Sep 28, 2023 — article

"Is Norway's startup ecosystem inclusive enough?"

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Our CTO and Senior Partner, Sagar Chandna, reflects on the panel discussion during Oslo Innovation Week focused on building diversity and inclusion in the Nordic startup ecosystem.

By admin

No, was the answer.

Have we done enough to create a diverse, inclusive, and supportive ecosystem for startups and tech entrepreneurs in the Nordics, or yet alone in Norway? Along with many others, I too was educated, then enlightened, by Founder & CEO of Tech Nordic Advocates Jeanette Carlsson's opening introduction to the state of DEI within the local tech innovation ecosystem.

What followed, was very promising though.

Ecosystems are, by nature, engineered to change. And I was lucky to be surrounded by some changemakers. Although I can’t recreate the atmosphere for you here, I can leave you with a very short summary of our discussion topics, where I was asked to share my perspectives as an investor.

The status of DEI and support for tech entrepreneurs 

The pandemic has democratized the entrepreneurial landscape. Now, teams can be formed with people from anywhere, not just a local area. It's a win for diversity and inclusivity. At RunwayFBU, we're growing our coworking space by nearly 3x, from about 50 to 140 desks, showing that even big companies like Aker are getting behind startups and tech entrepreneurs more than ever.

International growth success stories and lessons

Expanding a startup internationally is tough. It's not just about opening an office in a new country; it's about understanding what people there actually want and how the local regulations and market can impact your organization – having a diverse team or a network makes that much easier.

Think about McDonald's; they change their menu to fit not only local tastes but also their supply chain and more. Your startup should do the same. Going international isn't just about having a great product; it's about being ready in every way. Are you financially stable? Does your tech platform handle growth? Are your processes repeatable to ensure lean or agile execution?

What investors look for 

Investors like us at RunwayFBU focus on three main things: the team (their backgrounds, ambition, coherence, network, agility etc.), the market (size, product fit, opportunity and access), and how well the startup fits with our own strengths and thesis. A startup could have the best idea in the world, but if they don’t have the right people or market, it's a clear no-go.

Investors' role in fostering a diverse and inclusive portfolio 

Investors play an integral role in fostering an inclusive environment. At RunwayFBU, we started in-house, and today, four nationalities represent our team of eight. We track the diversity metrics of startups that approach us and believe that the larger the startup’s ambition, the more diverse its team should be. This is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic one.

The panel was part of Oslo Innovation Week on September 26th, hosted and moderated by Tech Nordic Advocates. Panelists include Elisabeth Plesner, Salvador Baille, Henock Bahrishum and Vibeke Vestre.

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