A summary of what's happened in tech in the Nordics in August 2016.
The interest in and activity around entrepreneurship has exploded in recent years, including in the Nordics/Baltics. And while edtech is still a relatively small piece of the startup industry, it has been growing in numbers of edtech startups as well as the total amount of investment capital going into the emergent edtech industry. According to the research firm CB Insights, venture and equity financing for edtech start-ups worldwide rocketed to $2.98 billion last year, up from about $1.87 billion in 2014, compared to a total of $128.6 billion for total funding to VC backed companies in 2015. But we must be cautious about projecting, and especially about extrapolating, this into the future, particularly for 2016 as the overall tech sector in Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) shows signs of cooling off, and we should not expect edtech to go unaffected by these larger trends. Q1-2016 numbers from CB Insights already show some “cooling off” in edtech, so it will be interesting to see how much, and for how long, a slow-down will continue.
My interest in edtech goes back many years, as I have been involved in education, learning and training related research and consulting at Strategic Business Insights (a spinout from SRI International) for more than 15 years. And when I started seeing growing edtech activity in Silicon Valley, including the growing interest in edtech by students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, I started wondering whether the same trends and developments were present in the Nordic region. I raised this question with my friends at Nordic Innovation—a funding agency for applied research in the Nordic region—and the result was funding for the 2012/13 Nordic Edupreneuring project, “owned” by the Future Learning Lab at University of Agder UiA.
In the Nordic Edupreneuring project, we identified, profiled, and evaluated around 50 Nordic EdTech companies and also held a “market acceleration workshop” in connection with the annual Future Learning Lab conference held at UiA in April, 2013 [the next, and fifth, conference will be held in Norway on June 14-16 [http://wls.futurelearninglab.org/], and edtech will be one of our three tracks]. We found many interesting companies and some of the Nordic edtech companies that are getting considerable media attention these days, such as Kahoots and WriteReader, were at our UiA workshop. Many of the 50 companies we examined had interesting technologies and products/services, but many lacked the focus and global market intelligence and understanding needed to go up against international competitors.
We also found that all the Nordic edupreneurs we talked to were very keen on connecting with other edupreneurs in other Nordic countries, and knew relatively little about what was going on in the Nordic countries other than their own. This pointed to an obvious need and gap to be filled, and the idea of a Nordic EdTech Network (NEN) and community was born. For 2-3 years, every time I visited Oslo, I stopped by Nordic Innovation and argue the case for a project that would build on and extend what we did in the Nordic Edupreneuring project. When the former Managing Director of Nordic Innovation, Roger Moe Bjorgan (the new Managing Director, a former Danish Minister, Carina Christensen, took over from Bjorgan in October, 2015), visited Silicon Valley in June, 2015, we finally were given a “green light” and asked to submit a project proposal, followed by a decision in October to fund the project (“owned” by Silicon Vikings). I have to admit that the subsequent process involved in getting the signed contract—which would make the project “official” so we could really start the work—took a LOT longer than any of us expected and was, of course, also very frustrating, and exactly a year after Roger Bjorgan gave us the green light, the signed contract was completed, so we can now accelerate the work. You can read more about the project, the team we have, and the activities, resources and plans we have, by visiting our website.
Very briefly, this is some of what we are planning for the project:
- Documenting the existing Nordic EdTech landscape. For this, we need details on the players in each of the Nordic countries. We are just now launching this work, but we are happy to share some of the data we currently have—http://net.futurelearninglab.org/nordic-edtech-companies-work-in-progress/—so anyone can see what we have and (hopefully) let us know what corrections/deletions/additions we need to make. We look forward to hearing from anyone who have information and/or comments and observations (and contact information for all team members are on the project website).
- Examining Nordic Industry Dynamics and Emergent Ecosystem. This kind of analysis will, of course, require much more data and information about the Nordic EdTech companies and players in the evolving ecosystem, so we can not only understand their evolution so far, but also start exploring what may lie ahead. We suspect that these insights will come in the second half of 2016.
- Share Nordic EdTech Insights. We will do this in many ways, including via our blog, our podcasts (with interviews of prominent EdTech entrepreneurs from the Nordics and Silicon Valley, as well as other EdTech ecosystem players, such as insightful analysts). We will also have webinars with the same kind of players, and these webinars will give attendees a chance to interact with the speakers.
