Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program touring Silicon Valley

Last Thursday the students from the Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program visited NASA Ames Exploration Center at Moffet Field to attend a talk by Dr. Pascal Lee, Director at Mars Institute. He gave an interesting lecture about how things are at Mars, and why we should actually want to go there. Maybe the most important reason is not the direct output from it. But it is a fact that what today is known as Silicon Valley, skyrocketed when a lot of skilled researchers from NASA got laid off after the Moon landing program ended in the late sixties, and then needed to find something to do.

Next stop for the day was lunch and tour at Innovation House, where the students got to know a little bit more about how we work and Innovation Norway´s role in Silicon Valley.

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Last post on the program for the day was a guided tour at Google HQ in Mountain View, where Benjamin Lynn (Yes Man) and Tarjei Vassbotn (Developer Platform Manager) showed us around at the campus. Tarjei also talked about how he made his way from Norway to now working for Google in Silicon Valley and shared the secrets he wished he knew when he walked the way.

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ForgeRock’s startup journey

From recycling bottles and living off their kids piggy banks, Forgerock and Lasse Andresen can now smile and look back at an amazing startup journey

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ForgeRock was started February 1, 2010 with the Norwegian Lasse Andresen as the CEO.

On June 18 2014, Forgerock brought in $30 million USD in venture capital funding in the United States. The company with headquarters in San Francisco, has brought in a total of $52 million USD in funding from Silicon Valley investors since the start 4 ½ years ago. ForgeRock will use the capital to continue to build the company, development of innovation and further international expansion.

ForgeRock’s impressive history provides valuable lessons for the next generation of Norwegian entrepreneurs. “ForgeRock and CTO Lasse Andresen’s journey will be an inspiration for the next generation of Norwegian entrepreneurs for decades to come,” says Dilek Ayhan, State Secretary / Deputy Minister at Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.

Who is Lasse Andresen?

A family man and a father of 3, Lasse worked as CTO of Sun Microsystems with responsibility for Central and Northern Europe, when Oracle acquired the company in January 2010. Lasse and some other colleagues from Sun did not want to join the new group. “It took me a millisecond to decide that I would rather create new technology.”

“We were five colleagues who agreed drinking beer at the pub “The Forge” in London. We had 240,000 NOK combined, a clear vision and strong passion. We saw a huge market opportunity related to identity and security solutions based on the development of mobile and cloud services. Based on an open source model and a large portion confidence, we took on the competition with the IT giant Oracle.”

“It was very tough at first. Our money didn’t last long, so we were living on a shoestring budget, our kids piggy banks and recycling bottles. Norwegian investors were not interested.”

“When a colleague’s hot water tank broke down, the family had to live with only cold water throughout the winter. We were over the moon when we finally landed a big contract for one million dollars. However, it turned out that our client had 60 days of payment processing.”

“I went to my Norwegian bank and explained the situation. Several employees had not been paid for several months, so I needed 100,000NOK, money enough to get us through the 60 days. I got a blank refusal with the reasoning that they did not lend money to IT companies. Right there and then the bank lost me as a customer.”

After months of living hand-to-mouth and unable to pay the bills, a breakthrough came with an agreement with Thomson Reuters in London. Today ForgeRock has offices in five countries and software downloads in 135, and customers from large corporations such as Toyota, Yellow Pages Canada, McKesson and GEICO. They also have a strategic partnership with Salesforce.com.

The ForgeRock technology is used by Norway MinID, which is managed by difi, NSB, VPS, Tax, Sparebank1 group, the State Educational Loan Fund, National Pension Fund and many more.

ForgeRock chose an international profile from the very start, and established several companies in parallel in Norway, UK, France and USA where the five colleagues lived. The head office was in Norway, but the working language was English.

“We posted the job openings in Norway in English. We received many applications from fantastic candidates with top education and work experience. We wondered whether there was something wrong since they applied for a job in a small unknown start-up company, and found out the only thing was that they couldn’t speak Norwegian. We didn’t care about that. Thus, we got access to incredibly talented people who had difficulty getting other jobs in Norway.”

“There is a Silicon Valley-expression called “Culture is your co-founder.” All the Forgerock entrepreneurs have a passion for rock music, and several of us have played in bands. This characterizes our work language: Working meetings are called “Jamming”, new employees are greeted with “Welcome to the band” and described as “Rock Stars”.

