It was a great surprise and boost to the local startup community yesterday. Gunnar Holmsteinn, the Co-Founder and CEO of CLARA is returning from Silicon Valley to Iceland to join the ultra popular game company Plain Vanilla Games as their COO. It is a great testament to the positive startup environment in Iceland. I am thrilled to have Gunni back and all the connections that he has made in the valley and how that can really help the local entrepreneurial community. The news is in Icelandic. I think it is what I had hoped for would happen, every Icelander that I know wants to come back to Iceland. I have a theory about it but I won’t bore you with that.
I remember the first meetings that I had with Entrepreneurs in 2009, right after the financial collapse, there was a lot of hesitation, fear, anxiety and lack of self confidence. Gunni and his team were the total opposite to that. They believed in what they were building and that is what prompted me to work with them and invest in CLARA. Roll back to 2014, the situation could not be more buzzing and different… everyone is interested in looking at Startups and Entrepreneurship. I want to throw a word of caution, I wrote about it yesterday as well. The mechanics of building a company is always the same, build your core team, find your product/service to market fit, build a marketing and sales strategy and execute, execute, execute and scale the revenue, the team and the business. Of course it sounds simple and common sense but common sense is never common practice. The road is littered with dead entrepreneurs and lost dreams, but that does not mean one does not dream or want to be an entrepreneur. I tend to take the middle ground, extremes are not good. Any community needs to have a vibrant startup community where entrepreneurship is encouraged, failure is accepted and anyone who wants to take a chance and live their dream should feel confident in doing that. My vision has always been that, a vibrant and inviting startup community already exists in Iceland but it is not obvious to everyone. We need to water it, weed it and give it space to grow. No one can predict the future, but we all can do the right thing as a community to continue to nurture it.
I believe we are under-investing in the Startup Community in Iceland as a society. I would be exaggerating if I guessed we are investing probably $50 million/year on startups. It is probably a fraction of that. I believe there are a number of opportunities that exist in Iceland like Clara, GreenQloud, QuizUp, Meniga, GuideToIceland, reKode/Skema, apon etc The trick is to enable these kinds of businesses to graduate from one stage to the other and again, this is no rocket science invest time, money and mentoring to help entrepreneurs as a community.
Are there challenges with regard to Capital Controls, the Currency, High Interest Rates, Political turmoil? Yes Euro! No Euro Debate? sure… all those things have nothing to do with building a startup community. If this was easy everyone would do it, I believe we in Iceland have the right amount of pain and the necessary raw ingredients to actually make it.