Posts tagged ‘Government’

June 4, 2014

Startup Iceland 2014 – Done!

Ben at Startup Iceland

coverage in Channel 2 News in Iceland

Wow! what a ride, it was so much fun to hear all the great talks, meet so many young, upcoming and established entrepreneurs in Iceland participate in Startup Iceland. Startup Iceland this year engaged the whole stack of the community, we had people from the Government, Financial Institutions, Universities, Students, Entrepreneurs, Service Providers and people who were just curious to see what this is about. The mentoring sessions was also very well attended, although I screwed up and did not do a good job of preparing for the mentoring session. Oh, well, we learn and try to do better next time. I was impressed by the participation, networking and discussions that was going on during the coffee and lunch breaks. I am happy to say we packed the house and I believe everyone learned something new, got a new connection and built a bridge to cross some of the chasms one faces in this entrepreneurial journey.

John Biggs interviewing Jenny and Bre about MakerBot

John Biggs interviewing Jenny and Bre about MakerBot

I am so thankful for all the Speakers, Mentors, Sponsors, Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center facilities and project team there, Reykjavik University leadership team and project managers there and all the volunteers who put their heart and mind into making this event come alive. I am truly blessed to get a chance to work with you all. I know my wife is going to kill me, I cannot wait to organize Startup Iceland again next year. I committed 10 years to building a sustainable startup ecosystem in Iceland and we are 4 years in and 6 more to go. I know with the momentum that we have gathered in the last years, we will continue full speed ahead… As Bre and Jenny from MakerBot continually reinforced to us with their MakerBot Way during the event.

I have to admit that this event is great personal learning experience for me and I learn so much from all these awesome speakers, leaders and influencers who come here and share freely their wisdom. What a way to learn. I am incredibly motivated to start working on a roster of speakers for next year. We will continue to get all the video content ready and start sharing the same through, I will definitely blog about it so watch this blog post, or do me a favor and just subscribe to it that way you can get it in your promotions tab of gmail.

Lots of exciting ideas and suggestions came up during the event. I will be blogging about that as well so watch this space.


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May 7, 2014

Ragnheidur Elin Arnadottir – Hon. Minister of Industry and Commerce – Speaker Profile – Startup Iceland 2014

I have had the pleasure of meeting the Honorable Minister of Industry and Commerce of Iceland Ms. Ragnheidur Elin Arnadottir a number of times. I have been deeply impressed with her understanding of the Startup and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem development and the role Government and other institutions play in it. She was the first Minister that I know of (not that I know a lot of them :)), who reached out to all the Startups right after she took office and went down and met with them to get feedback on what the Government could do better for the Startup Community. This level of engagement is unheard of in any context. I had the pleasure of giving her office a 10 point action plan when the management team of GreenQloud met with her. She has been true to her word in supporting initiatives and talking for the Startup Community. She has had personal engagement with Startup founders and Entrepreneurs and really has made the effort to participate, debate and bring issues in front of the Parliament to move things forward in Iceland. I am quite positive about the support Startups and Entrepreneurs will get in Iceland with her as the Minister of Industry and Commerce. She has done a great job so far of balancing the needs of large industries as well as the Startup community by supporting initiatives that promote growth, activity and industry in Iceland

We are very pleased to have her as one of the keynote speakers for Startup Iceland this year. Here is a brief profile.


Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir became Minister of Industry and Commerce on 23 May 2013. Ms Árnadóttir is an MP of the Independence party and served as chairman of the party caucus 2010-2012.

After graduating from the Women’s College in Reykjavík, she completed a BA degree from the University of Iceland in 1991 and subsequently an MS degree in international relations from Georgetown University in the US.

From 1995-1998 she worked for the Icelandic Export Council.

Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir was the political advisor to the Minister of Finance 1998-2005, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs 2005-2006 and to the Prime Minister 2006-2007.

