Posts tagged ‘Reykjavík University’

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 31, 2014

Jenny Lawton – Speaker Profile – Startup Iceland 2014


Startup Iceland Hackathon is today, we sold out all the tickets but everyone is welcome. If you are stuck in this rainy weather today in Reykjavik head over to Reykjavik University and see teams come together to make and build things.

Startup Iceland Conference is on June 2nd, we have over 270 participants. I think it is going to be an awesome event. What we have tried to do with Startup Iceland is provide a platform for Startups to showcase, connect, network and get mentoring with some key influencers, thought leaders and entrepreneurs. Jenny Lawton is one of those people, She has walked the proverbial mile as an Entrepreneur in High Tech and Retail, successfully transitioned from different roles, has networks and relationships in the Venture and Angel Investor communities through her association with Softbank and Mobius Ventures. She is available on a one-on-one mentor for any of the participants of Startup Iceland. Here is a brief profile of Jenny, I am really excited to meet her, get to know her and learn from her experience of being an Entrepreneur.

Jennifer Lawton is the president of MakerBot. She previously held the title of chief strategy officer.  Lawton has been with MakerBot since 2011 and has been responsible for the overall strategy and growth of the company, including strategic partnerships, product development, and retail.  In addition to her work with MakerBot, she is a respected company builder, technologist, and advocate for fostering entrepreneurship.

In 1991, Lawton co-founded Net Daemons Associates (NDA), an information technology consulting firm. With Lawton as CEO, NDA was recognized on the 1998Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing privately held U.S. companies, and on the Deloitte and Touche Fast 50 and Fast 500 lists for 1997 and 1998. In 1999, Net Daemons was acquired by Interliant Inc. (formerly Sage Networks), where Lawton served as a senior vice president. She later worked as an entrepreneur-in-residence with Softbank and Mobius Venture Capital.

In 2001, Lawton left the corporate world to become the owner of the independent bookstores Just Books and Just Books, Too, as well as Arcadia Café in Old Greenwich, Conn. After ten years running successful retail ventures, Jenny re-entered the business scene, serving as COO for Rockin’ Water and RAM Scientific, and SVP Operations for Mercury Solar Systems.

She is currently a board member of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

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May 28, 2014

Startup Iceland – Less than a week away! Shout out to all those who make it happen

Startup Iceland 2014 is less than a week away! I am so excited about meeting all the entrepreneurs and the great speakers who are coming to Iceland and to hear the stories of Icelandic entrepreneurs. Startup Iceland as an event will not be possible without you all buying tickets and participating and the generous support of all our sponsors, volunteers, vendors and key service providers. When I started on this journey, I had no clue how to get an event organized but with each and every years, our wonderful sponsors take a chance on us and make this possible.

Icelandair Group – Icelandair Group has been an anchor sponsor for Startup Iceland. Bogi Neil Bogasson the CFO of Icelandair Group and Addy Olafsdottir the Marketing Manager have been great supporters of us getting this event on the map. They understood right away in 2012, what I wanted to create, an Iceland Airwaves like event for Entrepreneurs and Startup Founders. Thank you again for your continued support and encouragement.

Nysköpunarsjödur – Helga Valfells one of our speakers this year has been a big supporter of Startup Iceland. I think Nysköpunarsjödur is an important investor in startups in Iceland and they have played another anchor role in the development of a Startup Community in Iceland. Helga thank you for your continued leadership.

Eyrir Invest – I respect and admire Thordur Magnusson, who has been a sponsor and supporter of Startup Iceland since the beginning. He has played a key role in the development of the startup community in Iceland and I know they will continue to participate and invest in the development of Iceland as a startup place.

Frumtak – Eggert has been a supporter of building a startup community in Iceland and this is the second year that they have sponsored the event. Thank you team Frumtak.

Nasdaq OMX – Kristin and Pall have been big supporters of our initiative to build companies from the grassroot level. They see the potential and opportunities these young companies show and I think a fully functioning capital market is an important piece in the puzzle of building a startup community. Most of the investors who invest in Startups and Entrepreneurs need to see a liquidity event and having a fully functioning capital market is a great value. We thank them for their support of Startup Iceland.

