SXSW, Nordic

Key takeaways from “Your next portfolio company is Nordic”

The Nordic presence at South by Southwest this year is doing something a little unusual to Scandinavian people – bragging. But we have a good reason. The Nordics are world-renowned for the welfare state and the design thinking. But we need collaborators.

Monday at South by Southwest was devoted to the Nordics. Glittery silver letters were strung out between the trees at the House of Scandinavia: Super Finland, it read. A movie about Sisu was playing, bands with exotic names like Lone Deer Laredo and New Silver Girl accompanied the people devouring Danish beer and Finnish pulled oat balls – a delicious meatball without the meat.

The usual Nordic reservedness was shed like the jackets coming off in the sun; the different Nordic tounges exchanged for the common English. Inside the Danish ambassador to the United States, Lars Lose, greeted the audience gathering to do another unusual thing for Scandinavians – bragging.

Nordic unicorns and design thinking

Your Next Portfolio Company is Nordic it said on the screen. Because we have a lot to be proud of. A lot of potential. Opportunities. But we need to tell it to the world.

Let investors and talent know, that while the Nordics represent only three percent of Europe’s population, it accounts for more than 50 percent of the billion dollar exits in the region between 2005 and 2015. That the Nordic countries are continuously being hailed as the ten best and easiest countries in the world to do business in by Forbes and The World Bank. That global companies like Spotify, Supercell, Unity Technologies, Klarna, Zendesk, King, Mojang, and Skype are all rooted in the Nordics. That we share a unique combination of enthusiasm for innovation, technical skills and a design approach to building our companies and our societies that make us stand out in the crowd.

SXSW, Nordic

Inclusion is key

The Danish Design Centre welcomed a panel on stage. Sissel Hansen, founder of Startup Guide and Startup Everywhere, Frederik Gulowsen, founder and CEO of NyBy, and Jonas Almeling, Head of Innovation & Ecosystem at Business Sweden were to talk about the latter – the design approach to building companies.

Read also: Nordic events at SXSW you don’t want to miss

To recap real fast, the key things to be taken from the panel were:

  • We are blessed to be born in the Nordics. We have a world-renowned welfare system and egalitarian states. We then have a responsibility to show the world how societies and companies can be built around diversity, inclusion, and a simple, clean design approach.
  • Because we are a small region, we have to think globally. Part of the secret sauce of the Nordics is the tech talent and inclusion. Because we have culturally diverse societies, we know how to design for different parts of the world.
  • We have to be responsible in our designing thinking. Tech can be addicting, and it can be used to create both including and excluding solutions.
  • Make decisions based on your values. Be brave and show your design decisions. Stand your ground and act on your values instead of just talking about it.
  • Based on our values, we are talented at taking the user in early on. Nordic companies are often customer-centric. We can use design thinking to spot the user needs.
  • Keep the design simple, clean, and comfortable. In all from furniture to business plans.
  • We have done very well when it comes to building successes but we can’t do everything alone. We need collaborators and business partners. We need foreign talent and investments, too.
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