Parliamentary Career

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May 1, 2014

Startup Iceland 2014 – A Reason to Visit Iceland

This post was originally posted through the LinkedIn Publishing, LinkedIn has launched a publishing platform and I was invited to publish through it. I did what every startup founder and entrepreneur should always do… plug your idea and what you are passionate about. You don’t get any points for guessing what I am passionate about… ok, if you don’t know it here you go it is about Building a Sustainable and Antifragile Startup Community in Iceland through Startup Iceland. If you have not yet booked your tickets please do we are limiting the number of guests to 300 and we usually sell out and the promotional rates are still on…i.e 50% off for Entrepreneurs and Students.

islandskortI founded Startup Iceland in 2010 with the vision of building a sustainable antifragile startup community in Iceland. Fast forward to Startup Iceland 2014, this is the 3rd year we are hosting the event, it is still organized as a grassroot initiative with support from companies in Iceland that see the opportunity of Entrepreneurship and building a community that is resilient to the ebb and flow of the business world. We have a fantastic line up of speakers, what is usually fascinating to me during Startup Iceland is the interaction and networking that happens. Every Icelandic entrepreneur who has presented and/or participated in the event has gone on to do great things. It has created new businesses in Iceland based on the discussions that ensued during the conference, people have quit their jobs to follow their passion and people got jobs who were unemployed. It is a great feeling to see the unbounded energy that this simple concept has unleashed in Iceland. A number of fantastic companies and startups have emerged out of Iceland in the last 5 years, for a more detailed list of companies from Iceland that have broken out go to Startup Iceland Blog and Pick the Category Startup Profile.

You can book your tickets for Startup Iceland 2014 here. If you need help with travel and other logistics contact Guide To Iceland (disclaimer: I am an advisor to this entrepreneurial team, but they do an awesome job of taking care of the guests who come to Iceland) or me and I can connect you.

So what are you waiting for? Iceland beckons…

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May 21, 2013

What the Hack?

GreenQloud Hackathon Winners

GreenQloud Hackathon Winners

In case you have been under the rock or not been following this blog, we are having our Annual Startup and Entrepreneurship Conference in Iceland on June 1-4, 2013. The first two days June 1st in the afternoon to the end of the day on June 2nd, we are organizing a Hackathon. Hackathons are a tradition that we are starting to implement in Iceland, we conducted one last year and found really talented software engineers and developers who created a fantastic solution in a very short period of time. I have gone on record to say that we are very serious about recruiting those who can “Show Us” their skill than “Tell Us” about their skill. Hackathons are a perfect platform for that. GreenQloud sponsored and organized a Hackathon during UT Messan 2013, the annual IT conference in Iceland, the Winner of the hackathon was hired by GreenQloud. The clincher in this is that both the winners are still in high school. I believe very strongly that this is the new interview process of the software industry, no longer are you required to have a piece of paper telling others what skills you have, you can demonstrate it and build something of value that can be launchpad for your career. Startup Iceland Hackathon is that platform, have you made up your mind about participating in it yet? It is free and we provide all the food and drinks during the entire hackathon event. What are you waiting for? contact us and we can get you registered to be a participant in the hackathon.

April 21, 2013

Laws that choke creativity – Iceland to the rescue

English: Amanda Palmer Live 2008

English: Amanda Palmer Live 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the High Schools participate in the Song contest in Iceland last night and I was very inspired to see the talent here in Iceland in the performing arts and through my random video watches I started bumping into a number of videos that I think sum the challenges we face with regard to laws and how it chokes creativity. I want to draw attention to the talk by Larry Lessig below, the main idea around it is Artists choose and I wanted to follow up that video by another one by Amand Palmer who has implemented the strategy suggested by Larry… and I am of the opinion, Iceland can really play an important role this challenge. Check out the Internet Policy Institute setup in Iceland. Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 9.26.38 AM

Here is a talk by Amanda Palmer on how to fix the challenge of rights to artists:

Brad Burnham, the Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures is participating in Startup Iceland Conference 2013 to talk about these policy challenges and how it can really influence the Startup Community in Iceland. If you have not booked your tickets to the conference this is the time to do it, don’t wait till the last minute because we will sell these seats very fast. We have some fantastic speakers coming to Iceland to talk about Startup Communities. If you are a startup, you can have your booth in the conference, send us a note through an email booth at

December 11, 2012

We have a big exit in Iceland – DeCode Genetics


Iceland: Aurora Borealis

We finally have a big exit in Iceland for a startup that started it all in the Genetics space. This is the kind of stories that will bring attention to the fact that entrepreneurship and building companies in Iceland is not such a bad idea. I hope the people who cashed on this exit re-invest the money back in Iceland in young entrepreneurs and startups. I believe this is the only way to build equity in a society. I have written about how value is created and despite all the challenges that faced DeCode they were finally able to make an impact in this space coming from tiny Iceland.