VÍB – Our new sponsors of Startup Iceland is VÍB, the Asset Management and Private Banking service of Islandsbanki. I used to work at Islandsbanki and the team there has always been supportive and I really happy to see them participate and contribute and really add value to the Entrepreneurs and Startups. Thank you Kjartan, Haraldur, Haukur, Bjorn and the test of the team at Islandsbanki.

The US Embassy in Iceland – Paul O’Friel the Deputy Chief of Mission, Paul Cunnigham, Brad Stillwell, Helga Magnusdottir and everyone in the embassy have been so generous and gracious about supporting this initiative that I am humbled by this. I am looking forward to the new Ambassador to take office and build more bridges for Entrepreneurs to the US.

Icora Partners – Gunnar Tryggvasson who is a speaker in the event has been successful in raising capital for Meniga one of the startups that came out the financial crisis in Iceland. Meniga has become a big company now in Icelandic standards. It would be interesting to hear how Gunnar was able to get this done for a Startup.

WEDO – GRE or Gudmundur Einarsson has been supporting and helping all our initiatives, through the design, development and maintenance of the website. GRE and his team are key members of Startup Iceland. We would not have been able to launch the conference without a platform like the website that was created by WEDO.

Reykjavik University – Ari and Kristinne have been instrumental in getting the whole Reykjavik University behind the entrepreneurial development efforts. They have given us the premises and hosted the hackathons, provided the infrastructure to facilitate creating an environment that fosters startup community building. Thank you again.

Deloitte – The leadership at deloitte have been very positive towards what we have been doing with Startup Iceland and they provide all kinds of help, for once they allow Agusta my wife who works for Deloitte to take time to help me with this crazy endeavor. They provide us with Administrative and Secretarial help during the event. Provide mentoring for entrepreneurs as it relates to the services they provide. I am very thankful for their support.

Practical – Helga, Marin and everyone in Team Practical were instrumental in coordinating all the speakers’s itineraries and schedule. They were such a pleasure to work with and they have the can do attitude to get anything done. I am very thankful for their service and effort.

Ölgerdin – All the caffine drinks and water during the hackathons are provided as sponsorship by Ölgerdin, Andri their CEO has been always receptive and wants to really help in the effort. Thank you Andri.

TeqHire – Stefan and Kristjan are key core team members who have been preaching the Startup Iceland gospel. I am really excited to see that they have found a business model that enables them to serve startups and companies all over with find talented IT team members. There is a big gap in the market on how to find these people and I believe Stefan and Kristjan are onto something here.

Paula Gould – Paula is tireless in helping put the event together, curating speakers, managing public relation and media, coordinating things and just being awesome and getting things done. She is a leader and a valuable team member in any team. Thank you Paula.

Last but not least my wife Agusta, she is basically brings balance to the force. I am really lucky to have married such a smart person. She bring sanity to our household when I go do crazy things like host a conference in Iceland, she makes it happen with her organizing, discipline, courage and love. Thank you Agusta mein. I don’t know how I will pull this together without you.

There are a number of people who continue to support, help and be cheerleaders to this initiative, Toti and Helga with Mobilitus, Alex Richter with Think GeoEnergy, Haukur Gudjonson with Bungalo, The team at Klak Innovit. If I have left out someone please bear with me just been a whirlwind of activities that my brain in swimming. I thank each and every entrepreneur for being who you are, you are my tribe and I am at your service. Please reach out to me if there is anything that I can do to help.

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May 25, 2014

Winds of Change in Iceland?

nyskopunartorg-vefbordiI spent the last friday and saturday in Reykjavik University, participating in an event organized by SI – The Federation of Icelandic Industries. There was a number of startups, established companies and service providers and general public in Iceland participating, cheering and recognizing the efforts of the Icelandic companies. There were winners announced and it was really nice for me to see the recognition given to even those companies that have no revenue but were doing some incredible things. This was in the heel of a major announcement by the Government of Iceland as it relates to the Science and Technology Policy of Iceland.

