Oct 23, 2023 — blog

The Nordics Legacy and Startup Innovation: An Introduction to Our Beliefs

Johny goerend U di PCXC Bx U unsplash

Historically, the Nordics have been a cradle of exploration, from the seafaring Vikings to the explorers who braved new frontiers. This spirit of discovery has morphed into today’s culture of innovation, setting the stage for the region to lead in four pivotal investment themes.

By Sagar Chandna

Today, the region is home to startup giants like Spotify, Klarna, Wolt, and Visma, as well as scaleups like Cognite, Gelato, reMarkable, Dune Analytics, and Instabox that are carving out global leadership roles.

With a two-year track record of investing in Industrial B2B software startups - building upon the knowledge of the Aker group of companies - , RunwayFBU has garnered unique insights into the Nordic startup ecosystem. Our experience indicates that the region is uniquely poised to pioneer global innovation, within four key investment themes that promise not only transformative impacts but also align seamlessly with Nordic values—sustainability, efficiency, resilience, and societal well-being:

  1. Digitalization of Electricity – Establishment of a resilient and efficient energy ecosystem that dynamically adapts to real-time demand, simultaneously lowering costs and reducing carbon footprint.
  2. Transformation of Value Chains – Streamlining each facet of the product life cycle to cultivate resilient, efficient, and sustainable business practices.
  3. Reshaping Work Productivity - Strategically focusing on outcomes over processes to cultivate a more resilient and efficient organizational structure, thereby empowering employees.
  4. Accelerating Industrial Output - Leveraging optimization techniques to amplify production lines, delivering higher quality goods at a faster yet sustainable pace, boosting market competitiveness and economic vitality.

As our planet orbits in the vast expanse of space, its aging inhabitants are racing against time to build a sustainable future by the middle of this century. Amid these rapidly shifting dynamics, the Nordic countries with their digitalized society provides the perfect sandbox for digital innovation. We are convinced that these four investment themes will be influenced and advanced by Nordic innovation, steering us toward a future that's not just survivable, but also equitable and thriving.

Digitalization of Electricity

Much like the Vikings who mastered the utilization of natural elements in their adventures, the Nordics today are pioneering in harnessing and managing energy through digital technologies.

Climate change presents an existential threat, making the digitalization of electricity and energy systems a non-negotiable avenue for sustainable living.

The International Energy Agency's 2050 Net Zero Scenario prediction presents an intriguing paradox: a world with 2 billion more people will need 8% less energy than we consume today. This isn't a call for austerity; it's a testament to efficiency. It depicts a future where every joule of energy works harder for us, where the complete chain—from sourcing and production to distribution, preservation, and consumption—is optimized to such a degree that sustainability becomes not just achievable, but also generates a surplus. It’s not merely about doing more with less; it's about transforming 'less' into 'more than enough’.

This dramatic reshaping of our energy landscape won't occur in a vacuum—it will be propelled by advances in digitalization and software innovation. At RunwayFBU, we believe that the digital transformation of energy systems will play a pivotal role in achieving these efficiencies. Algorithms can predict and optimize energy usage patterns, real-time data analytics can reduce waste, and intelligent systems can manage complex grids to balance supply and demand seamlessly. The road to 'more than enough' isn't paved with mere good intentions; it's built on lines of code, data-driven insights, and technologies that make every unit of energy count. In a world thirsting for sustainable solutions, digitalization of electricity isn't just an enabler; it's a necessity.

The Nordics, with their already robust renewable energy infrastructure and policy support, are the ideal grounds to foster this revolution. Nordic companies like Otovo, Tibber, and Heimdall Power are not just scaling but are positioned to become leaders in this transformative shift.

Our portfolio companies aligned with this theme.

  • Soren: Specializes in fast-forwarding green hydrogen production planning, a cornerstone of optimizing future energy use.
  • Zerolytics: Will soon be launching their platform that gives global asset owners a unique tool to analyze the ongoing net zero transition and the associated financial risks for large, listed companies.
  • Celsia: By making sustainability reporting simple and efficient, it directly aids companies in tracking and achieving their energy-related sustainability goals, fitting the theme of digitalizing electricity for sustainability.

Transformation of Value Chains

When you look back in time, the Vikings were not just warriors, but efficient traders with an elaborate network of routes. Today, the Nordic countries channel that efficiency into transforming global value chains through technology.

Value chains encapsulate the comprehensive set of activities required to bring a product from conception to its final consumer. This includes everything from design and sourcing to production, marketing, and distribution—often extending across international borders in what are termed Global Value Chains (GVCs).

Digitalization offers an integrated approach to streamlining the value chain, from sourcing to delivery, making it more sustainable, efficient, and resilient. Imagine a seamlessly connected ecosystem where Internet of Things (IoT) sensors monitor real-time inventory levels to reduce waste, advanced analytics specialize in demand forecasting, enabling dynamic sourcing strategies and efficient logistics planning. Quality assurance is automated through computer vision, negating the need for manual inspections, and reducing the risk of costly recalls. Blockchain technology secures the provenance of goods, offering a layer of transparency and accountability that's essential for modern, ethical commerce.

In essence, digital tools are transforming traditional value chains into intelligent, adaptive, and highly responsive systems, capable of self-optimization and rapid adaptation to changing global conditions.

The Nordics have a high GVC participation, so active engagement in these international value chains isn't an optional economic feature—it's a critical necessity. Given this significant dependency, Nordic companies are naturally inclined to innovate in the area of digital transformation. Leveraging digital technologies to optimize, streamline, and in some cases, completely revamp traditional value chains.

Companies like Gelato, Xeneta, Airmiz, and Worldfavor are taking strides in this direction, leveraging digital technologies to fundamentally redefine traditional value chains.

