Hearing the call
Getting the call for an inspiration tour to Iceland left me with mixed feelings. I mean Iceland sounds great don’t get me wrong, but why would I have to go on an inspirational journey? Me? the low level software developer?
I soon found out that the other attendees were all high level entrepreneurs at various levels of their journeys. Some had start-ups, others were looking for new business ideas and markets. Others were simply looking to expand their international network.
Truth be told I was scared I’d be the runt of the group and people would question why this 23 year old “labourer” was tagging along on their trip.
But hey, I wasn’t going to let anxiety get the best of me. So Tuesday at 1 PM sharp I was present at our gate in Brussels Airport. Ready as can be to meet all these exciting new people.
They we’re all extremely friendly and equally in the dark about all the things this trip would hold for us.
Entrepreneurship thrives in Iceland
The first two days of the trip would mainly consist of company visits. We had meetings lined up all day with all sorts of companies and institutions. We met with the heads of some startups in both software and chemical branches. We talked about their plans , what motivates them, etc.
The most striking agreement most entrepreneurs cited was how they got their energy from their own struggles. It seemed most of innovating ideas germinate out of dire situations. The drive to find a solution to a problem.
This means that tons of companies in Iceland are birthed from a genuine predisposition to make Iceland a better place and/or help the inhabitants. This is a mindset I can get behind.
So, a diverse flock of innovators came to state their case. I’d like to touch upon a few of them.
One of them was as a delivery company that had cut down their delivery costs to hard-to-reach destinations in Rekjavik by ~80% thanks to drone deliveries.
Tomato farm restaurant
Another striking example were the people from a tomato farm greenhouse. During our lunch in the farm we were introduced to the idea of starting an actual restaurant inside of the greenhouse. The owners wanted their dining area to be special and I can personally testify that this was definitely the case.
Two other projects that were a little bit more my cuppa tea were those of the game development companies. They showed us their development process and delivered a demo of the games they are about to launch. One of the companies even built their own motion capturing studio because they knew they could do a better and CHEAPER job than the competition overseas. By the looks of it, they are right.
Machine Learning event analytics
There are no silver bullets – don’t quit firing the lead ones!Einar Sævarsson – CEO & founder of Activity Streams
Next, meeting an entrepreneur (or better, a serial entrepreneur – one who starts multiple endeavors either simultaneously or consecutively) who was spear-heading a machine learning company focusing on event analytics. They’re essentially providing feedback on ticket sales, advertisements and customer behavior on those sales. Personally, as a software developer, I found the tech behind their business particularly interesting. Moreover, I found the skillful execution of this idea in this particular market positively genius.
Temperature monitoring devices
CHAAS – Cold Chain As A ServiceControlant
The most peculiar thing I’ve learned was about the company that produced and maintained devices that monitored temperature during transport with a cold-chain. They’ve had Queen (the actual band!) as their client. I guess monitoring band equipment during shipping is quite important for tonality and sorts.
Too much to tell
In conclusion, I’ve had the chance to participate in a ton of meetings. This means that I’ve met a lot of interesting people, had inspiring chats and managed to gather some ideas myself.
Enough about the meetings, let’s move on.
The main thing that stood out for me during all those meetings was that each and every company had a comparable “ultra-functional” interior design. There were no needless decorations that didn’t have a particular purpose. The lack of distractions results in very clean and humble meetings rooms. Nothing fancy — just the bare minimum to get the job done. This kind of sums up Icelandic business culture for me: very focused and functional.
With an extraordinary goal-oriented focus and the complete lack of ego and distractions, people of Iceland have an incredible drive for entrepreneurship. If you ask me why? I would only be able to guess it’s their clean air and fresh water that enables this innovating ability. I’m a software developer, not an anthropologist, can you tell?
Inspiration and reflection
My personal contempt for cheesy and lame conclusions aside, I truly found inspiration during this innovation inspiring tour. With the time given to me to center myself and reflect on my goals, the mind-boggling stories from startups and CEO’s really left an impression.
On my flight home I felt a drive in me to do the same: I too want to make the world a better place. So now I’m working on my own ideas and fixing them to build them into something bigger and awesome with the tools granted to me. So I guess I’ve brought some of that Icelandic drive home with me.