The Government of Iceland approved an action plan designed to support and enhance business competitiveness and transparent use of public funds as it relates to Research and Development, Science and Technology and Innovation. Funding will be increased for science, technology and innovation, so that by 2016 it will reach 3.0% of gross domestic product ( GDP) and comparability among the highest in the OECD . The action is also designed to attract greater business investment in R&D, science and innovation. Here is the link to the Strategy and Action Plan of Science and Technology Policy of 2014 – 2016 (icelandic).

This is a big deal, when public policy aligns with the overall sentiment of the broader community which aligns with the market change this combination can really change the landscape for Startups and Entrepreneurs. For those who have been reading this blog and indulge me in discussions, understand why I am so excited about this. Almost all research and development, scientific process and innovation has something to do with Software. Thereby investing in Software based companies that leverage the new platforms of Social Networks and other forms of networks really catapult analysis and scaling.

I have been meeting with a number of companies, institutions and organizations to sell tickets for Startup Iceland (have you bought yours yet?) and across the board the collective sentiment is positive towards Startups and Entrepreneurs and supporting initiatives that creates new businesses and value. These are exciting times and I hope we build a sustainable startup ecosystem and community in Iceland.

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May 16, 2014

Startup Iceland 2014 Hackathon – What the Hack?

makerbot_wiredHackathons are a timeboxed meetup to build and make something valuable. The Startup Iceland Hackathon is scheduled at Reykjavik University on May 31st and June 1st, did I mention there is a $1000 price money for the best hack. We provide the space, refreshments like Pizza and Caffeine drinks (yes, you will be working through the night) So who can participate? anyone! yes, anyone… and it is free to participate. Have you always had an idea that you just did not take the time to build? bring a couple of your friends and/or partner and form your team and create away. We have seen some amazing things being build within 36 hours during the past two hackathons.

Hackathons usually have a theme and this year’s theme for Startup Iceland is 3D Printing, Mobile and Wearable Computing. We will have two 3D Printers and a bunch of people to help you and make something. There is a maker in all of us, it could be software for the mobile platforms. Have you always wondered how these things get build, just show up and see how small teams come together and build things. We are really starting to see a Maker and Builder culture created in Iceland. You can see that when you walk downtown, there is so much street art and going to the Icelandic Academy of Arts I see so many students who are so creative. What if we could harness all that talent, timebox it for 36 hours, make sure the teams that show up have the tools they need, for example the 3D Printers, Cloud Computing Platform like GreenQloud and companies that are already doing this showcase some of the problems that they are facing and release an API (Application Programming Interface) so you can build something using that.

In addition to that the Guests who are coming to share their ideas in the Startup Iceland Conference are going to be mentors/helpers during the hackathon. If you want to get to know them and learn from them then this is the best 36 hours you can use. BTW, did I mention that Bre Pettis the keynote speaker and founder of MakerBot has been on the cover of the Wired Magazine? Do you want to see how the machine that he has build is changing the world? Register and show up for the Startup Iceland 2014 Hackathon.

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May 11, 2014

Design thinking and Iceland Academy of the Arts


English: Rotary International emblem

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I have been a Rotarian since 2007, and I have found the weekly Rotary meetings as the most serendipitous discovery machine for connections. Our club called the Reykjavik Rotary International the only english speaking Rotary Club in Iceland had a talk by Dr. Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir, Professor of Sustainability ScienceInstitutes of Earth Sciences and Sustainable Development Studies at the University of Iceland. The title of the talk was about Sustainability and how we the consumers have accelerated the screwing up of our environment. The talk was based on a presentation that Kristin had made for Designers, Architects and the Creatives. It was interesting and the discussions that followed were even more interesting, my opinion was quite obvious, I believe Entrepreneurs are the answers to solve some of the most difficult challenges we are facing as a global community like Climate Change. It was one of the reasons that I took on the role of CEO of GreenQloud and I wrote about how exponential growth of anything is not sustainable.

