As many companies within the varied and growing blockchain and cryptocurrency space can attest, it’s not always an easy space to work in. The technology is complex, its applications changeable, and moving fast, underpinned by a culture marked by seemingly conflicting values: a commitment to privacy and a new level of transparency.
In essence, this space and the companies in it embody the very definition of cutting-edge innovation. For this reason, it would seem that agencies seeking to support the development and practical application of new technologies would jump onboard eagerly.
Who doesn’t want to be a frontrunner, pioneering revolutionary change not only within a single industry but in the fundamental infrastructure of how business is done?
Apparently, this is a tough question. It’s easy to understand why the banking industry, innovation accelerators and economic development agencies are wary — and a bit threatened — both by what they don’t understand and what they cannot yet regulate. While the regulatory environment changes, potentially large innovation projects stagnate because they can’t get the support they need to grow. Norwegian Block Exchange (NBX) recently experienced something along these lines, which we’ve come to understand is not that uncommon in Norway overall.
Innovation Norway application: Rejected
We applied for financial assistance from Innovation Norway to help finance the development of the blockchain-based payment solution and marketplace we’ve already been successfully working on for some time. Within a blisteringly fast two days, we received notification that Innovation Norway had concluded their deliberation on our application and had decided to deny NBX support because they cannot help in financing blockchain or distributed ledger technology projects.
Okay — disappointing result for us, but we understand concerns about anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) processes. At the same time, though, aren’t these the concerns of the Financial Supervisory Authority, which regulates businesses operating in Norway within the exchange and custody services for digital currencies?
Also, as a business operating in this space, NBX has already taken the necessary steps to implement AML and KYC processes to ensure that this will not be a concern — and certainly not a concern for Innovation Norway.
High-risk Norwegian startups: Percolating innovation to be shut down cold
For NBX, Innovation Norway’s refusal to support our work is not a showstopper. We’re already well on our way with development. (Join our standby list to keep apprised of our upcoming launch date and other news.) But we are undoubtedly not the first company to turn to and be turned down by Innovation Norway. Innovation Norway seems to look to lightning-fast efficiency (let’s give them their due: awesome case-processing time!) as its benchmark for innovation, but the true innovation and risk taking hasn’t happened, and what Innovation Norway has been doing, when held up to scrutiny, has not been paying off, according to the Office of the Auditor General of Norway.
Are we going to ignore the call to diversify Norway’s economy and help focus on future-oriented technology only to be told that it’s too high risk? Taking a page from our Norwegian Air Shuttle heritage, we won’t ignore this call, but sadly, we fear Innovation Norway, whose ostensible raison d’être is fostering innovation, is not going to be part of making that diversity grow and flourish for the Norwegian economy or for Norwegian products and services abroad.
NBX is launching soon. Sign up https://nbx.com at to the standby list to be the first to know when.