The Opportunity For Norway
Years ago, my father said to me that “you often have to embrace change or get crushed by it.” At the time, we were talking about people who fight progress within a neighborhood because they are afraid of change. Those words stuck with me and I think of them often when there is an opportunity for improvement that should be embraced by many.
I do a great deal of work with Innovation Norway…an organization responsible for funding and advising start-up organizations throughout Norway. The organization maintains offices all over the world that operate under the premise that it is important to facilitate the movement of Norwegian companies to other regions of the world. But…there is more to it then simply enhancing an already booming oil drenched economy. It is also (at least in part) responsible for instilling a sense of entrepreneurism into the Norwegian culture.
It is the topic of entrepreneurism that I find most relevant to this article. Today, the number of students going to college (and being massively subsidized to do so) has never been higher. At the time they graduate, they have some interesting career options that students in most countries would find enviable. Do they go to work in an economic environment that can easily employ all of them with lucrative positions in energy and other areas of national significance or do they look at striking out on their own and starting a company (a start-up).
Because of the widespread availability of cloud services such as the Amazon Cloud and the availability of ready to use market places such as iTunes, many soon to be graduates are turning to hi-tech and in particular, mobile application to start their career. It is a natural choice given that the barriers to entry in such companies are extremely low and, for an audience (former college students) that can live on soup noodles and hot dogs, very inexpensive to start.
This audience presents an opportunity for Innovation Norway that it has not tapped into. That is…the opportunity to support and convert 1000s of would be entrepreneurs to “real” entrepreneurs.
To accomplish this, Innovation Norway would have to focus some seed capital towards “non-essential” sectors as well as guidance and advice for the new companies. By focusing specifically on recent college graduates, Innovation Norway would start to compete in an area of innovation that has previously been reserved for the rest of the Nordics (Sweden, Finland and Denmark).
In addition, it would also have to focus some energy on supporting investors to continue funding into this area. This is most crucial to the success of the endeavor. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Norway was criticized for providing inadequate support for technology start-ups. What the article missed is that it is not the responsibility of one organization/government to change the entrepreneurial behavior of a country to its people.
Even in a nation where the citizens of a country have a very high expectation of the performance and services of their government, change takes time and it takes the enlistment of many generations of people. What Innovation Norway can do is enlist its youngest generation to be an agent of change for the country and for the future of its people.