BARN goes to Norway for Oslo Innovation Week

Strengthening transatlantic business connections

nathanson barn oslo innovation week

Photos: Max Stevenson
U.S. Ambassador to Norway Marc Nathanson was a featured speaker at a sold-out luncheon cohosted by BARN and Norway House at the hotel Amerikalinjen for Oslo Innovation Week.

Synneva Bratland
The Norwegian American

Powered by Norway House in Minneapolis, Minn., the Business Accelerator Resource Network (BARN) works to give Nordic business leaders a home in the North American marketplace.

Not only does Norway House serve as a physical site for the network, but it is also a branching off point for other, less tangible, connections. BARN is a way to better connect with both Nordic and U.S. entities, be it investors, mentors, government agencies, or business leaders.

At its core, the group focuses on allowing Nordic businesses a chance to thrive in the United States—but that’s only part of the picture. In February of this year, members of the BARN and Norway House leadership made their first joint trip to Norway. They felt very fortunate to make this initial trip alongside Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.

At the end of September, the group once again traveled to Norway. This time they went to Oslo to participate in Oslo Innovation Week. The goal of this trip was to follow up with past connections, continuing their work to establish BARN as a trusted resource for Norwegian businesses in the United States.

BARN storting

The Norway House delegation made at stop at the Storting, where they met with officials from various Norwegian government offices.

Ted Risdall, Norway House board member, underscored the importance of regular in-person interaction, explaining, “If we don’t go over and aren’t present with a smile, this won’t happen. We’re going to need to have people continue to go back and forth.”

The delegation that traveled across the Atlantic in September consisted of Christina Carleton, executive director of Norway House, Max Stevenson, chief of staff at Norway House, Britt Ardakani, director of business outreach, Risdall, five attorneys from Larkin Hoffman LLP, and Live Sletten Diakolios from the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York.

Over the course of four days, the group met with stakeholders throughout the city, from members of various Norwegian government offices to businesses with whom they’ve established prior connection, prospective collaborators, and more. The Larkin Hoffman attorneys in attendance also had many pro-bono consultations with potential clients looking to enter the U.S. market.

BARN and Norway House cohosted a sold-out luncheon at the hotel Amerikalinjen. Located in downtown Oslo, Amerikalinjen stands as a symbol of the strong connections between Norway and the United States. The building was originally constructed in 1919 as the headquarters for the shipping company Amerikalinjen. Its ships carried passengers and cargo back and forth across the Atlantic, supporting new experiences in the United States throughout the 20th century.

The symbolism of hosting a luncheon in precisely this hotel was not lost on the group. Although no longer responsible for the travel, Amerikalinjen still carries its occupants into new adventures, strengthening connections between Norway and the United States.

The afternoon opened with remarks from U.S. Ambassador to Norway Nathanson, who extended a warm welcome to the attendees, sharing the depth of his own personal connections to Minnesota.

Subsequently, two Larkin Hoffman attorneys provided insight into the nitty-gritty details of business and immigration laws in the United States. They offered guidance on everything from how to bring a company to the United States, get it registered, and set up a bank account, to how laws on patents and intellectual property differ between the two countries, and how work done in the United States can qualify for a Norwegian pension.

Attendees also heard from representatives from Sylv­smidja, a Norwegian company that produces silver sølje for bunads. They talked about their experiences with BARN and success in entering the U.S. market.

BARN Oslo

No trip to Oslo would be complete without some sightseeing on the Oslofjord. The Oslo skyline is seen in the background with the towers of the red-brick City Hall building, also a stop on their itinerary.

A throughline that remained clear throughout the afternoon is that Minnesota is a place where Norwegian innovation is right at home and companies truly have the potential to flourish. Only strengthening that fact is major partner for BARN on this trip, Minnesota Agency. A partner and client of BARN, they strive to help Norwegian companies develop a strong international brand. Their service, START USA, helps specifically with the often difficult process of launching an existing business in the United States.

Jan Villard, an owner of Minnesota Agency, plans to serve as CEO-for-hire for several Norwegian companies in the United States. He has successfully founded, led, and sold several companies and hopes to use his expertise to help establish new businesses, eventually from an office at Norway House.

As BARN’s name—Business Accelerator Resource Network—suggests, the group is always looking to the future for more opportunities to connect and thrive both domestically and abroad. As the group reflects on this fall’s trip, there is already a growing excitement for the Oslo Innovation Week in 2024. According to Ardakani, BARN hopes to have an even stronger presence in the official program next year.

This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE.