If someone asked you “What are the best startup hubs in Europe?”, my guess is that Berlin or London would be the first ones that would come to your mind and I’m pretty sure none of the Scandinavian capitals would make it to your top 5.
The truth is all of us should keep an eye on the Nordic startup hubs because they are all expanding at a rapid pace. One country which is experiencing a boom in startup activity is Norway. Giving Sweden which is considered a regional 'unicorn factory' something to think about.
Norway's startup scene
According to DNB, Start Us Magazine and The Nordic Web it is the fastest growing startup hub in terms of investments in the Nordics. Norway’s ecosystem is starting to take off and as more companies are getting funded it is getting more exciting. Norway has a strong community support and a friendly environment for entrepreneurs.
Moreover, the government actively supports companies and provides them with training, mentoring and networking opportunities.
Even Crown Prince Haakon who is an active ambassador of the Norwegian startup & tech scene has stated in an interview with the Nordic Web that
“there’s been quite a shift in the last 5-10 years, where the whole ecosystem has been catching up” and that Norway will see “quite substantial outcomes in the years to come”.
According to Henrik Grim, an investor at Nortzone, it all comes down to the most important players - the country’s entrepreneurs, who should keep aiming high and put Norway on people’s radars.
All in all, we can conclude that Norway has been an underrated tech hub in the Nordics, with companies like Opera and Kahoot! being probably the only recognizable startups. That’s why I decided to compile a list of 7 startups from the last 5 years that best describes the Norwegian startup scene:
1. Superplus (EdTech)
Founded in 2013, Superplus won a startup award even before the launch of its product SuperSpeak and were also able to raise 3 million NOK. SuperSpeak is an app dedicated to children who struggle with the effects of having low-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other speech and language development difficulties.
The app already has over 3000 users.
It focuses on making children's lives better by helping them:
- to communicate using pictures and sounds from the surroundings and
- to develop critical language skills through games with a built-in token economy system.
An amazing idea to help parents, special needs care providers, organizations, and children to communicate in a stress-free manner.
2. Nabobil.no (Car sharing)
Nabobil.no means “Neighbour’s Car” in Norwegian and is valued at 35 million NOK (~ EUR 3.7M). They are the first ones to enter the Norwegian market and were inspired by the sharing economy model pioneered by AirBnB and Uber among others. NaboBil connects those individuals who need a car with car owners who don’t often use it.
The founders came up with the idea when they realized private cars in Norway stay unused on an average 23 hours a day. This paved the way for car owners to lease their cars to people needing one and monetise the idle time.
The CEO Even Heggernes (former country manager at AirBnb for Nordics & the UK) expects a stable growth in 2017. They also plan to expand their service to a new country this year.
3. Meshcrafts (IoT)
Meshcrafts founders? Graduates from Oslo University of Life Sciences. Their vision? “Zero Emission, no hassle”. And why not? Norway is one of the greenest European countries with one electric vehicle (EV) per every 100 people. So, it’s not surprising that the company wants to simplify access to EV charging points via an app with secure payment options.
Meshcrafts’ app “Smart Urban Mobility” puts the charging stations online, delivering real-time information to drivers and operators. They are the first ones to build such a solution and are aiming to launch their system worldwide.
4. No isolation (MedTech)
No one should be lonely, especially children and seniors suffering from long-term illnesses. Due to their situation, they find it hard to stay in touch with family and friends.
Founded in 2015, with the help of StartupLab Oslo, No Isolation built a robot (called AV1) that can become a person’s eyes, ears, and voice, allowing them to take part in school classes, excursions and family events. One (child or adult) can control the avatar using a tablet or a smartphone. AV1 is available in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands and Romania
It's always connected to the internet, even when no WiFi connection is available thanks to the built-in 4G module.
Updated: The company was nominated for the Startup of the Year at the Nordic Startup Awards in 2016. Following the success in 2016 No Isoloation is now nominated for 2 more regional categories in 2017: Startup of the year (Nordic) & Best social impact startup (Nordics) by winning the national competition.
5. MiniPro (Aquaculture)
Although MiniPro doesn’t even have a website, it defeated four other finalists to get the 1st prize of NOK 1M (~ EUR 107 K) at the Angel Channel pitch competition. Their product? Baby food for baby fishes. It makes perfect sense since Norway has one of the biggest markets for aquaculture.
The company’s solution has been a sensation probably because it solves an industry-specific issue: feeding fish larvae from the very beginning so that they are able to digest important nutrients from the start. The startup is tapping into a huge market that only seems to be growing globally.
6. Iris Ai (R&D Automation)
Q: How does mankind, the world benefit from Iris?
A: Let’s say that we give Iris 1,000 papers around a specific challenge around climate change. She can read that, she goes ‘okay, I’m going to have to read these things and these things too’. She’ll come up with a hypothesis… and then she’ll be connected to a simulation environment, where she can take the experiments, run there and actually test it out. And publish the result – whether the results are positive or negative.
Read the full article published on Tech Crunch.
Now that's something.
7. Ducky (Environment)
Have you ever felt like you would like to reduce your carbon emission footprint to help save the environment but didn’t know how to start or measure it? Norwegian startup Ducky tells you exactly how to do it. Founded in 2014, the startup created an app to quantify, visualise and communicate your everyday climate activities. Their aim is to help spread knowledge and motivate people towards eco-friendly habits and sustainable lifestyle.
Ducky is the first tool that combines climate awareness and behaviour change through visualisation and gamification.
There are more and more companies that are being funded throughout different sectors in Norway. Unfortunately, they don’t receive enough attention outside the country. Hopefully, with these seven startups, you now have a better overview of Norway startup ecosystem. They represent Norway’s tech hub where the environment, society, and health play an important role.