Nordics in the Valley

During the 33 years I have been at SRI or the spinout from SRI (Strategic Business Insights, located on the SRI campus) I have had lots of visitors from the Nordic region, and during my work over the last 3-4 years with Silicon Vikings I have also seen lots of Nordics come either to visit or to settle in Silicon Valley.  Not surprisingly, they all find Silicon Valley intriguing and impressive in many ways.  Of course, many—and I would venture to say, most—have been primarily been “techno-tourists”, who enjoy their visit here but don’t do much follow up and don’t build lasting relationships with those they meet here. This is something I discussed with a number of people I meet during my recent Nordic tour, and discussed in my presentation on “Innovation Bridges” with Enterprise Estonia in Tallinn.

However, I have found many Finns to do things differently, and I have had more Finns visiting me at SRI than probably any other Nordic country, and they have also been more inquisitive about what we do at SRI and SBI and how we do it. And I have built more and stronger relationship with organizations and people from Finland than the other Nordic countries. I don’t know if there have been more Finns at H-STAR, Scancor and other programs at Stanford, but my impression is that this is the case, and many of them seem to be more serious about building lasting relationships and collaborate with researchers and others in the Valley.

Given this context, perhaps I should not be surprised by how IDEAN seems to be approaching the Valley.

IDEAN: Leveraging a key Valley strength of networking

Everyone who has lived in the Valley for a long time knows that one of the most important characteristics of this place is the extent and quality of networking that goes on in this place. This is enabled by a range of organizations—including the many incubators and accelerators (growing more numerous by the year) that you can find here (and probably more of them than any other place on earth), networking organizations (like Silicon Vikings, GABA, SVForum and many others), and of course numerous law firms and technology firms—who organize events where people and ideas mix on a regular basis, helped by lots of food and drinks.

IDEAN has clearly understood the importance of networking in the Valley and is opening up its very centrally located facility in Palo Alto to Silicon Valley to customers, potential business partners and friends. Two upcoming events and one past event illustrate how the company is approaching business development and building a foundation for future work focused on (digital) user experience design:

  • User Experience Design Summit 2013. This event will bring together leading Silicon Valley game-changers, who have shaped such companies as Spotify, Razorfish, Muckerlab, AT&T, Huawei, LG, Virgin, and many more, and they will share their insights that will, as IDEAN put it, “rock your view of Branding and User Experience.”
  • UX Happy Hour. The event that will take place at the IDEAN facility in Palo Alto will feature international marketing guru, Thomas Gad, and will celebrate the Chinese New Year and have food and drinks that go with this theme.
  • User Experience Design panel session. This Silicon Vikings event—which took place at the Rocketspace incubator in San Francisco and to a packed house--was organized by Juulia Tarma, Business Operations Manager at IDEAN, and brought together some leading lights in Silicon Valley around user experience design.

From UX to Business Success Design

Business success requires much more than strength and expertise in your core business area, whether it is user experience design or something else. And startups, and especially those coming into the Valley from far away places, need to think carefully about how they can gain attention and visibility in the Valley and create some buzz around what they do. One way to do this, in a place where networking is part of the DNA of how the Valley works, is by organizing high quality networking events. This requires the right mix of content (through quality speakers) and a good mix of people who can help spread the word about what you do. Being seen as a “cool company,” doing great things for great clients is bound to pay off in getting “strategic revenue” (from well-known, large clients) and ensure sustainable success in the Valley.


Eilif Trondsen