For the past 50 years, the “Norwegian oil adventure”—in combination with a well-run, social democratic welfare state—has meant that us Norwegians could live comparatively care-free lives. We’ve gotten used to high standards of living, universal health care, free education, freedom of speech, and state intervention in the event of losing one’s income.
Indeed, in the World Happiness Report 2017, Norway was ranked 1 st , scoring highly on all the main factors of caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.
Now, though, it’s getting ever more apparent that the era of oil will be coming to an end, and that the good times aren’t necessarily going to last forever. Yet all of those values are embedded as expertise and capital is being channeled into a growing startup economy.
We’re looking for “the new oil”. With what is now happening in Oslo, we just might be onto it—or, at the very least, discovering an important part of the puzzle.
Oslo, Norway’s capital city, is a modestly sized metropolis, squeezed in between the fjord and huge forests: “The blue, the green and the city in between”.
The city is changing, fast. Old motorways and container ports have been removed from the city center to make way for entire new districts and a seaside promenade, with beaches, bars and restaurants.
In the hills above—“Marka”, as the forests are known, accessible by subway from the city center—the locals escape on the weekends, with skis or bikes or on foot, depending on the season.
The nature continues into the city, with initiatives such as urban farming and a “bee highway”, a network of green roofs, beehives and flowers to give bees safe passage through the city and protect endangered species.
You’ll encounter that same mindset in the booming startup scene, too. According to a report cited in a CNN news story (wonderfully titled “World’s happiest country is becoming a startup mecca”), 15 % of all startup investments in Norway are already explicitly sustainability-focused.
We are hopeful that that percentage is going to keep climbing. Indeed, there are many reasons why Oslo should become a place to look to for impact investing opportunities. A study on perceptions of city performance in the green economy, cited in the 2017 Oslo: State of the City report, ranks the Norwegian capital 4 th among 50 global cities, based on factors such as climate change leadership, efficiency sectors, markets and investment. On the Global Destination Sustainability Index, Oslo is ranked second.
As profits from oil start to fail, we have a lot of motivation to look for something new. And many are finding their answer in innovation. At the same time, money is moving on from baby boomers to millennials, who are driving a change in investing trends, toward sustainability—explicitly aiming to make a positive impact on society.
A number of studies, such as the global 2016 Toniic report on millennials & impact investing, show a clear connection between the values of young adults and their investing decisions.
In Oslo, many startups are working with disruptive and/or exponential technologies, aiming to make a positive impact in areas such as food, governance, education, health, economy or the environment. And you see the same at an investor- and political level.
Trust and cooperation are important values in Norway. We’re known internationally for our role in peace negotiations, and—like our Nordic neighbors—for setting aside around 1 % of our GDP for humanitarian aid. Not until now, though, have you really heard people talk openly about doing good, and also doing good business, in the same sentence.
Case in point: The 2018 Business for Peace summit kicks off in Oslo in the same week as this year’s Katapult Future Fest, in the middle of May (there’s also Oslo Freedom Forum later in the same month).
Startups and investors are looking for innovations that are profitable while at the same time solving real problems in the world. Exponential technology, especially, is not just good business—it’s becoming an amazing market for impact investors as well.