Could Oslo Start Up Hub Work Here?

Posted on 23 November, 2013 by Cliff Goodwin

Rigid workplace laws and social pressures mean that most Norwegian business premises are empty by four in the afternoon. Hardly encouraging for energetic entrepreneurs or conducive to new enterprises struggling to get off the ground.

But now one the country’s first enterprise hubs is attempting to provide both mutual support and round-the-clock premises for a variety of fledgling companies. Sharing space in a former city centre warehouse are more than 200 would-be inventors and business people taking advantage of its cheap office and workshop space.

Mesh was co-founded by 28-year-old Anders Mjaset. In a city ranked as one of the most expensive in the world more than anything he and his team wanted their centre to be affordable and always available. The Mesh is open round-the-clock — allowing users to connect with potential clients across all time zones or concentrate on out-of-hours start-ups alongside their day jobs — at a monthly desk hire of just 1,190 krone-a-month (£113).

At five storeys high, and boasting a cafe, table tennis room and even the second-largest nightclub in the city, Mesh has attracted a wide diversity of professions. It’s not unusual for an architect, jewellery designer or even a magician to gather in the communal kitchen to chat over coffee. “Our goal,” says Mjaset, “is to make innovators feel at home.”

For an Englishman working in Oslo the attitude toward work was a culture shock. “People definitely work to live here rather than the other way around,” recalled Simon Ferrington.

Arriving in the Norwegian capital to work for an international company he was taken aback at how lax even senior managers were about their work hours. “Ahead of a big deadline I remember looking around the room at three on a Friday afternoon and realising I was the only one left in the office. Since I have seen a huge change, Norwegians are beginning to respect entrepreneurs who have broken the rules.”

Ferrington, like many of his fellow entrepreneurs, senses that Mesh is the tip of an iceberg. “We’ll see a lot more happening much faster in the start-up scene from now on,” he adds. “Norway is a modest nation, but now it’s becoming okay to network more and to tell people about your crazy ideas without being judged.”

Start-up communities are nothing new in Britain, but there is nothing quite like Mesh says Scott Heycock. Originally from Slough, Berkshire, he is attempting to establish his own software company. “It is hard to explain,” he says, “but there is a far bigger network of mutual support here than you would ever get back home.

“In the British start-up hubs I’ve visited there is always a sense of competition, you may be in a different industry or attempting to break into another sector than your neighbour, but the rivalry is palpable and very daunting.

“At Mesh you meet everyday over a coffee or meal and you have no qualms about sharing everything,” he says. “Ideas, suggestions, encouragement — and success. In England you’d be forever looking over your shoulder.”

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