Oslo is struggling to make a name for itself for its startup scene, but a new co-working space opened its doors in April that aims to become the nexus of the startup community. Located in downtown Oslo, MESH is a huge co-working and event space that has already started providing the networks, orgnaization, and services needed for the startup community to prosper.
The two founders of MESH, Audun Ueland and Anders Mjåset have an entrepreneurial background themselves. About five years ago the two started up a recruiting company focused on engineering students which they sold to their competitors. After that they started another company that didn't take off, but then met up with someone who was looking to patent a solution to protect strollers and other items on planes. After expanding across Northern Europe they sold Pram Pack to Stokke, and used those funds to start MESH.
The reason they did so, was because they have strong memories of how underdeveloped the Norwegian startup ecosystem was. Many of the events were spread out over government supported incubators and programs, but there was nothing by startups for startups. To get the scene moving they considered starting their own incubator, and even an ArcticStartup style blog, but after visiting London, New York, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Silicon Valley, they had a good idea in mind of what the Norwegian startup scene needed.
"We ended up trying to understand what would fit here to get a modern startup ecosystem off the ground. And we found we we need here is a physical space to attract core people, and a place to hold events, and a place to get startups off the ground," says Mjåset.
MESH opened the 20th of April and now has 100+ members working full time or part time, and fill 70+ desks at the co-working space. Many startups are based completely out of the co-working space, with the biggest having 6-7 employees.
The four story building MESH is located in is owned by a large nightclub, which gives them a huge amount of space for larger events whenever they need it. Smaller events fit better in their common area, but Mjåset says that they're really lucky to have access to that space.
This week a cafe is opening up on the ground floor of MESH, which will be open to the public. "We want it to be more of a lower barrier to entry to the innovation scene, and we want to have daily events going on there," says Mjåset.
It should be a good place for casual meeting as well as smaller events like breakfast meetups, lunch lectures, and workshops. One part of the cafe will be used as the cafe all the time, but they're planning on including a glass divider where you can see entrepreneurs working. "It's kind of like a bakery where you have people making the food, but we have people creating stuff," says Mjåset.
The team is also working on a creative workshop where they're going to have a 3D printer and all the electronic gadgets and toys needed to create new things.
Mjåset estimates that around 60% of the companies located at MESH are digital startups, why 40% are more product oriented. Of those, he guesses around 70% offer a high growth potential, while the remaining 30% are your graphic designers, animators, and other smaller businesses.
The founders of MESH are well aware that the Norwegian startup scene has a long ways to go before the startup and investment scene reaches levels similar to any of the European or U.S. hubs, but their space is a major reason we may soon start hearing more things out of Oslo.
Photos by Margit Selsjord.