Iceland Academy of the ArtsComing back to what I was planning to blog about was the introduction Kristin made for me with Massimo Santanicchia, the Assistant Professor in Architecture and Director of the course Together – Repair. I attended the final pitch event and there were a number of teams presented their 6 week project report and I was extremely impressed with the designers. I was impressed at the number of students who were taking this course and how many of them were thinking differently on solving challenges. The mash up needed was to get this group of designers to interact with the 3 week Business Model Design and Entrepreneurship course that is concurrently happening at Reykjavik University and we have something here. I am pretty sure a bunch of viable businesses will come out of this collaboration. 

I have written a lot about Team development for Startups, I think design thinking is critical in development of a product or service. Design is not just that the product or service is beautiful to look at or experience but design is how beautifully the product or service works. It is hard not to fall in love with a product or service that has been designed beautifully.

I am looking to get all the students that I saw in the class to participate in Startup Iceland and in the Hackathon. I am pretty sure they will make the connections with the Entrepreneurs and some of these ideas will get implemented into a business.

Check out this video by one of the teams, really impressive.

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January 23, 2014

Startup Summer – Exchange Program between Colorado and Iceland


source: CNN

Brad Feld sent me one of those cryptic notes last September, with an ask “Do you know Eythor?” It is amazing how he has latched on to this notion that I should be able to get a hold of anyone in Iceland with relative ease, because I remember telling him when he came to Iceland in 2012 that everyone knows everyone in Iceland. Anyways, I digress, Eythor is the brother of one of my former colleagues in the bank, so I responded by saying yes I know of him and oh, btw, he is related to my wife through some distant family ties… it is Iceland :) Brad Feld connected me to Brad Bernthal, who had been interacting with Eythor about a joint initiative between Boulder and Iceland. Brad Bernthal introduced me to the Startup Colorado and Startup Summer program offered by University of Colorado, that embeds undergraduate interns into startups in Colorado. He continued that It is a great program as the interns get meaningful exposure to the startups and, in addition, they meet at least weekly as a full group to (1) learn from startup leaders in the area, and (2) develop their own business ideas.  The summer ends with an intern pitch night in which the startup summer participants pitch their own ideas. One idea is that we invite students in Iceland to potentially participate in the during Summer ’14 and, if something similar can be spun up in Iceland, we also could look to do some type of summer exchange. I was like… Awesome! heck ya, totally aligns with my philosophy of building bridges from Iceland to other startup communities, so I reached out to Ari the Rector of Reykjavik University and we immediately got his support to proceed.Colorado-Report-2 For those asking is Colorado is the right place? Here is a Forbes article which states that Colorado launches a Startup every 72 hours! We have been in a number of meetings and I just got message from Austin Chamers who is responsible for the program that the application materials for Startup Summer 2014 are up and ready.

The plan for applications is as follows:
For companies that would like to participate (both in Iceland & US):
  • Please send an email to, listing:
    • Company name
    • Company description
    • Intern job requirements/job title
    • Expected starting salary
    • Start and end dates
For students:
  • Follow this link and fill out the application.
  • The application process for students from Iceland will be expedited if they have a background in computer science or engineering. Applicants seeking positions in management, marketing, or ‘soft’ skills may be delayed, depending on the number of positions available and the overall pool of applicants.
  • We will work to pair applicants with a suitable company, and encourage these companies to take the exchange students
  • We will set up a Skype interview to make any final arrangements
Housing arrangements will begin shortly, once we start receiving applications.We are also looking in to funding to help students with travel and/or visa expenses.
So if you are a startup in Iceland and would like to get interns from University of Colorado to come and work with you for the summer, follow the steps above. If you are a student in Iceland, I highly encourage applying it could be one of the most important steps you take. Getting exposure into a new environment that too in a startup while you are still in School creates so many opportunities and ideas. GreenQloud is going to apply as it is a simple decision for us. We are growing the team and we are hiring. If you are startup and complaining about lack of talent or whatever, here is your chance to plug into a new group of people who can supplement your team needs.
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October 5, 2013

