- It started less than four years ago but has already built a reputation as one of Europe’s hottest startup festivals.
- We had a chat with Maja Hvammen Adriaensen, the founder and CEO of Startup Extreme, about the upcoming event in June and how she manages a fast-growing organization.
- This is the fourth in our series of weekly Q&A with Nordic thought-leaders and entrepreneurs. Read the previous ones here, here and here.
On June 12-14th, 300 specially invited guests from the US and European tech scene will head to a picturesque place called Vossen outside Bergen in western Norway. There they will meet some of the region’s most promising startups in a relaxed environment.
Or the complete opposite if they choose to jump from an airplane or go paragliding off a mountain.
It’s a gutsy statement to promise “the world’s most extreme startup festival”, but those are not empty words. Besides from the adrenaline pumping activities, participants will be served traditionally cooked sheep’s head.
Can you explain the concept of Startup Extreme in your own words?
”Startup Extreme is an arena we created for the international community to meet Norwegian startups. We invite international media and investors to come and meet a selection of top startups and community players.”
“To make it more interesting to attend we combine the conference with extreme sports activities. We want to create a unique experience, where you can learn about Norwegian startups in more ways than just meetings.”
What is new this year?
“This year’s topic of the conference is ‘scale up’. We’re going to cover issues of scaling a startup into a bigger company. This is our fourth year and we’ve already got a strong community presence. Now we can invite new people, more international attendees, and improve the quality.”
“We also got some exciting plans for next year but it’s not public yet.”
Participants sign up for at least one extreme sports activity. What is your favorite thing to do?
“I am an organizer so I can’t attend the activities. What you don’t have in many places is a wind tunnel. I think the most extreme thing is to go river rafting if you’re up for a challenge.”
After a moment of thinking, she changes her mind.
“Maybe I try something this year. The last years I’ve been either pregnant or had a small baby with me.”
Where do you see Startup Extreme in 5 years?
“We want to be the main place for the Norwegian startup scene and also people from abroad to meet the community. If you plan to check out the Norwegian startup scene, you have this once a year where you get it all in one place.”
What have been the biggest milestones so far?
“I’d say it was last year. I started working with Startup Extreme seven years ago. Then our startup scene was not of significance to the international community, it was like nobody knew about it at all. But last year we noticed a big change. International investors and companies are contacting us and are interested in meeting Norwegian companies.”
“We’ve got some unique companies here and last year it felt like they were discovered by the global audience.”
Do you get inspiration from other conferences?
“Obviously, Slush is a significant conference for the Nordic startup scene. But it’s very different so we don’t see them as competitors. We have a different role compared to other festivals.”
“We really believe that strong relations are important for startups. Instead of getting to know each other only on the after party, we believe that doing something together makes those relationships much stronger. Our main purpose is to connect the right people.”
What is the best leadership advice that you live by?
“We are in a phase now of fast growth. So I have to manage leadership in a startup that is growing. We’re really in a phase of testing different ways of structuring ourselves. My main leadership advice would be to focus on striving towards goals and not to do too many things.”
What advice would you give to your 20-year old self?
“My biggest regret when I started a company was that I didn’t use the time when I was a student to practice entrepreneurship. In the beginning you need to learn, explore and test – and it’s hard to do in a fast pace when working full time.”
“If you learn those things as a student, then you probably become more interested in what you’re studying as well. You have the time to try things and learn without risking your career in any way.”
Who is your biggest inspiration professionally?
“I’m inspired by Jack Ma. Mainly because of the way he communicates values and believes. We’re an organization with strong believes and values as well in creating a stronger ecosystem in Norway. I respect people who can combine the two.”
Where do you get your news?
“I’m mainly following startups in Norway, so I read Shifter and also international tech media.”
If you were to choose a new profession outside the startup sphere, what would it be?
“I’ve been studying finance and economics. It could be fun to work in that field as long as it’s challenging and at an ambitious place. I’m motivated by making impact, high goals and ambition. You can do that in many places, but I still think the best place is the startup scene.
What tech trend excites you the most?
“I’m mostly inspired by the trend that all knowledge about building startups and companies is available to many people. I think that’s the biggest difference between now and 20 years ago. It is no longer something you only find in Silicon Valley.”
By Joachim Malmberg (http://nordic.businessinsider.com) 15/04/2018