Editorial note: This is a guest post by Kristoffer Lawson, the Travelling Salesman. He's on a 10 000 kilometre drive to meet Nordic startups. ArcticStartup is supporting the project, by covering his travels and findings.
Well, the previous week started off even more interesting than the last for the Travelling Salesman tour.
After my capers with the Russian embassy I had quite a pleasant day in Oslo, meeting several people with a Trolltech background. Trolltech was the developer behind the now famous Qt GUI library and toolkit, which Nokia bought and which is currently being made into the next thing for Nokia phone development (whether it is on Symbian or Meego). As someone who has spent a while inside Nokia, it was interesting to see the level of independency that the Qt office in Oslo has. For instance, several of the people there were running Macs. I actually think this is extremely important to keep the identity of the teams intact, and motivated to continue with innovation.
It wasn't all happy happy joy joy, though. The founders of a very quickly growing Qt consultancy company, Cutehacks, left Trolltech after the acquisition, citing the influx of heavier corporate structures. If you are someone with a startup mind, it is always difficult to deal with that. But no loss, Qt consultancy is a big growth industry and they have all the work they can possibly handle.
It was Göteborg which would provide the biggest nail-biting moments. What with the arrival of Ville Miettinen, from Microtask, and also the owner of the car (had I ruined it?), and with the drama next morning.
After a nice night hanging around at the office of Idevio, who are building map compression technology suitable for mobile use, we arrived with Ville, or Wili as he's often known, at the parking hall where the Land Rover had been left. To find the windows smashed in and the stereos gone.
You can imagine my own shock. My thoughts raced around wondering if I had done something wrong, left it in a bad place, and if Wili would be utterly pissed off at this less than optimal beginning to his leg of the tour. We quickly started ringing the police and any companies we could find that could deal with Land Rovers.
My biggest annoyance was not that the stereos were gone, although a lack of entertainment would be frustrating, but that there was now no window on the driver's door, and one missing on the rear passenger door. In the slushy blizzard we were getting in Göteborg, any amount of driving was going to be a nightmare.
Thankfully Wili took it surprisingly stoically, even throwing in a joke or two. He proceeded to help clean out the glass of all the shrapnel, as well as figure out a Land Rover dealer. While they couldn't help, a nearby garage expertly fixed us up with plexiglass windows in no more than 30 minutes. I never before knew they could do that, and the result is amazingly satisfactory. A quick glance wouldn't reveal the difference from the glass windows.
So with an increasingly superstitious attitude we continued onwards to Denmark, to drop Wili off at Copenhagen and to allow me to continue onwards.
After the robotic center in Odense the highlight was finding the Aarhus startup scene. Ever since I left Helsinki I have not witnessed such vibe and entrepreneurial spirit. The local incubator was simply bustling with software startups, and the nearby student entrepreneurship house was packed with rows of tables where students could work on their new companies, side by side. The spaces were free, and advice was given every week.
Funnily enough one company, betalmignu.dk, pitched themselves as a service helping people to manage shared expenses and debts. Now, anyone who has followed Scred's story will know that is exactly where we started out. The pitch brought a huge smile to my face, and I could immediately fire off a lot of advice on the problems there.
The other companies I met there are covered on the Travelling Salesman blog.
In many ways this student-driven entrepreneurial onslaught reminded me of the activity Aaltoes and Aalto VG are doing around Helsinki, and I do think there should be more connections made to compare methods. The folks in Aarhus had not previously heard of Aaltoes or even of ArcticStartup. I duly did my bit to educate them.
Additionally it seems Venture Cup has taken a very active and participatory role in the Danish startup scene. A very important development here is that they are not only interested in supporting entrepreneurship based on higher level research, but have moved to broaden their scope into other technology-based startups. This is great news.
From then on my biggest source of anxiety was whether I would actually arrive in Iceland or not. The weather looked OK, but I would only find out on Sunday, upon arrival at the beautiful Faroe Islands. It's three nights on Smyril Line to reach Iceland, and in the winter this is not guaranteed. In fact, just the previous week it had been stormy, and the ferry turned back at the Faroes.
However this time the winds were blowing favourably and I reached all the way to the land of fire, ice and storytelling. Iceland. As I write this I do not know if I will get back on the ferry I planned, but that I'll cover with my next post ...
Below is a video of Kristoffer making it towards Iceland.