Norway has a grand public sector, which is also the primary customer and main source of revenue to many private companies. It is said that money flows within this system – among the public and its private customers, making service and consulting industries thrive. Consequently, this leaves out the good-enough products of startups.
Also at the expense of startups, it is believed that the best brains are recruited within the same feedback loop. But, with roughly 800 employees from more than 50 countries, Internet browser company Opera Software is mentioned among the companies who work against this and manage to attract top talent through international recruiting.
With the commoditization of web technologies, and despite a heavy service-driven industry, consultancies and agencies now begin to offer web products. Although not a Norwegian thing per se, this will hopefully continue and create spin-offs paying into the startup ecosystem.
Even though it is one of the wealthiest countries around with a large public sector, Norway’s total private R&D expenditure in 2009 was about 1.8 percent of gross domestic product. In comparison, EU average was around 2 percent. So, there may be some truth in saying that we don’t invest in what we request.
With nearly 5 million inhabitants, you may also argue that Norway is not a sustainable market for consumer-facing startups. But, at 5,3M and 5,5M this does not seem to bother Finland or Denmark respectively.