Your network is your net worth?

Entrepreneurship in Norway is starting to become a trend. The Government is requesting new growth businesses, and new funds for entrepreneurs are being established. The aids for entrepreneurs are improving. Innovation Norway is going through a restructure process. We are seeing more and more incubators, conferences and co-working spaces establish all over Norway.

We have spent our last 12 months overseas experiencing the world’s most famous entrepreneurial environment. Coming back to Norway, we brought with us an important lesson that we believe the Norwegian startup scene has to learn as well.

Our experience with a Silicon Valley accelerator

We completed the Alchemist accelerator in May. The Alchemist is one of the top five accelerators in the US, and the world in general, among Y-Combinator and 500 Startups.

Why are these accelerators “top notch”? They produce a large number of startups that turns into growth businesses. The funds we received from the Alchemist was truly important for us, and the weekly lessons we attended was amazing. People like Ben Horowitz, Adam Pisoni and Kriss Duggan visited to tell us how they became successful. Still, the most valuable thing we got during our stay was the network. This network will keep playing a key role on our road to success.

The Alchemist provides their startups with access to a platform consisting of over 12 000 (!) people we can reach out to. These people are industry experts within all possible fields. Everything from previous entrepreneurs to directors in companies like Google, Snapchat, Uber and Yahoo is to be found there. Over 400 of these are designated mentors for the companies in Alchemist. When starting the program, every company receive their own mentor, but we are also encouraged to reach out to others. Also, the network consisting of other startups is of unique value. We were able to discuss problems with people that is going through the same or even people that has gone through it before.

Give entrepreneurs access to networks

This network has provided us with intros to potential customers and investors, but has also functioned as sparring partners before making important decisions. It is challenging to build something from scratch, which is why it is important to find support in people who is in the same situation, who has done it before or who has key knowledge about certain areas. Synergies from exchanging knowledge between founders has played a key role in Silicon Valley’s success with startups. Making sure that Norwegian startups become part of similar networks is really important if we want them to succeed in the future. The different aids for startups has to facilitate in order for this to happen. For example, Innovation Norway could be offering mentors to all startups that passes their “Phase One”.

Businesses need to become involved

Through our accelerator, and the ecosystem in Silicon Valley, we got the opportunity to attend different arenas where entrepreneurs can establish relations with larger businesses. There are plenty of these opportunities in the US, but it is something the Norwegian startup scene is lacking. Businesses and business people should participate on events, but also facilitate for these events to occur. It could also be to their own advantage, for instance the opportunity to find innovative solutions that could help their own business moving forward. Mergers, acquisitions or formation of power couples is something Norwegian businesses should consider more in order to grow.

We also experienced how the Silicon Valley ecosystem consists of business people that wish to give back. Many of these have built their careers or companies from scratch, and they remember how it is to be at that starting point. There should be more experienced business people willing to share knowledge or work as business angels in Norway as well.

Entrepreneurs has to network

For founders and entrepreneurs, it is important to be active in order to gain this sort of network. Find people you want to talk with and go where they are. Do not be afraid to ask for advice. Using your network actively can create value in the long term and it also contributes to fill out the competence gap that startups often have early on. This might be a cliché, but we have experienced it to be true: Your network is your net worth.

Authors: Ingvild Karine Sandmo & Øistein Sonstad