February 7, 2013
Reykjavik (Photo credit: natematias)
I was invited to give a talk on Career Day in Reykjavik University. I wanted to drive home a message that Entrepreneurship is a viable career alternative. I led with the question “How can we make everyone from being a Job Seeker to Job Creator?” were we not born as entrepreneurs? Is that not our legacy? Anyway. The presentation was a disaster as my Mac refused to work with the projector and I had not done the necessary practice run to learn about all the challenges of winging it on the fly when you had just made a presentation in Keynote and exported it to Powerpoint, I had a bunch of videos embedded in the presentation and none of that worked because the computer connected to the projector did not have the video player or whatever and when I tried to pivot by running the videos from YouTube Firefox crashed on Windows so pretty much anything that can go wrong went wrong! Lesson learnt. The only consolation is that my presentation was not about the slides it was about driving home a point that on Career Day one does not need to get dejected that there are no jobs… there are plenty of jobs out there they have just not yet been created by you yet. If I was able to convert 1 person to that way of thinking then my job was done, I got validation by one who was attending as he tweeted exactly the question that I led with.
I have been spending way too much time trying to embed the presentation to this post and I finally got it to work it still has some audio issues but you can download the presentation from here.
June 2, 2012
It was a crazy idea… to begin with. I had this epiphany that Iceland could host a conference focused on Entrepreneurship, Startups and Venture Investing. I have no background or experience in holding conferences or organizing large events. There was no tradition of doing anything like this in Iceland and I started conceiving this idea and started writing about it. I reached out to a bunch of people and started on this crazy journey. There were a lot of twists and turns and pivots on the road. But it ended up being a fantastic event, the entire community participated from members from large organizations to startups to students. We sold out almost all of the tickets a week in advance, our final registered count was 302, I think maybe 250+ showed up on the conference day and we packed 70 entrepreneurs on a Bus with Brad at 7:45 am in Reykjavik. The President of Iceland was inspiring and talked about the Third Wave of Innovation (more on that later), US Ambassador Luis Arreage was gracious and introduced our guests “The Brads” – Brad Feld and Brad Burnham. Speaking to them in a casual conversation format was great, they had so much insight and ideas that I believe can influence Iceland is positive ways. All the speakers were excellent, every agenda item went through smoothly and our Host of the day Magnus Ragnarsson was smooth as silk and I loved his Pink Master of Ceremonies Shirt and Velvet Jacket, I need to ask him where he got it. I was personally inspired, energized and ready to start the planning for the next year. There were many people who helped, it would be impossible to list all their names but here is the organizing team, they were phenomenal… I want to thank each and everyone of them for their contribution.
- Ágúst Ingason – Vertu
- Alexander Richter – ThinkGeoEnergy
- Andrés Jónsson–Góð Samskipti
- Dilja Valsdóttir – Innovit
- Guðmundur Bjarni Sigurðsson – Kosmos & Kaos
- Guðmundur R Einarsson – GRE
- Hamid Pourvatan – Reykjavik University
- Haraldur Diego – Fagráð (hluti Arnarflugs ehf.)
- Haukur Guðjónsson – Búngaló
- Hákon Ágústsson –Iceland Air
- Kristine Helen Falgren – Reykjavik University
- Kirstján Gunnarsson– NATAC ehf.
- Kristján Kristjánsson – Innovit
- Magnús Ragnarsson – GoGoGic
- Matt Wilson – Under30CEO
- Óli Örn Eiríksson – Kadeco
- Paula Gould– GreenQloud
- Sigurgestur Guðlaugsson– Kadeco
- Stefan Örn Einarsson– NATAC ehf.
We would have never got this event done without them volunteering their heart, mind and time to come with me on this crazy journey.
Watch out for the blog posts, I have few exciting surprises for next year and I believe it will turn out to be a big event. I am starting to work on the concept and theme for 2013. I already have a support from the guests who have already participated in this years event. We have pictures and videos from the event being uploaded as we speak into LiveProject.me .
