Hacker house Norway

NTNU startup Gobitech opens Gobi House after experiencing the phenomenon in Palo Alto

Photo: Stig Øystein Schmidt / VG
The ball pit in Norway’s new hacker house is a great place to relax and come up with new ideas.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

Hacker houses have been popping up in Silicon Valley. These are places where entrepreneurs can live and work. Facebook and Apple, as well as smaller startups, have their roots in such places. They are a way for tech entrepreneurs to live together with like-minded people in their early 20s and build a network for people that are new in the valley. This is where entrepreneurs can meet and tackle challenges with their startups. Residents are usually young, green, and tech obsessed. They tend to be millennials who value minimalism, job mobility, flexible schedules, and social networks, and who prefer cities, stimulating work, and self-employment.

A year ago, five students from NTNU moved to Silicon Valley to follow their dream after starting Gobitech half a year earlier. Their concept was a new social media application that allows its users to share picture stories with groups of people, not only one-to-one communication. They quickly became a popular application on campus. They already had two solid investors on board as well as cross-country ski icon Petter Northug on the team as investor and user, who shares pictures from his daily life as a cross-country skier.

According to the founders, the app allows you to create a group for your closest friends, your family, your football team, or even your whole university. The group can be either public or private. Anyone within a group can post snaps in that group and everyone can reply. The founders got attention when they used Snapchat’s platform to make a group message system. This quickly became a success and was closed by the giant. The answer from the five students was to make their own app. Today they are challenging Snapchat.

Time to market is important. Therefore the founders left their part-time jobs, canceled their lodgings, and applied for a leave from NTNU to work full time with the startup. After the concept took off, they had to move to the USA, where they could cooperate closely with other startups and be able to develop the app further. They lived and worked in Palo Alto in a hacker home sharing space with an employee from Google and the crew from another startup.

They have had quite interesting experiences out west as the Super Bowl was played in San Francisco. Another highlight was an invitation to a private nightclub where Justin Bieber, 50 Cent, and a couple of NFL players showed up as well as the founders of the taxi service Uber.

In February they moved back to Norway and opened up “Gobi House,” where they can live and work. For them a growth culture is essential. However, in Silicon Valley they feared that they would lose employees to Apple and Microsoft.

Today the startup has 12 employees and the app has 70,000 users and a value of NOK 10 million. The startup expects to break even within the first years.

Coming back Silicon Valley-style inspires Norwegian entrepreneurs!

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.

This article originally appeared in the April 7, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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