In Alta, Finnmark, mobile tech is a success

Local company Ascella is ready to take over the world

Cathedral of the Northern Lights in Finnmark, a landmark seen from Ascella’s headquarters in Kunnskapsparken Alta.

Photo: CH /
Cathedral of the Northern Lights is one of the most striking buildings in Alta, Finnmark, and can be seen from Ascella’s headquarters in Kunnskapsparken Alta.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

A Norwegian startup company recently gave a presentation at a global IT conference in Oulu, Finland. The city has evolved into a major high-tech center, particularly in IT and wellness technology. Nokia has 2,000 employees there. The theme of the conference, held for the 24th time, was “Digitalization, from Disruptions to Sustainability.” The startup presented on how their solution optimizes the value chain in the construction industry through innovative digital solutions.

Ascella was founded in 2005 by Bjørn-Tore Hagberg. The company is located in Alta, Finnmark. The main business is consulting and software development, particularly solutions that work with mobile devices. The main product is SmartDok, which is the market-leading mobile data collection tool for the construction industry. The founder had faith in mobile solutions and the idea that cellphones could be used for more than just calls and texts. He wanted to develop solutions that make every day easier for customers. This meant registering hours and what machines and tools work teams are using, checklists, and taking photos of what they take out of the storehouse and what they bring back. Ascella has 14 employees in Norway, including the marketing manager, who studied at the University of Memphis, and two employees in Sweden. Today the product is used by around 700 companies and 24,000 users in Norway and Sweden.

Alta, with 20,000 inhabitants, is far north and well known for its outdoor opportunities. The company is located in Kunnskapsparken Alta, together with many other companies. From the office it is five minutes by car to the airport. It takes 30 minutes to get to Tromsø and two hours to Oslo. From the office one can see the Cathedral of the Northern Lights. It is ranked among Norway’s 10 Best Buildings of the Last Five Years. The municipality wanted a new architectural landmark that could highlight the region’s status as a top destination to view the northern lights.

Alta was burned down in 1944 and the only building that survived was the church. Today it is a busy town with many small companies and some huge construction companies with tasks for Statoil.

Ascella made money almost from day one. Last year they reached revenues of NOK 16 million. Over four years the growth has been an impressive 125 percent. They have been careful with money and have never borrowed from the bank. They support community activities like Finnmarksløpet, the largest sled dog race in Europe, which starts in Alta with over 1,000 huskies.

The company was recently nominated for the Finnmark Conference Business Award, and hopes to win next year. In September they won the exclusive national prize of the European Business Award for 2015-16 within the category “RSM Entrepreneur of the Year,” against 26,000 nominated companies. This shows that the company is not just a local success story but is also recognized internationally. They are ready to conquer the world!

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 30, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Rasmus Falck

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.