Schibsted’s breeding ground for unicorns

A new lab will identify and aid Norwegian companies with the potential for big growth

An image of a unicorn representing the kinds of companies Schibsted supports.

Photo: Emre Ayaroglu / Flickr
Not quite as rare as the mythical beasts they’re named after, “unicorn” companies are those with valuation of one billion dollars or more.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

Schibsted Media Group has restructured with new and stronger global functions that will enable better products to the customer. Schibsted is an international media group with 6,800 employees in 30 countries. It all started in 1839 when Christian Michael Schibsted founded a publishing company, and in 1860 he started publishing a newspaper that from 1885 has been known as Aftenposten.

The exiting news is that they have initiated a “Unicorn Lab” for startups with, Snapsale,, and more. The lab will identify, fund, build, and roll out unicorn caliber growth ventures. Frode Eilertsen will head the lab. He has many years’ experience in the U.S. with successful venture capital and startup labs, bringing unique competence, network, and experience. He has done an exceptional job in helping set the new strategic direction for Schibsted, driving their digital transformation, recruiting world-class competence, and building up a new global technology and product organization. They want to shape the media of tomorrow!

“Unicorn” is a new term in Norway. The expression comes from the investment industry, and in particular the venture capital industry, which calls a startup whose valuation has exceeded USD 1 billion a unicorn. One such example is Facebook.

In Norway growth is a challenge. While on average 15-25 percent of U.S. startups achieve sustainable growth, the rate of Norwegian companies to do so is estimated at 2-10 percent. A study by Next Step throws some new light on this. Next Step is a global consultancy based in Silicon Valley with a branch in Oslo. They have facilitated commercial growth of hundreds of American, Norwegian, and European companies. From 2010 to 2013 they studied the investment, revenue, and profitability performance of 20 Norwegian companies compared to similar U.S.-based companies. Here are some of their conclusions:

There are distinct differences in focus and time spent seeking investment, product development, and market feedback. The Norwegian entrepreneur tends to put much more time into raising capital and product development. This results in Norwegian companies’ average time to market of three to eight years versus one to three years in the U.S.

U.S. companies accelerate time to market and revenue generation through gaining feedback, validation, and customer commitments for the solution during the development process. In today’s rapidly changing environment, this has a significant impact on success.

Hopefully Norwegian companies will learn to apply some of this for more robust growth. After oil we will need unicorns to sustain the economy.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 18, 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.