- Encouraging and Enabling Nordic EdTech Interaction. Some of this will happen via our website, but we will also plan to have a number of (physical) F2F events, including at upcoming conferences in the Nordics, including the annual conference at UiA, i.e. the World Learning Summit 2016 [http://wls.futurelearninglab.org/]
- Creating a Sustainable Nordic EdTech Community. Although our project lasts until June 2017, we are confident that one or more of a number of highly qualified organizations—including, the Future Learning Lab—will be able to take over leadership and guidance of the network at the conclusion of our project.
We look greatly forward to the year ahead and the work we will be involved in and the many insights we will hopefully generate as our data and understanding of the Nordic EdTech industry improves. And it will be interesting to look back and compare this year’s findings to what we learned in the Nordic Edupreneuring project. Just briefly, here are some of the conclusions from that project, which I presented at the Future Learning Lab conference in 2013 at University of Agder (UiA) in 2013:
- Almost 60% or the companies that participated in our survey characterized themselves as focusing on game-based learning, followed by mobile learning and online learning tools
- Most companies targeted multiple market segments—including K12, HE, Kindergarten, corporate and public sector—but such multi-sector targeting is usually highly problematic
- Similarly, most companies also targeted countries in Europe, North America and Asia—another VERY challenging strategy (that risks running out of funds very rapidly)
- The Nordic Edurpreneuring project found the Future Challenges for Nordic EdTech companies to include those shown in the box below:
While the project team is very knowledgeable about EdTech and the Nordic region, the project analysis and insights we generate during the year will be very much stronger if we gain strong participation from anyone who is knowledgeable about and active in the Nordic EdTech industry, many of whom are likely on the front lines of the industry, and perhaps already active nationally, regionally and globally. Hearing about your experiences and having others pitch in and comment on what you experience, see and hear will help grow the collective strength of the Nordic EdTech community as well as the strength of individual players. We look forward to hearing from you and interacting with you in various ways in 2016 and beyond.
Despite rhetoric about the US having a “tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world,” the release of official strategies to ensure that America continues “to lead as the world’s most innovative economy, to develop the industries of the future, and to harness innovation to help address our Nation’s most important challenges,” and countless bills being introduced to revise all or parts of the US immigration system and endless talk of new startup visas, no actions have in actuality been taken that make visas easier to obtain for startup founders and tech professionals. The opposite, in fact, is true as the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has implemented new policy memorandum that re-interpret many existing laws in more restrictive ways over the past two decades. Navigating the immigration minefield is the key to successfully establishing or expanding your tech company in the US. Don’t blink or you’ll miss your chance at the most commonly used tech visa…it's only available for one week!
January's Tech Highlights from the Nordics/Baltics by Fredy-Edwin Esse
Discovering and Profiling Nordic EdTech Companies: Case study in Emerging Business Intelligence Tools
Startups are emerging that make it easier and faster to gather market intelligence, offering sophisticated tools that can help you to gain a better overview of the market landscape, including information about competitors you may not known about. This post explores what my experience has been, so far, with some of these tools--including those from an Estonian startup, Funderbeam--when applied to a current project we have on Nordic EdTech
This blog post discusses some of the main event topics I am considering for the Special Interest Group on Entrepreneurship and Learning in 2016. You have a chance to comment and give me your feedback and perhaps suggest other topics I should consider.
by Jennifer Vessels
Successful global growth of ICT, Medtech, green tech/sustainability and consumer product innovations (as a result of great creative minds, research, academia and public support) can be the future for the Nordic economies (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway).
However, sustainable growth requires more than a product idea. It demands skillful commercialization to drive customer adoption and revenue generation. Funding ultimately comes from profitability but during the ‘startup period’, investment is needed to build the solution and acquire initial customers. The source of the funding, process for attainment of customer commitments and time to market is often quite different for Nordic compared to US companies and entrepreneurs.
My last blog post on corporate learning focused mostly on some emerging developments, illustrated by examples of what Udacity, Microsoft and Northeastern University have been doing recently.
In this blog post I will argue that we are entering a new era of corporate learning—one where learning and skills/competences acquisition will be more learner/worker- and demand-driven (“pull model”) rather than the more traditional approach (“push model”). The corollary of this type of development is that learning, even in corporate/work environments, will be most effective when it is more like the informal learning that has always accounted for most of the learning that adults engage in.
