Looking at Oslo’s Startup Scene from an Unexpected View
Part of my job as Rockstart Answers Associate is to coordinate and keep in contact with all of the Local Chapter Leaders (LCLs) that run Answers events across the globe. You might already be asking yourself, what is an Answers event? Simply said, an Answers event is a pitching event led by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Here, early-stage startups get the chance to gather feedback on their challenges from entrepreneurial-minded professionals.
I talked to Karyna Fernández about Answers in Oslo, and how she came to be our LCL and go-to expert about the startup scene there. Below is her personal story and the motivations that led her to be a LCL of Rockstart Answers that I took away from our conversations in the past 6 months.
In her early 20s, Karyna moved from Ecuador to France for her studies and as she enjoyed it so much, she continued staying there for another 10 years. In 2012, after obtaining her MBA, she decided to give herself a fresh start as a business consultant for a multinational company in Paris and later for the IT sector in Norway. As a side project, Karyna got involved in organizing TEDxTrondheim and later was offered a job as marketing director. Today, Karyna has established herself as a linking pin in Oslo’s startup community.
“Mix of Latin-American charm with entrepreneurial mindset to Norway.”
Oslo’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Through an Ecuadorian Lens
Because Karyna is not Norwegian, but an Ecuadorian expat, it is very interesting to look at the entrepreneurial scene in Oslo from her viewpoint. How does she see herself standing at the intersection of Latin-American charm and Norway’s tech savviness?
Norway has a long tradition as an internationally friendly country with a strong economy, governmental stability and world leading clusters in high-tech industries. Equality, trust and collaboration are predominant values of Norwegians in the workplace. These values are reflected in flat organizational structures: little hierarchy, employee empowerment and informal communications.
As a Dutch person, the Norwegian ways of working sound quite familiar and close to what I’m used to in the Netherlands. For Karyna, coming from a developing country with a commerce-minded population, her first introduction to the Norwegian work ethic was quite refreshing, and even surprising at times. In the past 5 years, she encountered quite some skepticism about entrepreneurship in Norway. She explained this to me from her own perceptions. Because of the well-established social security system as part of the Norwegian welfare state, citizens seem to rely heavily on the support of governmental institutions. In a way, this ‘perfect’ system makes people averse to risk and skeptical towards starting their own business.
However, like the Dutch, Norwegians are known to be early-adopters of new technology, which provides an excellent opportunity for test markets. Also, Oslo has a good mix of foreign entrepreneurs and Norwegian entrepreneurs. According to Karyna, this makes a great combination of new insights from people who are new to the city, like herself, and tech savvy Norwegians.
“People in Oslo are still skeptical about entrepreneurship and to a certain degree I feel that the startup ecosystem is still “in diapers”, in comparison to the USA and Canada.”
Going from Seeing the Oslo Scene to Being a Part of It
Besides coordinating the international network of Answers Chapters Leaders, Adriana Ursache and I run the Answers events in Amsterdam. So I can say we know from personal experiences what we ask of LCLs is challenging. From finding great early-stage startups and fine-tuning their pitches to promoting the Answers event with very limited resources, LCLs learn to think and act lean.
Like everyone who has ever organized a big party, it’s always extremely exciting to see who’s gonna show up in the end and how it’s gonna be. But, as Karyna said, there’s a first time for everything, so she accepted to take a risk and put herself out there. The greatest reward for all her efforts came during and after the pitching session. In just a matter of days, the startups had tailored their pitches towards a generic audience, got new insights and introductions to Oslo’s thought leaders.
Being a LCL for Answers is a challenging and highly rewarding task. As you can see from Karyna’s experiences, it opens your eyes to the startup world around you. If you would like to attend an Answers event, are interested in being a LCL or would like more information about the program in general, visit our website or drop me a line at siem@rockstart [dot] com.
Siem Doomernik is a Program Associate for Rockstart Answers and has been a member of the Rockstart team since 2016.
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