicon Vikings delivers value to its members through technology and business driven events, activities and projects. We connect the Nordic Region’s and Silicon Valley’s innovation and startup ecosystems.”

They have chapters in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, and are looking into opening chapters in Helsinki, Tallinn and Reykjavik. I had the pleasure to attend the opening of the Oslo Chapter on April 18th 2012, and you can read my blog post here (in Norwegian).

The “Silicon Vikings Valley Night” event in Oslo

This event was held at Haavind Sky Bar at Bygdøy Allé 2 in Oslo with this invite text:

“As part of Oslo Innovation Week, we’d like to invite you to Haavind Sky Bar to share our thinking around leadership and innovation. This is a fantastic opportunity to network and meet people who work on a daily basis with companies and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and the Nordic countries. We will have great speakers and great food. This will be a great night. We look forward to seeing you. Welcome to our Valley Night!”

You can read more about the event and get a short bio of the three speakers from Silicon Valley here. And since this event was part of the annual Oslo Innovation Week, you might want to read more about this great innovation week here. In short: It’s the biggest innovation convention in Europe, making Oslo a central meeting place to discuss opportunities and practices for growth and innovation every year in October. This year there were about 40 different events with a focus on innovation and growth.

The panel discussion

After welcome drinks, tapas and networking, the chapter president Tone Ringstad had some questions to the four of us in the panel. The picture shows some of the audience listening to the panel with (from left) Eva, John, Jennifer and me.

Silicon Vikings Oslo Event

First question: Tone asked the three guests from the US how it is to do business in Silicon Valley and how the ecosystem works there. For those of you who knows Silicon Valley, know their answers. I could really feel that they brought the Silicon Valley spirit to the event, and I remembered many of their headlines from my many trips to the US the last year – starting with the TINC-program last year (my blog post here). Then I was asked to tell my experience with Silicon Valley in my effort to establish a presence there for my cloud encryption product Ensafer. The main thing is that you have to be there, experience the ecosystem yourself and being active in building a network of relevant and influential people.

Second question: The next one was on innovation: What’s innovation, how does it differ between Oslo and Silicon Valley – and what are we good at in Norway regarding this issue. The main difference for startups is the lack of early stage and seed capital in Norway. We don’t have the whole ecosystem from transforming good idéas to international products. Many people have higher education in Norway, but the problem is that most young people want to work at big companies or in the public sector. We don’t have a strong startup culture in Norway, but luckily something is happening here as the global startup wave spreads around the world. Good things are happening in Oslo with startup communities and companies like Mesh, StartupLab and Gründernes Hus. But we are still behind the other countries in the Nordics, and Norway isn’t ranking high on international innovation statistics. The oil economy in Norway doesn’t give us the same pressure, hunger and inspiration to innovate. That’s not a good thing in the long run.

The rest: Then the audience was invited to ask questions and comment on these issues, and it was a long and active session with great contributions from many people. Some had been to Silicon Valley themselves, and some wanted to go there – or know what it takes to bring a small startup like Ensafer to the US trying to make a global product of it in the future. After the session several people came to me with more questions, comments or to connect – and I met som pretty interesting people here. Glad I attended this event.

Host of the event

Thanks to the law firm Haavind for hosting this event at the top floor room at their building with a spectacular view of Oslo and a great place to relax, be inspired and connect with other people. The picture above was taken by partner Dag Thorstensen at Haavind.