A year of resiliency: this was 2020 in the cluster
21. December, 2020
2020 is over – and what a year it has been. From what we can tell, all of our members have come out of this trying time stronger, more productive and more resilient than ever. Together, we have done so much this year, its hard to sum it all up in one letter!
We have had breakthroughs in ambitious projects, organized several massive and successful digital events and co-operated with our Nordic neighbours and our friends in Singapore Fintech Festival. We've continued the great work within our resource groups and established a new one for sustainability, contributed to establishing two new national centers of innovation, and much, much more.
THE STARTUP SCENE We experienced our first incubator exit with Tjommi branching out to Denmark later that same month. Later this year, we would also see Horde leaving our incubator because they simply grew too large (15 people), and needed a place of their own. While it is hard to see them go, this is of course the goal for every successful incubator and we hope to have many other cases like this in the future.
Luckily, some new startups started knocking on our door.Lifeplanner, Falck Advisory and Quantik joined our incubator in The Fintech Hub this year and are doing great, all things considered. We have no doubt that 2021 will see these startups really take off and skyrocket.
A lot of things needed a slightly new approach this year, such as the fundraising scene for startups. In June startup Horde set a new Norwegian record in crowdfunding, raising their goal of 12 million NOK in just a few days. Lifeplanner, another startup in the cluster, raised 2,1 million in crowdfunding the same month. Both startups used cluster memberDealflow which is awesome!
ENTER COVID-19 Covid-19 hit us and turned everything upside down from one day to the next. With everyone having more than enough to do with keeping their own businesses afloat, we redirected our resources to help out our members as much as we could. Members came together to offer a range of services and advice to help deal with the crisis. Together with Innovation Norway we spread information about the various opportunities for help and funding from the government, and aided some of our members with funding applications.
Even during complete or partial shutdown, the cross disciplinary ecosystem in the cluster has thrived in many and new ways. Several of our members have contributed to helping innovative startups succeed in spite of the challenges they face this year. Supporting our new Fintech Hub has been one of these contributions.
REBRANDING & OPENING OF THE FINTECH HUB In the midst of it all, we finally launched of our new brandcreated by cluster memberGuilty. The new brand was made to emit raw energy, power and contrasts, reflecting our members in the cluster.
The brand is visible all over our new floor in Media City Bergen, The Fintech Hub, where we have created a creative co-working space for our members in the cluster. We had initially planned to have the grand opening sometime during Spring this year, but had to pivot into an entirely digital opening ceremony in late Autumn.
EVENTS and more! With high hopes of hosting our mini-conferenceFrom PSD2 to Open Banking in Oslo, we saw this event be postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Fast-forward to June we repackaged the event and brought it online. This was a great success and we followed this up with a similar set up with the seminar Kampen om å eie kundeflaten i bedriftsmarkedet (the battle of the SME market) which had more than 300 live viewers. Both events were filmed in Clarion the Hub in Oslo with various cluster members on stage.
SOCIAL INITIATIVES In early February we launched the social networking and socializing event "Social Affairs", based on popular demand from members who wished to mingle outside business hours over a drink. We're happy we got to do this twice with some of you before everything eventually shut down.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, we introduced Members Spotlight – a format where members nominate each other to talk about interesting topics and current events. So far, we’ve talked with Lisbet Nærø (Fana Sparebank), Anna-Karin Østlie (Nets),Øyvind Thomassen (Sbanken), Tor Andreassen (NHH), Åse Marthinsen (DNB) and Henrik Lie Nielsen(Investor and serial entrepreneur). These articles offer an interesting and entertaining read, so if you haven't already, you should check it out!
This year we also launched a new initiative called Fintech Stories, where members who either are startups currently, or have been at some point, share advise, experience, do's and dont's with others. First up was Jan Åge Skaathun in Quantfolio and Carl-Erik M. Moberg in Ticketco, talking about what happens when you lose a substantial amount of your income due to unforeseen circumstances and how they managed to stay afloat. The talk was moderated by Karianne Melleby from Startuplab. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we plan on doing more of these next year, so stay tuned.
SUSTAINABILITY: time to step up Sustainability has been the name of the game in nearly every industry this year, and fintech is no exception.
In the spirit of sustainability we also arranged a Design Thinking workshop this Autumn with a focus on digital and sustainable business models.
Last but not least, several members came together to ideate around the establishment of our third cluster resource group, which focuses on - you guessed it - sustainability. The goal of the groupis to create an arena to further the focus on sustainable solutions and development within fintech. Group members will be able to share experiences in working with sustainability and build a network within the cluster. It is also within the mandate to deliver concrete cooperative initiatives (ideas for pilot projects, events and more) over time.
PROJECT UPDATE Anti-fraud platform: A lot has happened since we first started developing the concept of an effective anti-fraud platform with insurance companies Fremtind, Frende and Tryg in the Spring. We have moved from idea to a feasibility study and are now on the verge of building a working MVP. Trust and hard work by the companies participating, including Webstep and PwC, has been crucial to get to this stage. The project made some headlines which you can read here.
Automation of compliance reporting: Since the spring we have worked with The Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanstilsynet) and several banks in the cluster on automating compliance reporting. The new service in Altinn has now successfully gone through testing and we are developing a strategy that allows banks across the country to sign up.
Cross-industry collaborations May this year the Norwegian Cognitive Center launched, a consortium with several industry clusters, where NCE Finance Innovation is one of the owners. The consortium represents hundreds of companies, many of them global leaders in their fields, and aims to create a strong industry cross over initiative to build Norway as a powerful European hub for Applied AI, and to attract world leading expertise.
Another milestone for the cluster was the launch of the Digital Innovation for Growth Centre, a new research centre at NHH. NCE Finance Innovation together with partners such as Coop, Posten, Telenor, Virke and others will work to increase the effectiveness of their customer-oriented innovations, develop new business models, and adapt to a digital everyday life. ESTABLISHMENT OF ADVISORY BOARD During our annual meeting a new Board of Directors was elected and announced, as well as a brand new Advisory Board. Bjørg Marit Eknes (CIO of Sparebanken Vest) was elected Chair of the Board. To strengthen our national position as an NCE-cluster we created an Advisory Board with a good mix of corporates, academia and startups. You can find people like Berit Svendsen (Vipps), Espen Opedal (Tryg) and Øystein Thøgersen (NHH), Linn Hoel Ringvoll (Kameo) and others in this newly established initiative.
We've done much more than we could fit into this already very long letter, but if you made it this far, the only thing left to say is this:
Thank you for your invaluable contributions to the ecosystem and for helping us make 2020 one of our most different and productive years yet.
And of course - a very Merry Christmas from us in the NCE Finance Innovation Team! :)