Just before the elections I wrote an opinion piece on why one should become an entrepreneur in Norway? What is Norway`s vision? Here is the link to the Norwegian version.
And here you can read the English translation.
For two years I have interviewed Norway’s foremost entrepreneurs and investors about why they started for themselves.
Diving deep into this theme urged me to ask basic questions about innovation, questions rarely answered by Norwegian politicians and leaders or even entrepreneurs themselves.
Why do people create things in Norway? What is Norway’s vision?
We don’t really need to become entrepreneurs
As I see it, Norway is a country where “the American dream” is possible. Norway is a country with groundbreaking research environments and where discoveries with great commercial potential are made. Many skilled global entrepreneurs have achieved a great deal here.
I have also discovered that Norwegian culture, with gender equality, flat hierarchy and emphasis on creativity and cooperation in Norwegian schools, has expended a lot of effort to develop a Norwegian entrepreneurial mentality.
Nevertheless, something does not feel right—something is missing here. Entrepreneurs in Norway have everything they need to succeed, but they don’t really need to become entrepreneurs. We do not have to create our own jobs if we can simply find them.
If you want to be rich, then you should not choose the entrepreneurial path. You could lose everything you have and end up with more debt than when you started.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll have to work around the clock under bad working conditions and miss out on a pension and other rights. Several of those I interviewed told me how their work affected their health and family life. Some have been depressed, overworked and missed important events in their children’s lives.
Some have been successful in making a lot of money, but they also worked without ceasing for 8-15 years before their big win.
It’s a game of chance, and fast technological shifts are not making it easier.
But if it’s so bad, why are people even bothering to become entrepreneurs?
Many I interviewed did not think much about starting a company when they began. Instead, they were primarily motivated by solving a problem so that everyday life could be easier for people around the world. To do that, they had to build a business. They weren’t pursuing money, attention or prestige when they took the leap. They simply had a desire to make a difference, try and fail and create something that would be much better than today’s solutions.
The desire to “think big” and “love what you do” and “create something bigger than yourself” drives and drives many entrepreneurs.
Yet individual driving forces are not enough to create world-class entrepreneurs in Norway or anywhere else.
We must have a larger idea, almost ideology, to inspire entrepreneurs.
This is important because we are now at a major crossroads. In the last few years, entrepreneurship has become hip and cool. Many have quit their jobs to start companies. Some hang out at events and talk loudly about innovation; others work around the clock and build businesses. Whether they succeed or not, they will gain good experience that will be useful later in their working lives.
In addition, many politicians are keen to encourage their pursuits—entrepreneurship is presented as the solution to all our problems after the oil. We are told that Norway will not focus on a field, but many, from IT to sea, e-health, EdTech and renewable energy. Meanwhile, young people are still encouraged to seek employment in the oil industry, making entrepreneurship seem like a distraction as we plan new oil fields. Politicians who have visited Silicon Valley are suddenly seeking unicorns, companies’ worth over $ 1 billion without an IPO. Do they want it because Sweden and the United States already have them, or because they will bring thousands of jobs and talent from around the world? Whatever the reason, companies like this extremely volatile in their valuation and are not necessarily the definition of success and value creation.
What choices will politicians make?
Many entrepreneurs are experiencing major challenges in winning contracts in the public sector, option taxation prevents founders from sharing their business with employees and due to tax rules, there is little reason to invest in long-term innovation and building technology companies that will last generations.
But at the same time, people who sell their companies for large sums abroad get big headlines in the media and pats on the shoulder. It’s an amazing achievement, and there is nothing wrong with the foreign ownership, but along with other factors, it sends a message to potential entrepreneurs.
Is that why you are going to become an entrepreneur in Norway today, to build a business, enrich Norwegian investors and sell to foreign owners who face a lower threshold for moving jobs out of the country?
We are at a crossroads because we need to decide whether entrepreneurship should remain only a cool, transient trend, or whether entrepreneurship has come to stay.
If politicians want more people to become entrepreneurs, what brave choices are they willing to take to facilitate greater Norwegian entrepreneurship?
It’s important that we receive good answers to these questions, because we cannot afford or have time to stay somewhere where entrepreneurship is a hip trend as our other industries decline.
We must have everything we need to become an ecosystem in class with Silicon Valley and win as many gold medals in entrepreneurship as we do in skiing.
We need incentives for building large, entirely Norwegian companies with a common vision of Norwegian entrepreneurship that focuses on entrepreneurs who not only think of profit but also social responsibility and sustainability.
This would inspire us mortals to start businesses, and that’s what entrepreneurship is really about: be courageous, take the chance.