Keep reading if you are a startup or scaleup looking to expand your business network abroad. We had a chat with Paula Salomaa, Community Director at Nordic Innovation House which supports Nordic companies to get a head start in global innovation hubs, from Silicon Valley to Tokyo
Strong community, connections to the local ecosystem, and programs for acceleration are what most businesses are looking for when reaching out to international hubs. Back in 2011, Innovation Norway started the program for a Nordic collaboration which was officially launched in 2014. Palo Alto was the first “house” of the Nordic Innovation, followed by NY, Singapore, Hong Kong and last year, Tokyo.
"Nordic Innovation House is a unique Nordic concept, a collaboration project led and operated by five Nordic countries and backed by Nordic Innovation. In Silicon Valley the founding partners are Innovation Norway, Vinnova, Business Finland, Business Iceland and Innovation Center Denmark. At the moment, we have 160 member companies in Silicon Valley, and 26% of them are from Norway.", explains Paula. And most probably you have heard of some of them.
- Kahoot is probably the first one to mention. They attended the TINC startup accelerator program in their early days (2012), and they have also been our members since that. Currently their CMO lives in Silicon Valley and they use Nordic Innovation House address as their office in Palo Alto.
- SafetyWing: especially in pandemic times their service is getting even more interest. They have been our members since 2017 and they also went through Y Combinator which is a globally leading & Silicon Valley based accelerator program. Read Forbes article featuring SafetyWings here
- Elliptic Labs a globally successful AI company, they are also our longtime member (2015-2020) having their USA office in San Francisco.
- NURX They have grown fast in the US, also during the pandemic year. They are also another good example of a Norwegian companies who got access to Y Combinator, to start their success stories.
- Also Nordic investors want to have their presence in Silicon Valley, for example Alliance Venture (one of Norway’s leading early phase venture capital) is their long time member. They scout ideas and connections in Silicon Valley, to see rising technologies and industries, and bring the knowledge back to Nordics.
Two key learnings during the pandemic
Hard not to wonder what changed during the pandemic. Did Norwegian startups freeze their memberships? According to Paula, the Community Director of Silicon Valley office, companies "are still doing business with the US and there are still a lot of opportunities during the pandemic. In fact, we’ve seen new people joining the House. The startups still need a US address, a local phone number, the contacts and trust. In addition, we have a long history and experience with government and papers."
The accelerator program and services have adapted to new formats and new mindsets, too. “With remote work, we are more conscious about our time now. Time is valuable and we’ve seen many businesses optimizing what used to be spent in their travel time (flights, airports, traffic jams, commute). For the spring, we are still running accelerator programs online and we plan to have hybrid models soon."
Read more about Silicon Valley, NY, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo houses here.