“Startup accelerator” is a phrase that the startup community is very familiar with. 

Its opposite— “startup decelerator”— on the other hand, is a relatively unknown concept (even though the oldest entry returned by Google dates back to 2012, there are many fewer instances of it). Nevertheless, it seemed to naturally apply to Startup Westfjords when Arnar Sigurdsson—then the manager at the Blue Bank, a coworking and community hub located in the small fishing village of Thingeyri—organised the first edition of this program for entrepreneurs back in 2018.

Mentorship for entrepreneurs

The program is aimed at entrepreneurs with a business idea or a startup project; it offers a week of workshops from top-level mentors, who will provide their valuable expertise and insight into business developing and managing. Along with training on the business and financial aspects of entrepreneurship, it will also deal with its “human” side: resilience, crisis handling and efficient ways to advance a project through its many stages.

A mentorship session – Photo: Haukur Sigurðsson

The mentor lineup for the 2020 edition—remarkable for a small event like this—include Helgi Rúnar Óskarsson, CEO of 66° North; Huld Magnúsdóttir, CEO of the New Business Venture Fund (Nýsköpunarsjóður); Ásta Kristín Sigurjónsdóttir, CEO of Iceland Tourism Cluster (Íslenski Ferðaklasinn); G. Fertram Sigurjónsson, CEO and founder of Kerecis; Stefán Þór Helgason, Member of the Advisory team of KPMG; and Þórarinn Bjartur Breiðfjörð Gunnarsson, director of the Ísafjörður Fab Lab.

But, whereas widely-known startup accelerators usually focus on fast growth in a highly competitive environment, Startup Westfjords takes a radically different approach: thanks to its setting, it gives participants the chance to step out of their everyday flow and work routines, head to a new place, slow down (thus the term “decelerator”) and immerse themselves in a stress-free atmosphere—ideal to get inspired, focus and be productive.

“Whereas accelerators teach us to launch, grow, and even fail fast, finding a decelerator that shifts the focus to slowing down while starting up is a breath of fresh air.”
— Thorunn Jónsdóttir,
Poppins & Partners, 2019 mentor

Slow down to start up

Life in Thingeyri (250 inhabitants on the shore of Dyrafjordur) has a slow pace and none of the stress that usually comes with daily routines in a big city. The community is tightly knit and provides a comfortable and welcoming network to its members. The surrounding nature is beautiful, quiet and inspiring, with the mountains and the fjord providing some of the most striking panoramas Iceland has to offer.

Thingeyri, Westfjords – Photo: Haukur Sigurðsson

All these qualities are incorporated in Startup Westfjords, make it special and have proven successful for past participants:
– the small number of participants allows a closer interaction with the mentors;
– the Blue Bank provides an informal and relaxed setting;
– a great opportunity to forge bonds and share ideas with other participants over sessions, meals and common activities;
– unwind in beautiful nature (hiking, etc.);
– side activities include meeting with local entrepreneurs and participating in traditional events.

In short, the value that participants found in the program is the adventure of coming to Thingeyri, the ability to work on their project in an unusual and inspiring setting, and the chance to engage with great mentors on a one-on-one level.

“An invaluable opportunity to recalibrate your inner clock and regain focus on what truly matters in the big picture of your project .”
— Claudio Pedica,
FluidShape, 2019 participant

Photo: Haukur Sigurðsson

The program will run from October 12th to 18th, 2020.
Up to 12 participants will be selected to attend among those that apply at www.startupwestfjords.is, and will receive a week of mentorship and accommodation free of charge. A second week of free coworking space is offered by the Blue Bank. We accept all types of projects from startups, teams or individuals; we encourage applicants to submit innovative ideas that provide smart solutions to the recent challenges we are facing in technology, communication and social relationships, with a particular eye on their sustainability.

Applications for the program can be submitted at www.startupwestfjords.is until August 31st. Please check the website for complete information and details on the program.