“Since we started working virtually from home offices in different countries, we have developed a tradition of once a year to gather everyone for a week. We cook, eat, drink, talk and agree on the path forward. The first year we went to a cabin outside Stavanger. Last year we were more than 100 employees staying together in a hotel in Santorini, Greece. In 2012, we rented an entire hotel in Portugal. We sent the hotel staff home, cooked, served and cleaned together. That is great team building!”

“The customers are at the center of the ForgeRock culture. All the developers have to spend one day a week doing customer service, so they get a sense of where the pain points are. Instead of outsourcing customer service to a call center in a low-cost country, we put some of our most experienced people in first line. That way most problems are solved quickly.”

The company’s Norwegian roots are alive in its corporate culture and ForgeRock is proud of its “Norwegian soul”. “Rock” in the company name and the logo is inspired by Kjeragbolten in Lysefjord (1110 m.), a famous destination for base jumpers from around the world. Although company headquarter is in San Francisco, many of the activities in Europe and Asia are run out of the office at Lysaker, outside of Oslo.

“You must never be afraid to challenge the giants. Although they are bigger than you, does not mean they are better. You must dare to go straight on. Aim high, run really fast and have fun along the way,” says Lasse. “But most importantly is to get really good people.”

Konjekt secures grants

Konjekt receives $49,000 in grants from Innovation Norway to develop a beta version of their file content search engine. They are just about to roll out an early alpha.

“Our users are persons wanting an easier and more effortless way to find their files”, says Co-founder Børge Dvergsdal. “It is a cloud based search engine for personal computers that recommends files you might need, based on several factors like location and time.”

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The company spun out of our Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program in San Francisco in 2013. The founders Stephan Nordnes Eriksen and Børge Dvergsdal met during the program and are now hiring another former participant of the program to be part of the team.

“The Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program has meant a lot to us. The core idea and the business plan was developed during the classes at UC Berkeley. It gave us valuable experience and a network that will be useful working with Konjekt!”

Innovation House wishes Konjekt good luck and hope to see the beta version soon!

GLAZEDCON 2014

Innovation House joined the world´s largest ‪#WearableTech conference‪ @WearableWorld ‪#GlazedCon conference in San Francisco last week.

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The conference was organized by our good friend Redg Snodgrass at Wearable World. He kicked the conference with a key note from Intel’s Steven Holmes who shared the company’s perspective on “What´s Next” and what will be needed to make the wearable economy a sustainable and successful one.

Discussions centered around how wearable technology is being adopted and how users are engaging. Data shows that the wearable technology adoption is growing rapidly, by the end of 2014 every 10th person in the US is expected to have some kind of wearable technology. But only 50% of consumers continue using their wearable after 3 months.

Main takeaways is that it is about impact and how to get product to stick and its all about user experience. And also giving consumers the data to making us a better version of our selves, not about running our lives. We also heard about how Wearable adoption is going much faster than mobile adoption.

There were also comments on how everyone says consumer, consumer. But what really made mobile move was enterprise, therefore the social proof of concept for wearable will come through enterprise, through i.e. retail, hospitality and travel.

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Panelist talked about how not learning from the past is a mistake. Wearable started in fitness. And if you look at stats for fitness in general and the pattern, it is not a market where you easily succeed.  Wearable technology needs to be more multi purpose. Health and fitness is compelling, and yes, the user experience can be better. But at the end of the day, we will not get addicted to it.

Gilad Meiri from Neura said it’s the multi function that makes the smartphone so valuable. The ones that embrace openness will win. From a business perspective it’s about willingness to share data and embrace the fact that market forces are stronger than them. No one will have the power to resist that.

One of the fireside chats was about “Wearables make bank, but does banks need wearables?”

Kanishk Parashar, from Coin talked about how Coin is turning plastic into something digital. On the question of “will we ever be accepting invisible transactions?” Kanishk replied that the barrier is the fact that the market is so large. 200 mill people paying with cards in the US. They all need to get on board to make it work. For the seamless payment to happen everyone needs to be onboard.

We look forward to continue following the IOWT market!

The Nordic countries are joining forces in the Valley!

