New Norwegian startup investment group
OBOS and AF Group collaborate to create Construct Venture, funding promising ideas
It can be risky to invest in startup companies. In the United States, major companies are taking part in one in five start up financing rounds, supplying 20 percent of the amount invested, according to Medium. However, the growth in such activity shows that it works. Recently, two Norwegian companies in traditional industries joined forces and invested NOK 80 million in their new fund, Construct Venture, focusing on the building industry.
The partners are OBOS and the AF Group. OBOS is the largest Nordic cooperative building association. Today, it is owned by more than 415,000 members, most of them in the Oslo area. After WWII, OBOS became the driving force for housing development in Oslo. To date, it has built more than 100,000 homes representing a quarter of Oslo’s housing stock. Its role has changed since the Norwegian housing market was deregulated in the 1980s from carrying out public housing policy to being exposed to competition and work under the same basic conditions as the rest of Norwegian enterprises.
OBOS is one of the partners in StartupLab, located in the Research Park at the University of Oslo. StartupLab is an incubator and early stage investor for tech startups. One of the founders and workers, Alexander Woxen, said work with StartupLab began in 2010 and was launched in 2012. The four founders and employees own two-thirds of the company and Oslo Science Center owns the other third. The chairman is Karl-Christian Agerup, CEO of OsloTech. Among the founders and investors is Olympic champion skier Aksel Lund Svindal.
OBOS has also just decided to invest NOK 100 million in venture activity. In reporting to OBOS members, CEO Daniel Kjørberg Siraj said, “We have to think offensive on investments in startups and other venture investments to succeed.”
The AF Group is a leading contracting group. It was established in 1985 to focus on major construction projects throughout Norway. It is Norway’s third-largest contractor and the best-performing company in the industry on the Oslo Stock Exchange. After some mergers and internal growth, the group today has 3,800 employees. They cooperate closely with customers to find efficient solutions that satisfy future environmental and energy requirements. In last year’s annual report in construction CEO Morten Grongstad noted, “It’s like in sports: you have to develop faster than your competitors. An important tool for continued progress is innovation and entrepreneurship. You have to be curious, competent, and have the best employees in the industry.”According to a press release, the first investment for Construct Venture AS is in the company Spacemaker. This Norwegian startup has developed a solution based on Artificial Intelligence to optimize the use of land in property development. Both partners are customers of Spacemaker and have actively contributed in the testing phase of the product’s development. Spacemaker was founded in 2015 by Håvard Haukeland, Anders Kvåle, and Carl Christensen. It is located at Aker Brygge in Oslo and has about 20 employees. Before Construct Venture invested, the startup managed to raise NOK 40 million in equity from the founders, angel investors, and small investment funds.
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 June 1, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.