DNB has opened its doors to entrepreneurs through a freshly minted alliance with StartupLab, an accelerator dedicated to Norwegian tech companies.

Moving forward, the Nordic lender has pledged to take four or five startups under its wing during the annual programme, which takes three months to complete.

The objective is to fast-track growth while establishing partnerships that facilitate commercial opportunities for both the participants and patrons like DNB.

At the same time DNB NXT, the bank’s matchmaking platform for Norwegian startups, is organising forums where capital, customers and new ideas intersect.

While established companies appreciate the opportunity to nurture a culture of innovation, smaller enterprises have much to learn about scaling and corporate business culture.

At this year’s ONS oil and gas exhibition in Stavanger, DNB NXT hosted a gathering where industry insiders met with the founders of innovative startups.

“If I was a startup, given the choice between a million NOK, or a first customer, I would without a doubt choose the latter,” said DNB Director Terje Fanebust prior to presenting ten startups to an audience of industry heavyweights.

The participants were vetted by a panel prior to the pitch, which was organised in collaboration with ABB and StartupLab.

The eye of the needle

This autumn, DNB NXT is hosting pitches throughout Norway. The winners of these contests will advance to a semi-final during Oslo Innovation Week. The final will follow at DNB’s Oslo headquarters.


  • State budgets face a NOK 5bn ($612 million) gap between revenue and expenses each year
  • This gap represents more than 27,400 jobs annually
  • If the public and private sectors continue to grow at current rates, 18,000 new jobs will still be needed each year
  • Of the 60,000 new companies established annually, half don’t survive their first year

“It’s vital to have contact between capital-empowered environments and founders,” Fanebust continued. “But having meeting places for small and large companies is just as important, and will only increase in importance going forward.”

At the ONS pitch, winners included Tor Christian Angeltveit from Scanreach, which created a system that tracks crews in real time. The aim is to save lives in the event of an accident on board a ship or offshore platform. Scanreach’s customer base already includes roughly 100,000 vessels and 550 rigs.

Elsewhere, in Fornebu, Equinor is poised to welcome entrepreneurs picked to participate in an accelerator programme organised in cooperation with Techstars, Kongsberg and McKinsey. The focus is on startups with ties to the energy sector.

Equinor and Jens Festervoll, pictured at the DNB NXT pitch held during ONS, are hosting ten startups this fall. Photo: Christian Faarlund, DNB

“For our part, the cooperation with Techstars, Kongsberg and McKinsey on Techstars Energy Accelerator is like going to the gym. We train ‘working with the start-up’s muscle’ in a new way, a muscle that will be used more frequently in the future,” explains Jens Festervoll of Equinor, who collaborates closely with Audun Abelsnes, one of the other architects of the accelerator.

Techstars Energy has 45 accelerators across the globe. Its investment affiliate, Techstars Venture, boasts NOK 2.5bn under management.

The Techstars motto is #givefirst . The accelerator is dedicated to giving, sharing and contributing— no strings attached.

Market insight

“You can’t necessarily count on a financial gain when you involve yourself with a startup company, but it’s even worse for a technology company to not keep up to speed with what’s happening in the market,” says Sverre Oliver Halvorsrød, a representative for ABB Technology Ventures in Norway.

ABB has worked closely with startups on an international scale for many years. In Norway the company’s partnership with StartupLab has served as a model for subsequent partners like DNB to follow.

ABB has many years of experience cooperating with startups all over the world. Sverre Oliver Halvorsrød oversees its initiative in Norway. Photo: Christian Faarlund, DNB

“These small companies are contributing to change at ABB in a big way, and ABB is playing its part in changing the world. Fortune Magazine recently ranked us 8 th for global companies that are participating in changing the world. The startup companies we work with are a part of this,” says Halvorsrød.


  • 4-5 fintech startups chosen after an extensive screening process
  • Each startup is assigned a DNB mentor and “sponsor” from DNB’s leadership team
  • Support from IT, compliance, media and marketing experts provided as needed
  • StartupLab manages the accelerator, invests and provides office space and mentors
  • Program ends with a demo day aimed at investors, prospective clients and other startups
  • The program will resume in March 2019

The startups under ABB’s wing will benefit considerably from extensive research and development resources dispersed across the globe. Some startups are anxious for investment while others are more interested in office space and expertise—without investment.

“We can go in as mentors or be early-phase customers as purchasers of their services. We can also involve ABB’s own customers, and take startups with us into purely commercial projects,” Halvorsrød says. “It’s like placing a racehorse in Car No. 3, Seat 8a on a slow train. Strictly speaking, timing is not an exact science and it’s something we’re working to improve.”

Avoiding conflicts

Large, established companies can bulldoze freshly minted startups, intentionally or unintentionally. When they do collaborate, its not uncommon for conflicts to arise. Intellectual property and strategy are areas where the two sides often lock horns.

This is where accelerators like StartupLab or Techstars come in. They ensure that there’s mutual benefit for both sides.

“Our intention is that they grow and develop with our help. When we invest in companies, it is absolutely vital to stress that we are not making investments because we intend to control them, test them for potential acquisition at a later date, or because we want exclusivity,” Halvorsrød concludes. “We want them to grow so that we all can learn along the way.”

The finalists from the pitch at ONS are poised to present at the "Havet" ocean conference in Oslo on 16 October. Click HERE, or on the button at the bottom of this article, for more information.

This article is part of a series entitled "The Ocean". These stories were produced by DNX Studio, an affiliate of TradeWinds and its publisher, NHST Global Publications, on behalf of advertisers. For more information about sponsored content on tradewindsnew.com CONTACT US.