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A Nordic entrepreneur in Silicon Valley

  • Published 02/02/2014
  • Last updated 31/01/2014
For many ambitious Nordic entrepreneurs Silicon Valley offers a special attraction. We had a short Q&A session with the an experienced entrepreneur who made it there.

For fifty years, Silicon Valley has attracted talented entrepreneurs. They all come with the ambition and intention to scale or fail trying. Thorsteinn Gunnarsson is one of them. For more than ten years he has been part of the global startup scene and has no doubt that a joint Nordic Innovation House will increase his and others’ odds of success in the Valley.


– Why did you go to Silicon Valley?

– Silicon Valley is the hottest spot for startups in the world due to three factors: A lot of talent, a lot of knowledge and a whole lot of money. All three factors influenced our decision to go. If you want global success, it is extremely important to get people with experience and connections involved in your company. Silicon Valley is where you will find these people so it has always been our plan to go.


– If you want to think big, if you really want to get things going then you have to go to Silicon Valley. People are pitching in cafés and bars. Just the experience is eye opening and it will help you think bigger. Silicon Valley is the world’s leading hub for high-tech innovation and development, accounting for one-third of all the venture capital invested in the United States.



–  How can a Nordic Innovation House help startups beat the competition?

– For entrepreneurs coming to Silicon Valley with no connections the entry can be extremely difficult. Luckily, I had a friend who referred me to Innovation Norway. They agreed to help us, even though we are Icelandic. So when we arrived in Silicon Valley, they had already set up meetings, arranged a workspace and made a report on the attack arena. Already in the first week, we started to gain from this setup. The fact that I lived in the US for years have of course helped us but there are still a lot of hurdles. You do not get meetings unreferenced in Silicon Valley. A Nordic Innovation House can help startups get over the first hurdles and this makes all the difference. If you were to do this on your own, it would probably take months or even years.



–  In the Nordic Innovation House, several of the Nordic countries’ separate activities in Silicon Valley will be merged. What do you think of this initiative?

– It is a great step. You will get talent from a larger pool, the whole Nordic one, which means that the quality of startups showcased in the Nordic Innovation House will be higher, thus attracting more investors. The big guys will be looking and saying: "Hi, let’s see what’s going on there!" These guys do not show up for anything, you will need to have more than one or two interesting startups per year. The competition in Silicon Valley is fierce so to merge strengths, knowledge and connections is quite simply a good business strategy.


– The Nordic Innovation House might also have a great side effect. If a few startups get global recognition it will undoubtedly fuel the local startup scene. It is just like sports, if your local football team does well then all small boys and girls want to play football.



– But why not use your resources back home instead of on a house in Silicon Valley?

– The startup ecosystem in the Nordic countries should definitely be nurtured as well. You do not have to move your company away from the Nordic countries. A general piece of advice in Silicon Valley is to leave your programmers and developers back home but to bring your marketing and sales. But if you want to create a successful international startup, you have to get out of your comfort zone.



– Any last advice for the “small boys and girls” out there?

– Think big, make sacrifices and live the dream! Making it should only be half the fun!




(Photo: Nouhailler/Flickr, montage Nordic Innovation)