Iceland has been a fun startup scene for us to follow because the ecosystem is still so new. The anchors of a startup scene, like recurring conferences and acceleration programs, have only been put in place about two years ago, meaning the scene is showing those rapid initial steps of improvement.
A few months ago we turned our eyes to Startup Iceland, the startup conference designed to talk about building a sustainable startup ecosystem and attract attention from the the US and Europe. They recently ran their second conference last June, and it looked like a well put together event.
Startup Reykjavik, Iceland’s first startup accelerator, is also currently in its second iteration and building up momentum for Investor Day on the 23rd of August. Interested investors are invited to sign up for an invitation, or to receive a link to the online streaming event.
The program seems to be providing good value to Icelandic entrepreneurs, leading them to mentoring and outside attention. The incubator gives participating startups 2,000,000 ISK (€12,500) to get things moving, for a 6% stake in the company.
“We thought that this was something missing from the Icelandic startup scene – a comprehensive program.,” says Stefán Þór Helgason of Startup Reykjavik. “We’ve had a few Startup Weekends and competitions giving out prizes. Those are all well and good, but we thought that a comprehensive program to help accelerate these companies was missing.”
The ten accepted companies to the program will be demoed on Investor day. The quality of the applicants seems pretty high, and it’s impressive what companies a small community can produce. This year all of the accepted companies were Icelandic, but Helgason of Startup Reykjavik tells us they got quite good applications worldwide and will likely add some international teams next year.
The program has been split into three main parts. In the first few weeks, their 90 mentors from Iceland come in, who are a good mix of business professionals, entrepreneurs, and marketing folk. The startups are currently in the second third of the program where they focus on executing after getting their brains picked by mentors. And in the last few weeks they focus on getting their pitches down, and preparing for questions on their business plan by investors. Their weeks are punctuated by Startup success stories every Tuesday’s lunch, and every other Thursday they have a BBQ and pitch session.
“So far the program has helped us immensely with figuring out which path the company should take, strategic alignment if you will. We have met with a lot of mentors who have had some very good tips and connections for us and with their and the programs help we have been able to quickly get out of that ‘beginning phase’ where you’re figuring out where the company stands and where it should go and enabled us to begin executing our ideas,” says Hjörtur Geir Björnsson of Sareye, a company building software for search and rescue drones.
Other companies include a company building software to help golf teachers manage billing and scheduling, software that processes and analyses business activities for unusual behavior, an app that helps people document and share complex ideas, and another that helps people track their success at the gym with a virtual trainer, and a workout tracking hardware/software solution.
The other companies are a wider mix than the digital growth companies we focus on at ArcticStartup, but the non-digital companies look pretty cool. For example, they have a company producing Iceland’s first whisky distillery, another building a one-man roller coaster down an Icelandic mountain, a herbal medicine company, and a progressive clothing company.
The investor day looks like a good excuse to get over to Iceland and see what the startup scene and country has to offer. The investor day is being held on Friday, but there’ll be a lot of fun things happening over the weekend. The Reykjavik Marathon will be happening on Saturday morning, followed by a Culture Night the rest of the day until late into the evening. There will be pop-up events, the Icelandic president will open up his house to the public. Fireworks will also light up the night when the sun finally sets.
The link to the investor day signup can be found here.