We had a bunch of firsts, we hosted the first ever hackathon in Reykjavik University, we had 4 teams participating. The winners of the Hackathon was Team Tæknin? consisting of
- Bjarni Benediktsson
- Gunnar Jörgen Viggósson
- Helgi Kristvin Sigurbjarnason
- Daníel Fannar Guðmundsson
- Ólafur Páll Geirsson
All of them were students of Reykjavik University and the solution they hacked has a number of viable business models and they achieved this in 12 hours whereas the company that release the API
on which they hacked the solutions
was planning to develop the same solution by the next quarter. This is the power of Hackathons – Time boxed, high energy and support to get teams to create valuable solutions in a short period of time. I was excited to announce the winners.
The runner up was Team Paper Dragon consisting of Bjarni Rúnar Einarsson and Már Örlygsson from The Beanstalks Project ehf. (PageKite)
April 30, 2012
Image via CrunchBase
I have agreed to participate as a Mentor for the Entrepreneurship 3 week course with the title “Startups and New Ventures” for the new incoming students in Reykjavik University. It used to be a Business Plan development course, this year the course manager changed it to be run like a Startup Weekend for 3 weeks. This would be a great training for Kristjan from Innovit before he starts running Startup Reykjavik, IMHO. However, what was fascinating to see was the number of students (there were more than 300 split up into 50 teams!) who were working with the Business Model Canvas and trying to create a new business that creates value. This is a valuable life lesson and I am very happy to see the transformation that is happening in Iceland. It is a great build up before Startup Iceland.
I started blogging this post in Akranes, where I was volunteering as a Mentor in the Startup Weekend organized by Innovit. I keep asking the question why am I the only “investor” participating in all these events? well, maybe we need more participation from the Investment community in Iceland. This is what I want to change. No-one from the Investor group ever comes to any of these events. I have inquired about this to Kristjan and this is probably the 10th Startup Weekend organized in Iceland and I have participated in the last 3 and I have not seen one Angel or Seed Investor. Ok, I will stop with the rant. I have written a lot about being a Mentor, it is hard work and it takes a lot of commitment… it is about giving without expecting anything back. I do this willingly because I learn a lot while listening to people talk about their passion and vision. If I can help even one of them realize that vision, my job is done. I will be part of the mentoring team this coming friday as well at RU.
I will give a lecture on May 7th on the following topic to those students – From a startup point of view: How to talk to investors?
- What do investors want to hear
- do’s and dont’s
- What does a term sheet look like
- what is fair for both startups and investors
- how much should you be willing to give away in your idea?
- Overall valuable lessons
Ok, I did not come up with the name for the topic or the key items, Kristjan did… I think. Never the less, I think it is an important topic from a startups and entrepreneurs perspective. I will try to publish this in the blog for everyone to see and use. I always have a disclaimer in any advice I give, this is my opinion it does not mean it is right or should be used to make decision. These are more like recommendations and you should always consult your lawyer or accountant before making key decisions related to agreements or finances.
April 26, 2012
I have been writing about all the challenges of hosting a conference. We have the speakers lined up, we believe this is a conference that would be a nice platform for us to showcase Iceland and Icelandic startups and celebrate Entrepreneurship. But I am faced with the brutal fact today… our main sponsor pulled out!
I am left with no other option but to give it a couple of more days before I can cut my losses and move on. There is only one way to host this conference and that is if there is participation. There are 294 people who signed up, 161 who have said they are going to this conference but there is no ticket sales I have no recourse but to call it a failed show. The current ticket sales is obviously embarrassing… I have experienced the challenge every entrepreneur goes through. I have reached out to other businesses in Iceland who could sponsor this event but I am not holding my breath. I am hoping to get some good news to move forward but I also don’t want to wait too long to do this then I would have no recourse to gracefully manage expectations with the other sponsors who have committed effort into the conference.
If there is any way you all think you can help, please reach out to me. I know what would save the conference and the workshop and I think you know it as well.
