03.02.2022 - Economy, Innovation

Oslo and Riga plan to explore possible cooperation

In April, Oslo Business Region plans to visit Riga during TechChill to get a deeper insight into the city and to discuss possible future collaboration possibilities.

Right now, Norway is the eighth biggest investor in Latvia and there is a lot of potential in this flourishing relationship. We asked Siw Andersen, CEO of Oslo Business Region to elaborate on the relationship between Oslo and Riga.

Last year Oslo Business Region planned to visit Riga but because of the pandemic, it didn’t happen. What was the aim of the meeting and what is the relationship between Oslo and Riga?

For the last two or three years, I have been in contact with Evita Nedzvecka, Head of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia’s Representative Office in Norway. We are always discussing differences and similarities between Riga and Oslo. The similarities include culture and the ambition to create more sustainable companies. Moreover, the size of our cities makes us quite similar. Norwegian companies are some of the biggest investors in Latvia. There are different collaborations in education and other fields that are interesting.

We have started our relationship digitally, I have met Evita a few times and it is now to take the next step and visit Riga to learn more about it and see what our future collaboration could look like. I’ve not been to Riga, so it’s a bit challenging to picture a collaboration without having met the people, the companies, and so on.

When are you planning to visit?

We hope to visit Riga during TechChill in April. We’ve been hearing about TechChill for a long time and it’s an event we’ve been planning to visit for a long time. So it makes sense to attend the conference during our visit.

As TechChill is more connected to startups, let’s continue our conversation on this topic. How big is the Norwegian startup scene?

The latest available numbers are for 2019 when there were about 2200 startups and almost 200 scaleups in Oslo. In the city of Oslo, there are about 50 professional accelerators, clusters, and incubators. When I started to work at Oslo Business Region in 2014, there were only two or three. So it has developed into a flourishing startup ecosystem.

We’ve got our first five unicorns and we got them all in one year!

Who are these five unicorns?

Online grocery startup Oda, industrial software company Cognite, ed-tech startup Kahoot, on-demand print platform Gelato, and automated storage and retrieval system AutoStore.

Who would you name as the top five startups in Norway today? What are your best success stories?

When I started working for Oslo Business Region eight years ago, nobody had even heard of startups. It was something very new in Norway. Of course, we had companies and a lot of SMEs, but the startup thinking was quite new at that moment. A lot has happened during these years and now even my mum knows what a startup is.

There are several interesting scaleups. One is Kahoot which is an educational platform. Currently, it’s got around 100 million users all over the world, and about 500 employees. Most of the scaleups in Oslo are B2B, so I mention Kahoot, because it is a B2C company and maybe you have heard of it.

Another scaleup worth mentioning is Oda. It is a company that brings food to your home. Of course, that is not unique in itself. It has a special logistical system that makes its business model unique.

Another interesting company is Epiguard. It’s a med-tech company creating incubators to transport people. During the pandemic, a person can be transported in this incubator and get treatment without coming into contact with other people. That kind of med-tech and health-tech companies have increased a lot during the past few years. This is not just due to Covid, but also because the health sector is becoming more digital.

Another one is Otovo – an online marketplace for residential solar installations. Andreas Thorsheim founded the company in 2015 and it is an interesting scaleup in the green energy sector.

What are the biggest strengths of Norwegian startups? Which sectors are now booming and stronger than others?

First, of course, there is the ocean and the maritime sector. Scaleups like Evoi and BluEye are two startups worth keeping an eye on. Other sectors are health and med-tech, fintech and green-tech which also includes green mobility. Climate tech is also growing.

Norway is the eighth biggest foreign investor in Latvia. In recent years quite a lot of Norwegian companies have opened offices in Riga and some are in the process of doing so. What’s your explanation for why this is happening on such a big scale?

Oh that’s a very good and complicated question and to be honest, I think other people can answer this better than I can. But I think one reason is the good bonds between the two countries, similar culture and a shared interest in innovation.

What kind of organization is the Oslo Business Region? Is it state-owned or is it private? How does it work and what are your aims?

Oslo Business Region is owned and funded by the City of Oslo’s Business Division, but we are a limited company. That gives us more flexibility than if we were under the municipality’s ownership.

One of the main aims of the Oslo Business Region is to create more scale-ups and growth companies in Oslo. In other words, to create new jobs. And to do that we work on some different pillars. One is attracting more investments and talent. The second area for us is to open up between the City of Oslo and scaleups. To facilitate more pilot projects, be a testbed and secure more public procurement from scaleups.

The startup ecosystem has grown a lot and our ambition is to be a relevant and supportive partner for the private sector, for our owner the City of Oslo, and to connect Oslo to the world.

What are the instruments you can use to help your companies?

We work with different tools, for example, we are the project lead of Oslo Innovation Week which is basically the Norwegian TechChill. Another is to help attract investments by connecting scaleups to foreign investors and providing data and insight. We also aim to attract more skilled talent.

We collaborate with incubators and industry clusters, and we are showcasing interesting stories from Oslo. In addition, we’re also working on a new project which is connected to testbeds. We’re doing this together with cities in Sweden and Denmark, and we’re trying to see if we can make a Nordic testbed. This would mean that you can first test your startup in Oslo, and then Gothenburg and Aalborg. Startups can validate their business model and scale even faster.

Source: labsoflatvia.com

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