On Corporate Innovation

Having just wrapped up our first accelerator program in the Oslo, I’ve had some time to think about the experience of working with regional corporations. So I already had a few thoughts on that and the differences between how corporations work with Silicon Valley startups. At the same time, DN recently published a fairly critical piece involving one of our founders and several of our partners. We wanted to quickly chime in and share our own perspective.

First, I think the point that was lost and worth highlighting is how much Opera Software stepped up to support our last program. Our founder from the article (who was included in this last batch) was really trying to get this point across, but the journalist buried that, focusing instead on what he felt was more salacious. That tends to drive more clicks, after all. Next accelerator, we’ll be sure to give our founders a bit more media training. 😉

So I do want to at least echo that Opera Software has raised the bar for how Norwegian corporations support startups. It’s not just about writing a small check or putting your corporate logo on something. It’s about providing hands-on mentorship, access to executive staff, and product distribution support. All of which they did. Some free beer helps too.

“Corporations don’t want innovation. Innovation is risk. Corporations want the status quo, with a better margin over time.”

However, it’s more than fair of our founders and the media to be somewhat critical of corporations with regard to innovation activities. From personal experience, I can tell you it’s tough to get material support in Norway and throughout the Nordics. Perhaps I’m just spoiled from my time in Silicon Valley.

dinocorp

Although the system seems to be working there — startups and startup programs get cash, credits, and access. Some of those little startups become big startups and, in the process, huge consumers of corporate services. Others become great M&A targets or funnels of talented people who take corporate jobs when their startups don’t work out. It’s a critical part of the concert that makes up the symphony of Silicon Valley and any healthy tech ecosystem.

I can feel things starting to change over this past year, so that’s a good sign. We already work with companies like DNB and Telenor and find value in what they provide. Like with all things we can do better on both sides to support startups. Hopefully that DN article will represent a challenge to them and not just be seen as a negative hit piece. We certainly want their help building the next generation of great businesses.

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