Original post was written for the Asbru Blog.
Idea #1: Invest in yourself and your local community
I believe every Icelander can invest in their local community and in local entrepreneurs and in themselves. It takes very little to create an impact in a small community. I believe if 20 people get-together with ISK 2.000.000 each and invest in 5 entrepreneurial companies it can transform not only the entrepreneur but the investor as well. Investing is a lot of work, but that is the only way to grow value and wealth. I am not talking about investing in the Stock Market or Buying Government Bonds, which are perfectly acceptable methods to invest, but picking smaller companies and entrepreneurs in areas that each and everyone of us is familiar in and investing in them will transform Iceland. My partners and I did just that when we invested in Clara (http://clarahq.com), when I met with the founders they had a good idea and they were going places but lacked the mentoring and money to take their ideas to market. The business was in a field that I was very comfortable in (software, internet and computer systems), we decided to invest in the company. Today Clara is a 14 member team serving Gaming companies like Sony Online, CCP and many other companies. We achieved the team growth and value growth in about 2 years and my belief is that we could have done it faster if we had invested more money, the biggest challenge we faced was the lack of faith of Icelander in their own abilities and ideas. I think changing that would go a long way. I am not talking about some esoteric ideas, the concept of Angel Investor Networks and Angel Investing is starting to make a real impact all around the world.
Idea #2: Volunteer to be a mentor, helper or give something without expecting anything back
If you don’t have the capital to be an angel investor, you can volunteer to be a mentor or give something to the community to enable knowledge sharing or network sharing. I am not talking about charity, though charity and social work have a place in a society. I mean time and effort where you contribute something without expecting anything back. A mentor is that kind of a person, without spewing ideas but listening to a young entrepreneur or practitioner in your field of expertise. There are many avenues to do that Asbru Incubator, Klak, Innovit and more recently Startup Reykjavik provide the platform for everyone to participate and contribute to building a sustainable startup ecosystem.
Idea #3: Learn a new skill using a new technology
This idea comes back to the first idea, of investing in ourselves. Learning a new skill using the current or new technologies. The world of technology changes rapidly and there could be a point in time where everyone of us can be left behind if we don’t keep up. I would encourage everyone to take an hour a day to pick up one skill, whether it is blogging, tweeting or coding in HTML or reading about technology or learning how technology works. This is important not just for those in the technology field but for everyone. To quote my favorite mentor Brad Feld, “The machines have taken over, now they are patiently waiting to learn everything about us by asking us to input everything about ourselves into them”, don’t you think it is time we should learn how the machines work? not because any sinister agenda but just to be curious and asking questions.
My dream is that in 10 years we have a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Iceland that provides sufficient resources for anyone to start fresh, create value and make a living. I think Entrepreneurship is life, one of my favorite blogs is written by Jerry Colona, I could not have said this better so I am quoting Jerry:
“Those who seek to create their own startup do so more often out of the desires for freedom, dignity, validation and, ultimately, self-actualization (in the full Maslow-vian sense) than for riches. (Indeed, those who seek riches most often fail.) For them, and despite what most politicians and government officials blather on about, it’s not about jobs. It’s about life.”
- Local Capital (startupiceland.com)
- Picking winners in a farm of Black Swans (startupiceland.com)
- Global Startup Community To Converge at First Ever Startup Iceland Conference on May 30, 2012 at the Andrews Theater in the Ásbrú Enterprise Park (Keflavik), Iceland (prweb.com)
- VC Brad Feld: Startup hubs need to be led by entrepreneurs (geekwire.com)
Hi Bala, I absolutely agree with investing locally in Iceland: be it with finances, time and our hearts and minds, as you say. As with any company, communities are made of the people and how much they live the mission/vision. I share your 10 year vision, and through the act of giving, I would like to offer as a helper (no.2) where it serves best. Your comment on coding as being the new language that we all are being challenged to learn, is paramount to our collective future. I am learning one language at the moment, Icelandic, which is enough for now, and coding will follow soon. Thanks for your leadership and vision that you share so authentically.
Thank you for your kind words. Good luck with your endeavors, learning Icelandic is not the easiest of things and I fail miserably in that exercise and reason is because I don’t give it enough time. I hope you are able to give more time to it and are successful.
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Great ideas! I do hope that Icelanders will change evolutionary towards more self confidence in themselves and in their abilities. The crisis took much faith away and goodwill towards companies, but with time and perhaps with growing patience we will give back by to our community by mentoring or investing in start-ups.