These are the local spaces featured in the Startup Guide Reykjavik. Our selection process is thorough, first sorting through the hundreds of nominations before a local advisory board helps us curate the final list with the startups to be featured. Here is their elevator pitch for you:
Frumbjörg is a one-of-a-kind innovation center and startup incubator for mobilityimpaired entrepreneurs working on next-generation assistive and welfare-based technologies. It was founded by Brandur Karlsson in cooperation with Sjálfsbjörg, the Icelandic Association of Disabled People. Brandur, who was in a process of reinvention after being paralyzed from the neck down, teamed up with Halldor Axelsson from Fablab, and together they formed a clear idea of what kind of startup incubator was needed to allow fellow disabled entrepreneurs to develop, test and manufacture in-house. Brandur points out that by increasing participation in innovative solutions, Frumbjörg also has a positive effect on the economy. “Mobility impaired people have a lot to offer in innovation,” he says, “and we wanted to provide a place that gives these people a chance to improve their standard of living.” They have done just that.
Hönnunarmi›stö› Íslands (the Icelandic Design Centre) is a non-profit organization and promotional office for Icelandic design and architecture, owned and run by nine associations of designers and architects. It pushes designers and design businesses to do better and, in turn, enhances their job possibilities. Managing director Halla Helgadóttir says, “We promote Icelandic design of all forms and strengthen its potential as a vital and profitable part of Iceland’s economy.” Hönnunarmi›stö› Íslands was established – perhaps inconveniently – just months before the economic collapse of 2008, but Halla and colleagues were somewhat unfazed by those troubled times. As she explains, “There is great innovative energy that comes with economic crashes, so the crash worked with us and we worked with it. It really drew out new focuses and the competencies of the design and creative industries. Crisis is good for innovative thinking.” She feels that this philosophy is a strong part of the Icelandic DNA.
Incubator for Creative Industries is part of a country-wide cluster of incubators run by Innovation Center Iceland. It was established in 2014 in collaboration with the City of Reykjavík and the Ministry of Industries and Innovation as part of an initiative to inject new life into the run-down Hlemmur Square, and it has worked.
Innovation House Iceland was founded in 2008 by Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Vivaldi Technologies and cofounder of the Opera browser. After Iceland got slammed by the financial crisis, Jon wanted to help bring back economic growth to the country, so he set about finding premises for a startup incubator. He was happy to discover that the top-floor offices of a shopping center in his childhood neighborhood of Eidistorg was up for sale: a perfect location for Innovation House Iceland.
MINØR Coworking was founded in 2015 by way of a happy accident. A group of friends looking for their own art spaces eventually found a large industrial building that had once been a fish-net repairing factory. Even the smell of fish guts wasn’t enough to deter them: they saw only a large, beautiful space with huge potential beyond their own needs. The cofounding team – Íris Ann Sigur›ardóttir, Sigga Maija Sigurjónsdóttir Visage and Andre Visage – quickly moved in, and the space has since blossomed into a popular place for creative minds to develop ideas.
The origins of Musteri› (the Temple) go back to 2014 when Elvar Örn ﬁormar and his company Reon were in search of new premises. During a separate business meeting with the large accounting firm KPMG, it was jokingly implied that KPMG had a whole floor of their office building available. Reon took the suggestion seriously, and quickly secured the space and moved in. A whole floor was a bit big for what Reon needed, but, as Elvar explains, “The night after the agreement was made, I was thinking about the possibility of the space for us but also about making it available to others to create a startup environment.” KPMG, who were already helping startups with accounting and consultancy, warmly welcomed the idea.
The fishing industry has always held high prominence in Iceland, so entrepreneur Dr. Thor Sigfusson thought it was high time to have a startup working space dedicated to the marine industry. He founded the Ocean Cluster House in 2012 as part of Iceland Ocean Cluster and set forth the mission to get marine-oriented startups to work in close proximity to each other. He wanted to drive growth and innovation in the marine industry by boosting networks between people, businesses and entrepreneurs.
Orange Project, part of the Regus Iceland group, was started in 2014 when Icelandic entrepreneur Tómas Ragnarz looked at the ever-expanding startup scene in Iceland and saw the growing need for ready-to-use, flexible offices. The Orange Project started on just one floor at Ármúli 6 but now incorporates the whole building as well as Ármúli 4 next door, and three more project centers have since opened up across Iceland. The buildings at Ármúli are adjoined by a ground-floor reception area that acts as the headquarters for the other centers. “We’re like an office hotel without beds,” Tómas says. “We have a range of offices in various sizes available for either very short-term stays or for much longer periods.”
Reykjavík’s newest space, Quarter, is part of an office building that once belonged to Iceland’s biggest newspaper, Morgunbla›i›. When a whole floor became available for rent, cofounders Erla Símonardóttir and Jói Sigur›sson decided to turn it into a working space. As they both come from the SaaS and financial sectors, they made it their focus to invite other SaaS companies as tenants. “There are many SaaS companies in Iceland,” Erla says, “but they don’t really talk to each other and learn from each other so we wanted to create a community.”