Silicon Vikings: Connecting the Nordics with Silicon Valley

silicon_vikings_navid_ostadian-binai2By Eilif Trondsen (Silicon Viking Board Member and Chair, Special Interest Group for Entrepreneurship and Learning)


Nordic Tech and Entrepreneurship


Leif Erikson and the Vikings made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic in long boats starting in 999 AD. Today, the journey is a lot easier – and Norwegian Air now offers cheap, direct flights from Nordic capitals to Silicon Valley. As entrepreneurship has exploded in the Nordics and startups increasingly think global from the get-go, cheap flights help globally oriented entrepreneurs connect to Silicon Valley and beyond. Larger firms are also coming, setting up Silicon Valley (SV) innovation outposts as part of their open innovation strategy and need to understand digital transformation.


The dynamic Nordic/Baltic startup scene and the spread and accelerating adoption of digital technology have brought growing interest by entrepreneurs, corporate executives and policy makers to visit and gain new insights into the workings of SV. This region near the SF Bay continues to be the leading hotspot and unique cluster for technology/innovation/entrepreneurship and has the most dynamic tech innovation ecosystem in the world—having evolved for over sixty years.


Silicon Vikings: Leveraging Connections


The developments over the last five years or so have resulted in growing awareness of and interest in Silicon Vikings (SVs), a not-for-profit, professional networking organization in SV and the Nordics/Baltics. We now serve a community of around 30,000—focusing on “building innovation bridges” between these regions, connecting individuals, large and small companies, academic institutions, and policy makers. While it is nearly twenty years old, SVs has become more active and ambitious in the last four to five years, moving beyond organising networking and topic-focused events— on technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, health tech, education and learning, and other topics of interest to our Silicon Valley and Nordic/Baltic community.


SVs serves our community in part by leveraging the professional networks that our volunteers have built up over many years living and working in SV. The Board members of SVs are professionals with extensive networks they have built over long careers in the Valley—which we can use to the benefit of our Nordic/Baltic visitors and our other activities. Our President, Richard Allen Horning, has worked as a lawyer for several of SV’s leading law firms for over 45 years, and also serves as Honorary Consul for the Republic of Estonia. Our Executive Director, Charlotte Danielsson, is a lawyer focusing on business immigration law and business law and has lived and worked in Silicon Valley for eighteen years. Christian Olsson, co-founder of NeuraMetrix, is our Media Director—keeping our community informed about the latest developments in SV and the Nordics/Baltics via Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin—has also worked and lived in Silicon Valley for eighteen years. Knud Balslev, a Dane working in software and renewable energy, has lived in the SV area for ten years. And I have lived in SV for forty years and have worked for 37 years as a researcher and consultant at SRI International (formerly Stanford Research Institute) and Strategic Business Insights (a spinout from SRI). As a result of the wide and deep professional networks of our Board members, we typically have only a few “degrees of separation” from most people we want to connect with in Silicon Valley or in the Nordics/Baltics.


New Direction: Research


Given the interest of our Board members and our community, we have recently expanded into research in two areas that align closely with many of our other activities:


  • State of Nordic Tech in the SF Bay Area. Since we have interacted with and known many of the Nordic companies in the SF Bay Area for a long time, we are currently completing an overview of what small and large Nordic/Baltic firms are doing, what they see as key opportunities and challenges, and how they see the future, etc. We are also collecting statistical data on startup companies that have actually moved to the Bay Area to get a better understanding of why some companies pull the trigger on the move and others don’t. This includes information such as the gender breakdown of founders, Nordic country of origin, funding received from the Nordics vs the US, and what the actual primary motivation is for moving the companies to the SF Bay Area. This research is also aimed at lowering the learning curve for new Nordic companies thinking of entering the SF Bay Area market by sharing the lessons learned by those companies already here.
  • Nordic EdTech Network (NEN). This is an area I have worked in for many years, and the current project (to be completed by June 2017) was commissioned by Nordic Innovation, a funding agency in Oslo, Norway that funds research for the Nordic region. The project intends to build a Nordic edtech community and network by leveraging and collaborating with various country-based edtech organisations that have emerged over the last couple of years in Finland, Norway, and Sweden in particular. We will map the industry to understand who does what, and we also offer a range of resources—including podcast interviews with edtech experts in the US and in the Nordics; blog posts; and webinars are now being planned—and hope to organise workshops in the Nordics in the spring. Some of our recent mapping work is described here, and you can find a recently updated list of Nordic edtech companies here. For a more detailed description of our project, please visit our project website or this Silicon Vikings blog post.

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