I recently took a short trip to Iceland, and had the opportunity to meet Bala Kamallakharan, a man with an amazing story. He moved from India to the United States and began attending Louisiana State University. He met his wife in college and then took a job with Ernst and Young. Eventually after moving around a bit, they decided in 2008 to move to his wife’s home country in Iceland.
Like much of the world that year, Iceland had just suffered a tough financial crisis. Never the less, Bala was determined to invest in entrepreneurs and startups. He felt as if he had no idea what he was doing, but decided to give it everything he had. His hard work paid off and blew up in a very good way. Bala churned out success after success and eventually came up with the idea for Startup Iceland.
Bala got involved with business schools at local colleges, and convinced them to try a three week program modeled on Startup Week rather than the usual business plan competition. He also hosted an awesome startup conference that featured hundreds of attendees and was headlined by Brad Feld in 2012.
In addition to these kinds of educational and networking programs, Bala convinced several traditional, old school investors to diversify their investments and allocate more capital to the venture startup asset class. His company QuizUp has blown up and now employs 75 people. Others who have admired that success are scaling up their own companies and expanding their teams.
Back in November he wrote on Google+, “I am really happy to see Icelandic startups starting to push into the global marketplace with really compelling solutions, services and games.” To Bala, all these initiatives are paths to achieving the same goal— to create a successful startup ecosystem in Iceland.
With hard work and setting a great example Bala has helped ignite an entire country. It was so much fun to see the vibe in Iceland and feel the energy of the country. The entire country is just 320,000 people and they are accomplishing so much! I plan on coming back many times and can’t wait to learn more from inspiring Icelandic entrepreneurs like Bala!