Entrepreneurial Density – Startup Weekend Akureyri

February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

I jumped in a car with bunch of Entrepreneurs yesterday and drove to Akureyri. I am participating in the Startup Weekend in Akureyri. This is the 8th Startup Weekend run by Innovit, Kristján Freyr Kristjánsson, the CEO of Innovit and I have been talking and working through a number of things including the Conference in May Startup Iceland – Building Sustainable Startup Ecosystem. I wanted to volunteer and observe this event and also to test my own hypothesis.

Brad Feld, has the theory that there needs to be Entrepreneurial Density in a community to enable a sustainable startup ecosystem to form and function:
Entrepreneurial density = ((# entrepreneurs + # people working for startups or high growth companies)) / adult population

I wanted to test the Entrepreneurial Density in Akureyri, which is a smaller town than Reykjavik. There were more than 100 people last night split up into 31 teams working on a new idea to launch a business over the weekend. I will play the role of mentor and observer today and tomorrow. It is fascinating to see the energy, enthusiasm and twinkle in the eyes of the people working on their ideas. Entrepreneurism is alive and well in Iceland. I think the number might be small, but I am seeing a healthy trend that is pushing the density number up in Iceland.
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Marorka: A Startup Profile

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Marorka (Photo credit: Finnur)

It is not fair to do a Startup Profile on Marorka as it is technically not a startup because the company has sailed the rough waters of the Valley of Death and it is well on the way of becoming one of the stars of the Icelandic startup story. The company was formed in 2002 so it has been a 10 year journey… However, there is a story behind the story, it took the company a while to break into the Shipping industry I am told. It is only in the last 3 years  that the company has really taken off and I believe the reason is because of their focus on the software side of the data that they gather from the ships and opening access to that data through the internet. In their own words “Marorka offers onboard and onshore Fuel Management and Energy Management solutions equipped with real time monitoring and decision support, an essential part of operational optimization. With Marorka’s energy management solutions for voyage tracking, inventory recording, reporting and data analysis, your business will be well on its way to maximized efficiency.” 
I was rather surprised to hear that Ship builders do not provide the necessary information to optimize energy usage in the vehicles, it actually makes sense, no car manufacturer tells you how best to drive your car i.e when to step on the gas and when to step on the brakes. It is quite interesting that the founders of this company saw the opportunity and built a business. What was very interesting for me to understand was the sheer volume of time series data that they capture transport to a central server process it and make it available on a portal for the Fleet or Ship manager on shore to see. There are a number of challenges one has to factor, connectivity to the Internet is not continuous and the amount of data that can be transmitted is limited so I see algorithms that were used in the early days of the internet data transfer protocol should serve them well. I don’t know their software architecture but it should be an interesting problem to solve or improve on.

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Hackathon: What is it good for?

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have written about the dual definition of the word Hacker or Hacks. We are planning to have a Hackathon for the conference we are organizing in May. If you have not signed up please sign up we are putting together an awesome panel of guests, talks, workshops and of course a hackathon. We have a bunch of surprise announcements as well to support Building a Sustainable Startup Ecosystem in Iceland. Anyways, I digress, the post was about Hackathon. I think Hackathons are awesome tools to validate a hypothesis. This is the new trend! Check out this Wired.com Article with the title “The Hackathon is on: Pitching and Programming the next Killer App“. It is very interesting to see how VC, Tech Recruiters and Angel investors look at Hackathons as a way to spot talent. Hackathons are the new place for scouting talent as it relates to technology and software. I have also written about how Software is going to be the brain that runs all business and the methods employed in Software related companies can transform traditional businesses. Here is an excerpt from the article which is very interesting to see…
The trend has already spread beyond the conventional tech world. There are women-only hackathons, hackathons for teens, hackathons for college students, hackathons to fight autism, hackathons to improve education, hackathons to help veterans, hackathons to build Occupy Wall Street protest tools, hackathons on clean energy, hackathons on grocery shopping in Vermont, and 14 hackathons to troubleshoot water pollution—footage of which was streamed live from nine cities including Bangalore and Nairobi.”
The stakes are going high as well, the Techcruch Disrupt Hackathon winner gets a whopping $250,000 thats a lot of pizzas and beer. I believe the reason why this trend is starting to take off is because, the infrastructure of software the basic plumbing is starting to work as it was intended and many of the solution providers like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare, Google, Amazon, Apple etc are making their software available through Application Programming Interfaces (API) and mashing these different API’s together a team has an awesome chance to serendipitously discover the next GroupMe or whatever, That is the promise of hosting Hackathons. I think I have answered my own question 🙂

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Skolapulsinn.is – Mashing Technology, Education and Psychology

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Brian Suda, does not need any introduction in the Icelandic Startup Scene. He also writes a pretty well read blog @optional.is. I stumbled upon this post by Brian on Skolapulsinn.is which he and a couple of other hackers put together for solving a big problem in Schools, to gauge the pulse of the students. Typically this is captured by asking the students through Surveys, but Skolapulsinn.is makes that feedback look much shorter and allows for School Administrator and Teachers to react in real time on what is going in the school system. He has written a very detailed post on this in his blog here. I have to be honest I was not aware that this tool was hacked together in 2008 and has surveyed more than 12000 students, thats pretty impressive data set. I need to talk to Brian today and understand where is this data and what can we learn from it.  I bet you could ask a whole lot of questions and this data can be used to understand the living breathing student community in Iceland in real time. I like how Brain refers to the school system as a living breathing thing rather than a stoic institution. We could ask important questions like how involved are the parents in the school work of the students, because time and time again it has been proven that kids whose parents are more involved with their kids work, make better students. We can actually give a more real-time report card rather than wait for the year to be over or solicit the opinion of the teacher. It is the kid who knows whether their  parents are involved in the home work or not. In addition, we could ask questions about the general feeling of the students to access whether they are feeling positive about school, their self confidence etc. This tools is a fascinating introduction to me and I obviously am going to bug Brian about how this is used in the Icelandic School System. If it is not used, then I want to lobby to the Ministry of Education and get them to use it. We need innovation like this to Tinker and Learn to improve our educational system, after all is’nt Education about Learning?

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Isafjordur the next Startup Hub?

February 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Unemployment in Iceland

February 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Revolution against Finance

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

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