Great startup kick in the Nordics, but what's next?


Ralph Echemendia is a world-renowned cyber security expert, known as “The Ethical Hacker”. He’s coming to Startup Extreme 12-14th of June, and will talk about how Nordics can take a stand and become the next Silicon Valley or even Silicon Fjord. 

Ralph was 13 years old when he learned for the first time how radio frequencies worked. Soon enough he found his tribe - hackers.

Since then, he quit high school, didn't go to college and spent 25 years consulting with the US government and major corporations like Nasa, Intel, Google on how to better protect themselves from digital threats and security breaches. Right after, Ralph stumbled upon the entertainment industry when he was helping Eminem. The album of the famous artist was leaked long before the planned release. Soon after he began consulting on the TV-Show Mr.Robot. That led to his collaboration with Oliver Stone, and creating the script for the movie Snowden. Today he is the founder of Seguru, a startup that helps consumers to understand security threats.

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The culture difference between Silicon Valley and Europe

The fact that Ralph is coming to Startup Extreme is no coincidence. After extensive travelling and speaking in Europe he has concluded that soon enough Silicon Valley is out, the Nordics are in. 

"I have noticed that Europe, especially Northern Europe, is really on the startup kick right now. It’s good, because the idea of the Silicon Valley is very old. It is right for someone else to take over, redefine the terms of a good startup ecosystem and become the next Silicon Valley."

From his point of view, the Nordic values and socially responsible culture lays an important groundwork for a successful startup ecosystem. 

“It can be things like, vacation time. In a startup in Silicon Valley you never see their employees taking time off for vacation, whilst it is normal in the Nordics. It is good for the culture of the companies and new ventures.” 

He adds that this more socially responsible culture may be the reason why we don't see massive investments or evaluations. 

“People think more realistically here. It is a good thing.” 

As an example, Ralph mentions how amazed he was by meeting people in health tech in Norway and Denmark. 

“In Denmark, they had an entire building set up like a hospital with doctors and robots. The goal was to test how it was possible to build the actual hospital. This would never happen in the US. We would build it and tear it down spending more and more money. It’s mind-blowing to see that kind of culture.”

Lack of focus on cyber security

“We tend to think that technology is just a technology thing. But it is a human thing. It’s a tool for people. It is no wonder that some of the first firewall companies came out of Israel. They had to deal with physical walls and security every day. Your everyday physical environment makes you to think differently about the digital space.”
— The Ethical Hacker

Ralph preaches what he teaches. The headquarters for his company are in Estonia, or as he says himself “one of the most digitally advanced and ecosystem motivated country in Europe”. 

However, the culture in itself is not enough. We should see the advantages of our culture, and take a stand internationally. This is most visible for issues and innovation in the security sector. 

“I have seen all kinds of startups in Europe and the Nordics, however there are really not many services and startups for consumers when it comes to cyber security. There should be more.”

Redefine cyber security

How is it relevant to the Nordics? Take for example, the weather. 

“Because of the weather, you guys tend to be more resilient. You know that you can't stop the storms from coming, but you know how to operate in them. It is the same thing that can be applied to security. You can't stop the cyber threats, but you can learn how to build better products and systems.”

“That's just one of the reasons I think this region has a great potential. You should redefine and make rules when it comes to innovation in the digital security sector.”

Maria Amelie