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International start-ups are disrupting our industry, but for the better

By Hedda Bull-Hansen|Published 26 October 2018|Category: Blog

Photo: Ole Jørgen Bratland/Equinor

Guest writer Audun Abelsnes, Managing Director Techstars Energy

On September 10th the inaugural class of tech and energy companies participating in the Techstars Energy Accelerator in partnership with Equinor, arrived in Oslo. For the next 13 weeks the Equinor office at Fornebu is their primary working space.

The task is hard – or let me say ambitious: the ten companies will compress two years of work into thirteen weeks. Their goal is to develop attractive and much needed products and solutions, make connections, receive funding, and sign deals with relevant stakeholders. I must admit I am extremely impressed by their capacity and hard work, not to mention their extreme sacrifices, leaving behind their support systems to spend time in this odd country way up North.

But, of course, how could they say no? Norway has a world-class energy-technology industry, and the greater Oslo area is recognized as a true global energy hub. It is the ideal place to engage with subject matter experts in tech and energy, and – I would argue- the place to be if you are working on disruptive solutions within oil and gas, renewables, new business models or digitalization.

Why Oslo and why Equinor?

As you might know, Techstars is the world-wide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. We have 46 accelerator programs across the globe. These focus on fintech, retail, artificial intelligence and healthcare, just to name a few. So now you might ask, why did we decide to establish an accelerator targeting the energy sector and why here in Norway?

Many large ‘deep tech’ start-ups have been left out of the overall startup buzz. That is partly because the industries working with these types of solutions are complex, and partly because it takes more time and costs more to develop innovative solutions in the fields these companies typically engage. The energy industry is an example of this. But, nevertheless there are start-ups in this space. The thing is though, they haven’t had access to a world-class accelerator environment that understands their problems and unique challenges. Until now.

When Techstars moved into the mobility vertical we chose Detroit and Ford, when we moved into music we decided to go for Los Angeles to work with Sony. When we looked to move into energy, Oslo, Norway and Equinor was a natural call. This country has been innovating in the energy space for decades, and Equinor is a key player in the energy transition. Moreover, no country has a population more invested in a new energy future, which is quite exciting.

The road ahead

I am writing this piece about half way into the program. The companies have just met with more than a hundred mentors and the period of “mentor madness” is coming to an end. Yet, this does not allow for slower pace. The companies are now gearing up for Demo Day, an event were their thirteen weeks of work will be displayed and showcased for key stakeholders.

So far, we have seen a growing interest in the program. But success of this program will mean increased awareness both here and abroad and having already spanned the globe looking for amazing companies last year, we will be able to be more targeted when recruiting next year’s Techstars Energy class. So, if you know someone who should apply, shoot me an email.

About Audun Abelsnes: Audun has spent a significant amount of time working in the space between startups and corporations, both as a founder and as a teacher at BI. His connections to Equinor and the larger business community gives him the perspective of a big corporate, and his time spent as a founder himself helps him understand what founders go through on a day to day basis. Email:
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