Our portfolio companies aligned with this theme.

  • ComplAI: Offers a platform that streamlines compliance across value chains, enhancing cooperation and security among all involved parties.
  • Sparkel: Transforms the construction value chain by enabling better decision-making through AI-powered analysis of construction designs.
  • TPAccurate: Enhances the financial transfer pricing process, making it faster and more efficient, thus transforming the value chain in the financial sector.
  • Torq (formerly LN Capital): Provides scalable node management for Lightning Network, transforming the value chain in blockchain and digital currency sectors.

Reshaping Work Productivity

Historically, Viking societies valued efficient teamwork and collective decision-making, a precursor to today's Nordic focus on work-life balance and employee well-being.

In times marked by a lasting shift to hybrid work, an aging population, and an ever-increasing need for productivity— The Nordics are at the forefront of revolutionizing how we approach work and productivity.

The transformation of work productivity isn't just an operational adjustment; it's a strategic imperative driving global economic growth. In an era where resource scarcity and demographic shifts pose unique challenges, being efficient isn’t enough; organizations must be both agile and innovative. Moreover, with the rise of AI and automation, we are witnessing a profound change in the traditional workforce—a shift that brings with it both challenges and opportunities.

Digitalization is not merely a tool in this landscape; it's a catalyst. Through AI-powered analytics and automation, mundane tasks are streamlined, decision-making is accelerated, and strategy is optimized. What emerges is a future of work that is more connected, more inclusive, and more agile—a future where challenges become steppingstones for societal advancement.

Nordic countries prove that productivity and well-being aren’t mutually exclusive; rather, they are two sides of the same coin. And it's this balanced approach to work and life that will guide the world toward a more sustainable, efficient, and resilient future.

Companies like Vic.ai, Documaster, and Ardoq are leading examples of how automation and efficiency can drive a future of optimized productivity.

Our portfolio companies aligned with this theme.

  • Adminkit: Simplifies administrative work for SMEs, allowing them to focus more on core business tasks and improve overall work productivity.
  • CuttingRoom: Streamlines the video editing process by enabling fast, easy, and collaborative editing, enhancing productivity in media production.
  • Shapemaker: Automates complex civil engineering analysis for telecom infrastructure, saving weeks of manual review work and enhancing productivity.

Accelerating Industrial Output

Much like Viking societies who excelled in efficient shipbuilding and collective resource management, today's Nordics continue that legacy by optimizing industrial output without compromising product quality, primarily through digital innovations.

Accelerating industrial output is a cornerstone for economic growth and global competitiveness. However, it's critical that this acceleration is achieved in a sustainable and safe manner to ensure long-term viability and environmental responsibility. Advancements in technology allow us to rethink traditional manufacturing processes and energy consumption patterns, presenting opportunities to enhance efficiency while minimizing waste and emissions. Such an integrated approach is not merely an operational upgrade; it's a critical component of achieving Net Zero goals.

Digitalization is set to be a game-changer in accelerating industrial output, particularly in the realm of sustainable manufacturing and production.

Through real-time monitoring via sensors and IoT devices, industries can optimize maintenance cycles and reduce downtime. Advanced analytics can forecast demand, allowing for more efficient resource allocation. Automation and robotics can take over repetitive tasks, freeing up human capital for more complex problem-solving activities, thereby enhancing both safety and efficiency. These advances collectively amplify output capabilities, while ensuring sustainability, thereby aligning with Net Zero objectives.

The Nordics, with a strong industrial heritage, are well-equipped to adapt and innovate in this area. Shortage of manual labor due to low population density has further intensified the imperative for automation and industrial efficiency. This natural push towards digital solutions is amplified by the region's strong R&D capabilities, skilled workforce, and sustainability ethos.

Our portfolio companies aligned with this theme.

  • Muybridge: Innovates in imaging technology, reinventing camera tech as a platform, and holds potential for various industrial applications.
  • PLAATO: Transforms the brewing industry's productivity and profitability through real-time updates at every step of the fermentation process.

In Summary

As we navigate the complexities of a rapidly evolving global landscape, it is clear that the four themes discussed—Digitalization of Electricity, Transformation of Value Chains, Reshaping Work Productivity, and Accelerating Industrial Output—are far more than mere trends. They encapsulate the very blueprint for modernization, sustainability, and economic growth that the world so urgently needs.

The Nordics, in particular, are exceptionally well-placed to lead this transformation. With a low population density driving a necessity for automation and digital efficiencies, along with a rich tradition of innovation, the Nordics are natural birthplaces for ventures in these thematic areas. The region’s strong emphasis on R&D, combined with a highly skilled STEM workforce, ensures that it remains at the forefront of technological advancements. Moreover, a deeply rooted cultural focus on work-life balance, sustainability, and ethical business practices aligns perfectly with the overarching objectives of these four themes.

These themes offer a promising future not just for the Nordics but set a precedent for what is achievable globally. As we sail into this promising new landscape, much like the Vikings navigating uncharted waters, the Nordics serve as compass points guiding us toward a future of sustainable growth and technological advancement.

At RunwayFBU, we are not just spectators but active participants in this transformative journey. Leveraging the diverse industries and expansive expertise within the Aker ecosystem, we are exceptionally equipped to attract, invest in, support, and scale pioneering startups. We also build strategic partnerships with other leading corporates, investors, universities, and tech ecosystems. This positions RunwayFBU to be a leading venture capital firm in this dynamic and rapidly evolving space, steering the course towards a future marked by innovation and sustainable development.

If you identify with these themes and would like to join RunwayFBU’s eco-system as a founder, co-investor, partner or are just curious, please get in touch.

Be the first to receive our latest news