Mr. Giske is here as part of the Norwegian government's efforts to strengthen and help Norwegian companies get off the ground in Silicon Valley -- which can prove quite challenging coming from a very different part of the world.
Take Opera, for example. As a Norwegian company coming to the USA in 2003, it was not very easy getting around the business practices and the pace of doing things here. What are the right places to go? Who are the right people to meet? We first opened our offices in San Diego and soon realized that the Bay Area was at the center of all the innovation and happenings and moved to Mountain View, and a year ago, to San Mateo. After many years, Opera now has strong footing in the US and Silicon Valley economy as our users grow and we hire more and more people. 40 is the latest count in our San Mateo office, up from 12 in 2010.
Just for these reasons, Mr. Giske and the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon are in the Bay Area this week to encourage Norwegian startups to thrive in the fast-moving, innovative Bay Area economy. From what I hear they are here to open an "Innovation House" in Palo Alto, CA similar to a "Plug and Play center" where Norwegian companies can set up their initial offices and get support and guidance from the Norwegian government. Great effort!
As I can remember, lots of Norwegian tech companies have seen success and favorable outcomes. Those that come to mind instantly -- Tandberg (acquired by Cisco), Trolltech (acquired by Nokia) and Meltwater which is making strong inroads in the media monitoring business.
Later today I am heading down to Palo Alto to attend a reception hosted by the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon to acknowledge the opening of the "Innovation House." The prince has quite an interesting background and has a connection to the Bay Area as he attended UC Berkeley to major in political science as a young student. From what I heard, he masked his identity to his classmates so he wouldn't get any preferential treatment and only revealed it on graduation day when asked by his friends: So what are your future plans? . I bet he said: "Oh, I already have a job waiting for me in Norway to become Prince!"
Cheers to that!
Just as an addendum to this post, here is an update from the evening reception I attended at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto hosted by the Norwegian Crown Prince. While it was great to see the Prince and Mr. Giske speak there, the most interesting part was seeing short elevator pitches/presentations from up and coming Norwegian startups that are establishing their presence in Silicon Valley with the help of Innovation Norway, the Norwegian association that is helping startups around the world get off the ground.
I had no idea there were so many cool Norwegian startups with great products and a large roster of customers. Here are a couple I found most interesting:
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PS: All the opinions I state here are my own and not of my employer.