Originally posted on :

By Terry McGuire, Co-Founder and Managing General Partner, Polaris Partners

Today, biotech giant Amgen announced that it acquired deCODE Genetics for just over $400 million in cash.  deCODE is a Polaris portfolio company and genomics pioneer.  Analysts will ask why; this certainly doesn’t fit the more common pharma model of acquiring a company with a promising drug in Phase 2 or 3 trials.

The answer is simple.  There is a great need by large biotechs and pharma companies to show true and more predictable innovation.  And Amgen’s leaders know that the future of healthcare is laid on the foundation of producing truly innovative medicines and technologies.


deCODE utilizes over 140,000 Icelandic blood samples

And that’s exactly where deCODE will help Amgen.

deCODE was big data before there was something known as big data.  They and a handful of other pioneers began the big data movement in genetics.  In the…

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November 16, 2012

Startup Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was invited by Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development (CEED) Ljubljana, Slovenia as a keynote speaker for Investor Day event jointly organized by American Chamber of Commerce, Department of Economic Development and Technology and the Public Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investment. It was great to meet with a number of entrepreneurs and the grass root movement that is happening in Slovenia. It was interesting to me because of the perspective of a number of Slovenians that the country is small. The reason I was invited to talk about Startup Iceland and GreenQloud was because they felt that if there was one country that was definitely smaller than Slovenia is Iceland and they were intrigued to hear my story and why I was investing in Iceland and why I founded Startup Iceland.

It is a complicated story how I got to meet Slovenian entrepreneurs and how I got connected with CEED. But it is worth mentioning that one of my favorite blogging tool Zemanta was founded by Bostjan Spetic, and he is Slovenian and his wife Gaja are big fans of Iceland as they traveled to Iceland twice this year. It was through them that I got connected to Slovenia. I was very impressed to see the green shoots of startup culture and critical mass of entrepreneurs wanting to start doing new things and change the ecosystem. Met with some of the leaders who are running accelerators or incubators or looking to start new mentorship driven accelerator like Startup Reykjavik in Slovenia. This event was very interesting for me as I can see the clash between the two groups, the hierarchical organizations and the small network based entrepreneurial organizations.

The main guest speaker of the event was Dr. Alexander Dibelius, one of the leading investment bankers and investment environment connoisseurs, Chairman of the Executive Board Goldman Sachs AG; Head of Goldman Sachs Germany, Austria, Russia and CEE; and Global Head of Goldman Sachs Industrial Group. I really did not agree with a lot of things that Dr. Alexander was saying, but that is for another blog post. The young entrepreneurial community in Slovenia is at the same early stage as we have in Iceland and it was great to connect with this community. There are a number of similarities and challenges, so it was great to compare notes, get inspired and inspire the grass root to start doing things. Here is the link to the presentation that I gave, it was more about how I got started and why I do what I do etc I was humbled to see so many people inspired by the story of Iceland and what Iceland stands for, it gives me great strength to learn that we are on the right path in creating a sustainable startup ecosystem in Iceland and in my humble opinion we are just following what Brad Feld has documented in his book Startup Communities. I recommended the book to anyone who wants to learn how to build a startup community. I also met with a number of media outlets, TV channels and newspapers… it was interesting to learn about the challenges in Slovenia. I am really smitten by this country and I am sure I will come back again as I volunteered to be a mentor to any of the accelerators that would have me as one.

August 22, 2012

The Network is the Force – May the Force be with you

yoda-20I have written about how Iceland could be the world’s first Internet Enterprise Zone. It is not a pipe dream of a crazy Indian living in Iceland, although I do not refute the fact that I can be crazy :). Watch the following discussions in the Hacking Society videos. I really believe that we are embarking on a new world that is governed by networks and not hierarchies. It is incredible to see how the evolution of the Internet is spawning new and challenging problems. I believe the only way anything grows is if it can face the challenge and learn to deal with it. I think the Internet Policy framework is a challenge not just in Iceland, but it is everywhere. I think there is enough evidence to show that restrictive policies and regulation never created any social or economic value to the participants. It was Free Trade that liberated the backward countries of United Kingdom and United States of America. I believe it will be those countries that embrace the Internet and provide an open legal framework for the Internet to thrive that will lead the world in the future. It does not matter how small or how big the country is. I remember a scene from the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke Skywalker gives up trying to lift the spaceship that had just sunk into the swamp. The reason he gives up is that the size of the spaceship was too big to life… when Yoda says


Size matters not… Look at me, judge me by size, do you?


