Building an entrepreneurial map
Many resources are available to help new businesses get off the ground in Norway
Mona Anita K. Olsen, PhD
Five years ago, I moved to Stavanger, Norway, on a Fulbright Grant to study entrepreneurship education after running the operations of Mason Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a public service that provides one-on-one counseling and group training services for small business owners in Northern Virginia. After arriving in Norway, I was eager to understand the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the support services available to the public by both the Norwegian government and the entrepreneurial services community (banks, accountants, networking groups, etc.). Being very familiar with the registration process for a business and entrepreneurial support services in the United States, I wanted to understand whether the common perception that a business was hard to start in Norway was true or not.
I jumped into different entrepreneurial communities including taking entrepreneurial classes through Skape.no (a center for information, competence, and guidance aimed at new businesses in Rogaland), volunteering on the operations team for Startup Weekend Stavanger and TedX Stavanger, and going to business mixers through an organization that was called Nettverk Stavanger at the time. I reviewed the government website for information on entity formation, but given my Norwegian skills were very basic, I struggled interpreting the information. At the time, only broad themes about the startup process were fully translated, leaving many questions unanswered. I walked away from my Fulbright chapter with an equivalent to a sole-proprietorship (enkeltmannsforetak) formed but not feeling confident about business prospects in Norway given what my qualitative research experiences had taught me.
This year, I decided to revisit my research on entity formation in Norway and was impressed to see the tremendous growth in accessibility and services promoted through a variety of sources in both Norwegian and in English. With entrepreneurship on the rise globally, and specifically in Norway, perhaps this is not surprising, but I wanted to provide a recap of some of the tools available to help aspiring entrepreneurs draw a map forward for venturing into business in Norway. This entrepreneurial mapping exercise is one that I use at Cornell University in the course HADM 4133/6133: Global Conversations with Entrepreneurs, where I challenge students to think about the process and implications of opening a business in another country. We recently completed an in-class exercise mirroring what an entrepreneur would need to do to engage internationally in entrepreneurship using technology. The students were separated into pairs and had to navigate the resources from this article to prepare for an upcoming discussion on Norwegian entrepreneurship during the Virtual Ambassador Program session with Ambassador Kåre R. Aas from Norway.
To get an understanding of some measures of the evolving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Norway, you can review the Economic Profile on Norway at the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. You can learn more about Norway’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through a variety of yearly reports at gemconsortium.org/report. For comparison’s sake, you could also look at the reports of other countries that you are familiar with or have interest in. Another interesting read is the Embassy Report: Norway Creates Jobs in the U.S. (www.norway.no/globalassets/2—world/usa/washington/contact-information/norway_creates_jobs_in_the_us.pdf).
To learn about the entity formation process and starting a business in Norway, here are some websites and resources that I find particularly useful for English speakers whether you are based in Norway or outside of Norway:
Altinn (altinn.no/en/start-and-run-business) has a fantastic guide on the process of starting a business, the differences in entity types (equivalent to an LLC versus a C Corp, etc.), and regulations for owning and operating a business in Norway. They also have a business consultation hotline where you can call in or email to get free business assistance.
Innovasjon Norge (www.innovasjonnorge.no/en/start-page) is the Norwegian government’s entity that focuses on innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry. There is an entrepreneur’s phone line where you can discuss your business idea. You can also visit an office in Norway (or in other locations): www.innovasjonnorge.no/en/start-page/our-offices/.
The bank DNB (m.dnb.no/en/starting-business?WT.svl=Menu) has many tools and resources on its website ranging from budgeting fundamentals to the startup process. They also have startup consultants that can help advise you on elements of the startup process.
Startup Weekend Norway (swoslo.com) events are filled with networking, active learning, mentoring, and ideation. Often, there are themes to the weekends and they can be found in a variety of cities in Norway.
Skape.no (skape.no/om-oss/english-info), which focuses on entrepreneurship in Rogaland, has many classes and workshops for entrepreneurship. There are many more in English compared to five years ago. Innovation Dock (innovationdock.no) started in 2014 and provides many entrepreneurial services to the community, including networking events, co-working space, and educational sessions.
Mesh (www.meshnorway.com) is a creative community in Oslo where you can find co-working space, networking opportunities, educational events, and food and beverage to share over ideation discussions. Work-Work (work-work.no) is a co-working gaming lab in Trondheim where you can engage in events, broaden your network, hold meetings, and rent office space. The Life in Norway Podcast (www.lifeinnorway.net/podcast) provides an episode on more details on Work-Work.
These resources are just a starting point for a wide range of entrepreneurial support services available for budding entrepreneurs in Norway and those in the United States wanting to cross the business pond. Combining various resources together into an entrepreneurial map to help navigate forward is encouraged, as is being mindful that some elements of starting a venture in Norway (such as accessing the registration system) require Norwegian identification numbers, which can take time to process. I imagine in the next five years these resources will continue to evolve.
Mona Anita K. Olsen is an assistant professor at the School of Hotel Administration in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business in Ithaca, N.Y. She is also the founder of Innovation Barn 58N6E and the 501c3 iMADdu (I make a difference, do you?) Inc.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.