The following is a guest post from Startup Weekend Organizers Erike Holthe Eriksen & David Nikel.
Recently, designers, product managers, developers, entrepreneurs and veterans gathered in Oslo, Norway for another Startup Weekend. If the group sounds out of the ordinary than usual attendees; that’s because it is. Startup Weekend Norway hosted Europe’s first Veteran centered event on April 26-28, 2013. Lead Organizer, Erik Holthe Eriksen, has shared his story with the community:
Veterans, entrepreneurs, developers, designers and friends came together in Oslo for Europe’s first ever Startup Weekend Veterans event. Winning team Leading Change developed a recruitment agency model for veterans seeking to integrate into the corporate world after service. They see their role as a matchmaker between companies seeking skills in leadership, teamwork and problem solving, and the veterans are able to provide them. Second place was awarded to Happy World, a mobile app aimed at increasing people’s happiness in day-to-day life.
The first veterans event was held in San Diego last year and the concept has now spread with overwhelming success with positive feedback from communities. Retired Lt. General Tomas Colin Archer joined the event in Norway and was impressed with what he saw. He mentioned that “a veteran brings a different experience to entrepreneurship. You look at the world differently, you come up with new ideas, possibly ones you only came up with because you are a veteran.”
Oslo Organizers teamed up with the Norwegian Armed Forces, Veteran organisations, Team Rubicon, www.makingchange.no and Frisch to make the event possible. We see veterans of the armed forces as a great resource, and understand that the transition to civilian can be difficult for some. We want to help make this transition easier, by helping to release the unique skills, experience and potential into the world of entrepreneurship. We believe that some of these will start businesses and contribute to help make the startup ecosystem even better. We will create a venue where veterans can meet, get help to develop their ideas and connect with good partners for the further development towards industry. Our vision is that veterans should be accepted as the huge resource for the community and the business community, and that a good system for entrepreneurs from veteran communities can gather, network, acquire the necessary skills and tools to contribute to sustainable economic development and value.
Veterans can bring a multitude of skils to the entrepreneurial table. I think military veterans have an advantage ahead of many others. They are used to missions that are too important and risky without a solid plan, good leadership, commitment and fast execution. They are loyal and efficient team workers, drilled to take the initiative, take care of their men/women and solve their mission by getting things done. Startups struggle with constant ups and downs in business are circumstances that can easily be compared to the extreme stress on the battlefield. In many ways startups, need military veterans as well as many other groups of people in society by bringing in new dimensions and good skills. One of the fun things about these special events is that you get people involved who may have not gone to a normal Startup Weekend.
Winning team leader Kenneth Bjerkelund believes this is just the beginning of matching veterans with entrepreneurship. Bjerkelund told me, “since this is the first event for veterans in Europe I think this concept will definitely grow. There’s a lot of creative people amongst the veterans who really need this arena, to meet and get support for our ideas.”
The judges and mentors enjoyed the weekend just as much as the participants! Executive coach Ann Elin Schüssel encouraged people to get involved in future Startup Weekend events by suggesting, “don’t think too much, just go and have the experience. In our minds we have so many conflicting thoughts all the time. Your mind is a very dangerous neighbourhood, so leave that neighbourhood for the weekend and make the most of this opportunity!”