The network is the Force, that is spoken about in the movie Star Wars. I did warn you that I was crazy.




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May 19, 2012

Is there a HP or Fairchild Semiconductor of Iceland?

Old HP Stock Certificate

Fred has a very interesting post about the Darwinian Evolution of Startup Hubs, it is very poignant and relevant for Iceland. I think there are a couple of things of note in that post. First is the evolution of the companies themselves, if you look at them closely they resemble the hardware to software stack in the technology development cycle. I have written about this before, I believe the next wave of companies that are going to generate wealth are those that are building things on top of the new infrastructure of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple iOS, Android, Twitteretc but this cannot happen in Iceland without the ecosystem that Fred is talking about.

Creator of first semi conductor

I have always felt that the first wave of entrepreneurs and those who created disproportionate wealth in Iceland have just not plowed enough of that back into the system to create the new seeds. In order for the ecosystem to thrive, there needs to be a evolution of industries just like what happened in Silicon Valley and much like -what is happening in New York and other places. The comments section of for the above post has very interesting discussions for example the location of Toronto is considered and how RIM has not created a new wave of companies and teams. I believe in addition to the 7 things that I wrote about earlier, it is important for the previous generations of a community to contribute time, money and wisdom into the next generation to create a fledging ecosystem. Silicon Valley is the envy of many regions because the entrepreneurs who started there continue to plow back their money, time and wisdom into Silicon Valley. That in my opinion is one of the secrete sauce of Silicon Valley. Why is this hard to replicate in other places? Who knows? At the least we know one things about Icelandersthat they always come back and I hope that they will invest their talent, money, time and wisdom back into the society that they come from not into the usual suspects but into value creating companies of the future.

May 12, 2012

Social Investment

Social investment, before you say its an oxymoron… check out Big Society Capital. According to BSC – 

“Social Investment is the provision and use of capital to generate social as well as financial returns. Social investors weigh the social and financial returns they expect from an investment in different ways. They will often accept lower financial returns in order to generate greater social impact. Some interpretations of social investment include the provision of capital without any expectation of financial return. When we refer to social investment, however, we mean investment mainly to generate social impact, but with the expectation of some financial return.

This has been called a lot of things, Public-Private Partnership etc and I am also seeing a lot of movement in this space. I think this is a good thing. Given the devastation caused by the Financial Crisis of 2008, it makes sense for funds to be created and capital allocated to improving the social impact on communities with a investment return built into it. I really don’t like the notion most people take around extremes i.e Capitalism is all bad or Socialism is all good. I am not so sure if I buy the premise that Socialism for all its good can be administered with the right kind of metrics and accountability that a capitalistic/investment centric approach does. The social impact is hard to measure, takes too long and there is no accountability whether the right things are done. I think the merging of the above two is a good way to balance the initiatives. Ensure there is a investment horizon and return built into a project that justifies the capital.

I really think with the age of internet, mobile and all the communication technologies at our disposal, we need to bring more accountability to Government initiatives. If one thinks about Government initiatives, there not much accountability, for example, why should a specific governmental entity exist? how do you measure whether that entity is delivering the “good” that it was created to deliver etc lets take the example of a company, if the company is not sustainable i.e does not generate enough value to pay for the costs then it ceases to exist but that is not so in the Government Entities. Most of the Social projects are implemented or passed over by Governments because of budget constraints or whatever. I believe there is a better alternative and Big Society Capital is one way to implement this.

If you look around the world, Government budgets and decifits have been sky rocketing causing many fiscal and monetary crisis. Why is that? Why should Governments have such huge budgets? Why should Governments raise so much money to keep functioning? I have studied the literature of Taxes and Governments, and I believe we are currently in a phase where the way we fund and administer Governments is not sustainable. It has been a huge burden on the community or the society, when any natural system becomes too big it inevitably collapses. How does one fix this problem? I think the above Social Investment approach is a way where the social benefits are implemented by capital raised by intermediaries, they are accountable to specific results social and financial, audited and measured by the market or investors. Governments were suppose to do that but the scope of what Governments do has expanded to too many things. I think its about time we did a sanity check on this. I don’t believe in a Welfare state, I believe in enabling a Man on how to fish, so he does not have to ask anyone for food.


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