What happens when you bring together 200 of the smartest European and US startup people and give them the opportunity to mingle in a breathtaking surrounding in the middle of the Norwegian fjords? And you even add 13 overly crazy and enthusiastic startup facilitators aka group leaders for the sports activities? You get a very special atmosphere and experience, merely a startup conference, more like a startup happening – that was Startup Extreme 2015! I’m very grateful that I had the chance to support the team around Startup Norway, pre- and during this event. I’m still overwhelmed by this inspiring experience with a bunch of the coolest people I can imagine to spend my time with. Startup Extreme put the Norwegian startup scene on the international map, and rightfully so!
I landed in Bergen on the evening of June 16 with a breathtaking view on the fjords. We headed to our hotel in Bergen to do a last briefing with the organizers before HighTechNorway on June 17, the pre-event of Startup Extreme. Everyone was already super excited and couldn’t wait for the next day. I also had the opportunity to catch up with some of my good old friends of the Startup Weekend familia who would be leading the sports activities at Startup Extreme. Every time I get the chance to spend time with these amazing people, I am more than happy to be part of this wonderful global network!
On June 17, HighTechNorway took place in the fancy building of Norwegian bank DNB, the main sponsor for the two events. A lot of Norwegian and international high-level speakers were present for the corporate venture and growth scaling tracks, e.g. Sean Percival of 500Startups, Marc Lamik of Zalando, Alexander Woxen of StartupLab and Courtney Boyd Myers of Audience.io, but also startup representatives of Nordic startups Kahoot!, Tictail, nLink (drilling robots, anyone?) and Unacast.
After a full day of input sessions, we headed to the Startup Extreme venue in the mountains of Voss. Having one of the busses to ourselves with eight people, we had a great time sharing our special startup stories, some secrets and why we ended up helping out at a Norwegian startup event. Good laughs with a bunch of great people!
Overall, it is difficult to describe Startup Extreme and the whole experience – in the middle of the magnificient Norwegian fjords, this first ever edition was a mix of startup input session, festival and mini-vacation. After the opening party on Wednesday evening, the next day was filled with extreme sport activities, including paragliding, rapelling, sky-diving, fjord and river kayaking, glacier skiing and a beer tour (absolutely extreme, this latter one!). During the whole day, participants had the opportunity had to get to know each other on a completely different level than at a normal conference. We closed the day by celebrating and eating a traditional Norwegian dish, smalahove aka sheep head (yes, you got that right – as a vegetarian, I passed on it without hesitation though). The night ended with some dancing and a few drinks of Akvavit.
On Friday, we heard some super interesting extreme stories from experienced entrepreneurs before we closed the event and went on a six hours train ride from Voss to Oslo, one of the most beautiful routes in the world! Not to mention the organisers’ after party in Oslo on Saturday night ;)
I don’t know how to express what these days at Startup Extreme mean to me – an incredible experience with extreme good people in an extreme inspiring atmosphere! I am overly happy and grateful that I was part of this event! An adequate summary by Robin Wauters of tech.eu on Startup Extreme: „It’s hard to capture in words how amazing this inaugural event was. Even calling it an event seems out of place; ‘experience’ hits much closer to home.“
The valuable discussions and relationships formed during Startup Extreme will stay with me forever. Big thanks to the whole organising team for pulling off this one of a kind event! Exactly what I needed after a very busy first half of 2015. I am already looking forward to 2016’s Startup Extreme edition!