Much has been written in recent years in the popular media about how technology may contribute to the disruption of education, both K12 and higher education. Much less has been said about another area of education and learning: The workplace. Companies are spending billions of dollars on corporate education, learning and training, yet much of it is not cost-efficient or meeting the needs either of workers or of companies. This blog post examines some interesting recent developments on the corporate learning front, and raising questions about whether the type of examples described will become much more common in the future, as technology in particular enables new, more flexible and cost-effective learning solutions in the workplace of the future.
by Eilif Trondsen
If you have been reading the last three of my blog posts—all focused on Silicon Valley Innovation Outposts (SVIOs)—you know that many of these SVIOs are focused on the automotive industry, and there is no doubt that Silicon Valley already is playing a major role in helping shape the future of the automotive industry. In this post I want to build on but extend my previous analysis, both by making references to some excellent analysis of others (especially Evangelos Simoudis of Trident Capital), and by commenting on some other interesting, recent developments. Finally, I want to suggest that we look beyond automobiles to transportation more generally, as drones and other technologies will likely have growing impact on many different parts of the future transportation industry.
by Eilif Trondsen
Since new Silicon Valley Innovation Outposts (SVIOs) will likely appear in Silicon Valley from time to time, while some existing SVIOs will either be closed down or change in form or function (to better meet the parent company’s (new) goals and align with current strategies), my plan has been, and continues to be, to write updates when I have seen enough interesting changes in the SVIO landscape to warrant an update. I therefore expect this update to be only the first in a series of similar pieces that I will write now and then, depending on what I see happening around here....
by Eilif Trondsen
The article defines, describes and analyzes innovation outposts that large companies have set up in Silicon Valley--and provides the context for these outposts by describing some of the unique characteristics of Silicon Valley. Large companies have set up these outposts in order to take advantage of the dynamic innovation ecosystem that has built up over decades in this unique region. The article also provides mini-case study summaries of 25 innovation outposts in Silicon Valley.
by Eilif Trondsen
This article is a companion piece to Silicon Valley Innovation Outposts, and contain the mini-case studies for the 25 companies I provided very brief summary descriptions of in the main article.
DEALFLOW FROM LITHUANIA: THESE #LTSTARTUPS ARE RAISING OVER $100M
by Edmundas Balčikonis, CEO of Trackduck
Highlights of Estonian Tech News by Fredy-Edwin Esse
Eilif Trondsen has written an article providing 6 recommended steps to ensure that your visit to Silicon Valley is a success based on his many years in Silicon Vikings working with SRI, SBI, and Silicon Vikings, including useful resource links.
Silicon Vikings is proud to announce Charlotte Danielsson as our new Executive Director. Charlotte has a Juris Doctorate from Stanford Law School and has a Bachelor’s in Political Science & Economics from UC Berkeley, where she graduated with honors in the major and Distinction in General Scholarship from the university. She has practiced business and immigration law since 1998 and we know that her vast experience helping foreign companies establish themselves in the US will be of benefit to the Silicon Vikings network.
On September 23rd, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, the Silicon Vikings partnered with the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra to gather a group of expert panelists and ten Finnish startups. The panelists included: Dr. David Lindeman, Director of Health Care for CITRIS; Bill Reichert, Managing Director at Garage Technology Ventures; and Kyle Kling, Vice President of Business Development at Fenox Venture Capital. Each Finnish startup delivered their pitch to the panel and then received feedback and questions about their product and business model.....
The Silicon Vikings Present: Nordic Pitch Night & Fireside Chat with David Helgason, CEO and Co-Founder of Unity – September 11, 2014
At the Silicon Vikings event on September 11, David Helgason, CEO and Co-Founder of Unity, recounted his entrepreneurial journey in an intimate “fireside chat.” The evening’s discussion was hosted by a fellow Nordic entrepreneur, Henrik Bennetsen of Innovation Center Denmark. The venue, StartupHouse, reflected the event’s entrepreneurial theme. StartupHouse is a shared-desk workspace and dormitory for entrepreneurs, early stage startups and their teams. After Helgason’s informal but candid interview, over 15 startups from around the world delivered one-minute pitches to the audience. Attendees had ample time for networking and the opportunity to chat with Helgason and the many startup company founders, all while enjoying complementary beer, wine and appetizers....
This is a meeting summary from the Swedish Pitch Night, a joint event by Silicon Vikings, SVForum and KTH, which took place on July 1, 2014 in San Francisco