I spent the last couple of days in Anchorage, Alaska. I was invited by Ross Johnston the organizer of the Accelerate Alaska Conference to share the story of Startup Iceland and lessons learnt in building the startup community in Iceland. It was fascinating to me to see the parallels between Alaska and Iceland when we were just starting the journey to build a vibrant startup community in Iceland. To give some context, Anchorage has the same population of Iceland, the GDP is about the same size, has the same challenge of perception of isolation. Alaska is also a state that is heavily dependent on natural resources and there is plenty of wealth in the state.

On the eve of Accelerate Alaska with Ross Johnston. Ross has a 5 month old baby and he was feeding her when I showed up, hence the bottle in the picture

Brad Feld was also participating in Accelerate Alaska and it was great to meet Brad and Amy. It has been such a long time since I saw them both. Brad and Amy spend time in Homer, Alaska where Amy is from and I can see why they are attracted to this place. Alaska is beautiful. I did not get time to explore Anchorage as I spent most of the time getting over the jet lag and meeting with founders and participants of the event. It was amazing to see the energy that is building up here.

Brad and I had an early lunch before Brad’s Ask Me Anything session. We took this picture to send to Jerry Colonna our friend

My keynote was about lessons learnt in the journey of building the startup ecosystem in Iceland. Here is the presentation. I am told that there is a recording of the event. Einar Gunnar with Arion Bank had written a more detailed note about his perspective on the development of the Icelandic Startup Ecosystem in his blog and I stole some of the slides and added the latest updates to it. Thank you Einar.

We are noticing a change in every city and country. The march of progress and the transformational need of every city and country to build a vibrant startup community is imminent. We were very lucky in Iceland to have started on this journey a decade ago and I was very lucky to happen to live in Iceland at that time. The struggle of progress and change is real and challenges of the future is one of the main reason we are witnessing the political turmoil and uncertainty in every part of the world. It is above my pay grade to talk about politics so I am going to stick to what I know best which is building a vibrant startup community. A vibrant startup community is the best and sustainable way to future proof your city. Brad Feld through his book Startup Communities has shown a blue print that every city can adopt. That is what I did in Iceland, no-one asked me to do it and it was not my job to do it either. That is the magic of founders and entrepreneurs, they see what is missing in their communities and they usually get to work on filling that gap.

Anchorage has all the ingredients to be a vibrant startup community. I could sense it in the conversations with the participants. I was also very excited to meet Ross and his dad Allan Johnston, both want to help and encourage founders and entrepreneurs. My recommendation to them is to follow the Boulder Thesis, continue to do the activities that encourages startup thinking and to commit time. We have done Startup Iceland for 8 years now and 2020 will be the 9th year. It takes time for communities to build but it is not an end, it is a continuous process. I have invited Ross and everyone who wants to come to Iceland to participate in Startup Iceland 2020. I think that is the best we can do, learn from each other and move the human race forward.