April 23, 2012
In the light of organizing the conference, I have been getting feedback that the ticket price is too high. More importantly, we are not seeing the kind of ticket sales that would give comfort to us. As promised, I want to disclose the budget of organizing a conference like this. Here is the link to the Google Doc that list all the expense items. I have taken personal responsibility for the contract with Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center. I have personally invited guests and Icelandair has been fantastic in working to get their schedules to fit the conference. So, if we cancel the conference because of poor ticket sales or not having enough participants for the workshop, I will have to explain to my wife and partners why I did this and personally be liable to pay Harpa ISK 314.000+VAT , thats cool it would be an interesting story to tell on how NOT to organize a conference. But we are not there yet and I am confident that I will secure enough interest to get this conference organized.
When I embarked on the journey to organize this conference
, I said, it would be fully transparant and I will share the troubles, challenges and excitement of putting something like this together through this blog. It would be a spectacular success or crash and burn, whats not to like? Everyone likes a drama and excitement and see someone taking initiative fail or succeed depending on which side of the table you sit. Our web sponsors Kosmos and Kaos
, have been fantastic turning things around at a fast pace. We secured the workshop with Alexander Osterwalder
, which is a rare feat because Alexander does not do workshops
like this organized by anyone.
It is a full day hands on workshop that can transform anyone’s business participating in it to rethink their business model and innovate in this new world. I have to thank Alexander Richter (ThinkGeoEnergy
) and Kristine Helen Falgren of Reykjavik University
for that. Gunnar Holmstein, showed why I bet on him
. He is a true leader and wants to encourage fellow entrepreneurs to participate in the conference.Everyone including myself who have been working on putting this together have been doing this as a labor of love and passion. We want to see this conference happen in Iceland
because that is good for the whole Entrepreneurial
community and Startup Ecosystem here. I want to sell out the hall to show that Entrepreneurship
and Startups are alive and kicking in Iceland.If you can help in anyway please feel free to contact me
- Starting Up Iceland (startupiceland.wordpress.com)
March 17, 2012
I have been frantically meeting and organizing the Startup Iceland Conference, here is the Facebook Event Page. While we are organizing this, the constant question that I get is will we be able to fund this conference can we raise the money needed to hold the conference. I am totally transparent about how I am trying to organize this. The cost of putting up this conference is quite a bit but many of the sponsors have stepped up, namely Arion Bank, Icelandair, Kosmos and Kaos, Reykjavik University and the US Embassy in Iceland. If we can pull this off it is going to be the start of something awesome, but as I promised before if we crash and burn it is going to be totally out in the open for everyone to see
The website design has come out really nice, I am hoping that we can finish all the fine touches and launch it in the next couple of days. I have a talented team who are a startup in their own right, who have stepped up to sponsor the website… how cool is that? A Startup Sponsoring the Starting up of Iceland. I digress, but we have our major sponsor also committed to sponsoring Eric Ries to participate in the conference. I have sent the agreement to Eric’s Agent lets keep our fingers crossed and hope he agrees to come. I already have an awesome speaker list lined up:
His Excellency Olafur Ragnar Grimsson – The President of Iceland
Brad Feld – Partner Foundry Group
Brad Burnham – Partner Union Square Ventures
Rebeca Hwang – CEO youNoodle.com
Hilmar Veigar Petursson – CEO CCP Games
Hilmar B. Janusson – EVP of R&D Ossur
The Computer Science Department in Reykjavik University has agreed to host the Hackathon, the Recktor of Reykjavik University has been awesome and totally wants to support the effort. So far, I have been very excited about the developments and I think we are well on the way… but we need more people to participate to make this an awesome event so please share the links to signup with your network and Lets Do This! My vision is to make Startup Iceland like Iceland Airwaves, in the first quarter of the year. A yearly event that is focused on Startups, Entrepreneurship and Starting New… hey! it is Spring after all! although it does not seem like it when I look out of the window.