The Nordic Bridge Organizations Finpro, Vinnova, Innovation Center Denmark and Innovation Norway in Silicon Valley are joining forces in a 3 years pilot project as “Team Nordic Silicon Valley”, in collaboration with Nordic Innovation. Our main objective is to reduce the barriers to internationalization, reduce the risk of U.S. market entry and increase the likelihood of successful business impact in Silicon Valley for Nordic tech startups. The Team Nordic service offering includes office space, promotional activities at high profile events and access to our Nordic peer-to-peer startup community and trusted partners.


Available position: Nordic Community Manager


To coordinate and manage our daily activities we are recruiting a Nordic Community Manager.

Responsibilities:

-       Develop, implement and coordinate our efforts to build a strong community of Nordic startups

-       Communicate with our community and network through social media and blog

-       Manage the daily operations at our awesome incubator Innovation House in downtown Palo Alto

-       Coordinate our Nordic participation at high level events such as TechCrunch Disrupt, SXSW, CES

-       Organize mixers

-       Manage and report the budget & financials

-       Nurture collaboration with the Nordic innovation hubs and our partners in Silicon Valley

-       Nurture and expand our local network with startups, investors and corporations

-       Other awesome things we haven’t even thought of yet!

 

Desired Skills and Experience:

-       Excellent interpersonal relationship skills

-       Service minded, positive can-do attitude

-       Organized and efficient

-       Good understanding of Nordic and Silicon Valley culture

-       Experience from communication and social media is preferable

 

Hiring Conditions:

-       Location: Innovation House, 470 Ramona St., Palo Alto

-       Flexible hours, can be part-time

-       The Manager will report to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors

-       Contract position, US work permit is prerequisite

 

 

 

Please apply to ina.vikoren.ronaess@innovationnorway.com before June 19th.


 

 

Sweden and Norway together again!

Guest post by Anne Lidgaard at Vinnova.se:

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The Nordic cooperation in Silicon Valley is blooming. This spring we invited swedish companies to join our Tech Incubator program (TINC). It was a great success, and we are continuing the cooperation for the program the coming fall!

Here in Silicon Valley, the Nordic collaborative efforts are thriving. As we approach the bicentennial anniversary of when Norway entered into a union with Sweden (which was – regretfully for some, fortunately for others – peacefully dissolved in 1905), Innovation Norway and VINNOVA/Almi have recently had their first go at running a startup program together. TINC – TechnologyINCubator is a Norwegian initiative that has been running for two years already, and has so far benefitted 45 companies. In brief, it is a 4-week Silicon Valley immersion program offered to tech startups ready, or almost ready, to launch with ambitions and potential for international growth.

Between March 17th-April 11th, 3 Norwegian and 3 Swedish startups turned Innovation House in Palo Alto into their Silicon Valley headquarters. The companies were:

The program is very much focused on action. A few workshops will provide some essential and useful background and tools, qualified mentors with serial entrepreneur experience are available for one-on-one sessions, but most of the time is dedicated to meetings with potential customers, partners, investors etc..that can add value in one form or another to the business.

TINC Workshop March2014

Instead of my trying to capture all the benefits, I encourage you to watch the videos below and let the companies tell their own story.

Some of the quotes given by TINC alumni are:

”This is probably the best investment we have made” (note: cost estimate is $8000-9000 per person)

”The mentors provided by TINC were world-class compared to what we had access to back home”

”Silicon Valley is now demystified – we now feel that we belong here too!”

”This has not just transformed our business, it has transformed us as individuals”.

INTERESTED? Or know of a company that may benefit from the program?

We have currently closed for applications for the Fall 2014, but there will be a new chance for Winter 2015.

For Swedish applicants: more info at the VINNOVA website

For Norwegian applicants, or if you want more detailed information about the program, please visit the Innovation Norway website.

 

Welcome young entrepreneurs!

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Photo: Jon Leirdal

This year we´re celebrating the 15th Anniversary for the Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program. Managed by University of Oslo, but a collaboration between several universities in Norway. It all started here in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999, and since then this successful initiative has expanded to Singapore, Houston and Boston. Read more about the program here.

June 9 Innovation House welcomes 40 talented graduate students for kick-off and networking lunch at RocketSpace. They will do internships at startups in San Francisco and Silicon Valley for the following 12 weeks, and attend entrepreneurship classes at UC Berkeley. Their backgrounds ranges from business, computer science, design, robotics and agriculture.

We´re really looking forward to meet all of you! It´s gonna be three months with hard work, lots of new knowledge and experiences for life!