Building Startup Communities

Every city was once a startup, famous words spoken by Brad Feld when I have seen him position his book on Startup Communities. Where is the soul of the city, what makes cities thrive and fall? I think the basic building block of any city is the entrepreneurial spirit. That is why I believe the thesis that Brad has written about building startup communities resonates with me. I started on the journey to build a thriving or should I say Antifragile Startup Community in Iceland right after the collapse of the financial system in Iceland, because I believe the spirit of entrepreneurship was alive, kicking and can be rekindled. The motivation to organize Startup Iceland was rooted in that belief. How are we doing on this Startup Community building effort? well I think we are in Mile 1 of a 26.2 Mile marathon. There is a lot of work to do. I believe every entrepreneur needs to dream and have vision, but cannot loose sight of execution because Vision without Execution is Hallucination. I think the Startup Community in Iceland is executing. So, what else do we need to do? I think we need to harness a new breed of investors, create an investing platform and a market to clear the angel capital demand and supply. There is only one way to create a demand for Angel capital and that is by starting new ventures, we are addressing that with many initiatives like the Golden Egg Competition in January, Seed Forum, Startup Reykjavik and a number of entrepreneurial initiatives through Innovit+Klak, University of Iceland and Reykjavik University etc. I believe where we are struggling is creating a supply of Angel capital, in order to do that we need mentoring and a platform, I have written about creating an accelerator for Investors. I think we need to go further than that…angellistlogo

I think AngelList really provides the platform for anyone to build a syndicate to invest in Startups and Entrepreneurs. There is a lot of debate on whether it is going to kill the traditional VC business or not. I am not in the prediction business but any option that helps entrepreneurs and startups is a good thing. Those who have gone through the passage like we did with our previous investments, know that no-one knows how the future is going to turn out but one has to actively work to make any investment work. With that philosophy in mind, I am forming a syndicate to invest in Entrepreneurs and Startups in Iceland. I am no VC, but I think I have better track record than anyone in Iceland, we took a company all the way and in the process helped the Entrepreneurs and in the end every investor made money. I am not promising that we can repeat the process or the result, but we understand what we went through and that learning is valuable. Given what I have seen I think it is time for us to change the landscape in Iceland. Watch out for details of the initiative. Here is a Presentation of our strategy!

May 31, 2013

SI2013 – Big Shout Out to our Sponsors


Click on the picture for a larger image

It has been crazy and everything seems like a buzz, but I know Startup Iceland 2013 would not be possible without the support of our wonderful sponsors. Reykjavik University for being extremely accommodating and having a Yes, we can! attitude about anything Entrepreneurial. Icelandair Group for always hearing us out and supporting initiatives. The US Embassy in Reykjavik with the leadership of Ambassdor Luis Arreaga and Eric Green. Siminn our new sponsor this year, coming up with a lot of new ideas to bring entrepreneurship from the largest telecom operator in Iceland. Nasdaq OMX, NSAFrumtak, Eyrir Invest, Arion Bank, Innovit + Klak, Deloitte, WEDO, NMI, GreenQloud, Olgerdin. The theme of this year is about building an antifragile startup ecosystem and community. With the diversity of sponsors supporting Startup Iceland, I think we have a fantastic base to build a bustling startup community. IMHO, Startup Iceland is about the entire community of Iceland and the World, it is not about high tech startups, its not about only the Internet or technology. We live in a connected world, and Iceland has a role to play as does every other country. Given the opportunity that lies before us, it is upto us to make hay when the sun shines (BTW, the weather forecast for the event does not look that promising, but I am an optimist). We have a very strong show of participation, over 217 (counted), possibly we could be adding another 30. We can only count the number of people who have registered but how many will show up, volunteer their hearts and minds and participate remains to be seen. I am forever in dept to many people who have volunteered their hearts and minds to put this event together (will follow up with a post about the organizing team of Startup Iceland). And of course all our speakers and mentors, who have been extremely positive about their participation and Iceland.

I am excited, thrilled, and beyond delirious about Startup Iceland, the event is 3 days away and I am nervous, lot of loose ends to tie up. Make the experience memorable for everyone participating and create a tradition of running events like this in Iceland. I would request all to bear with us, we are a Startup in our own right, if we screw up about anything… please accept our apologies. We mean well and I am eagerly looking forward to meeting each and every one of you and to the coming days. Lets do this!

February 7, 2013

Startup Renaissance


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.


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