From Norway to St. Louis: An Entrepreneur’s Journey

Geir Karlsen from AppsCo opens up about the valuable resources that have helped him lift his tech startup to international heights.

IT buff and go-getter Geir Karlsen is on a lifelong mission to expand his knowledge — of everything from business acumen to cultural differences.

“In the process of becoming an entrepreneur, I realized that I don’t know as much as I may have thought,” he laughs. “I don’t think you’re ever finished learning in your life. That’s why I’m constantly trying to improve, and constantly trying to create.”

And create he does. Karlsen is the founder of AppsCo, a cybersecurity startup that offers an application management system for employers and their employees.

Employees can access all the apps they need through one intuitive interface and one set of credentials. Meanwhile, Employers can track all the digital touchpoints an employee uses from hiring to termination, which increases security and lessens overall exposure to risk.

The software is designed with HR departments in mind, but the platform can integrate custom applications such as a third-party policy management provider.

Since receiving an Arch Grant in the fall of 2017, the Norway-based enterprise has embarked on its first foray into the American market. Karlsen spoke to EQ about some of the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Have you noticed any cultural differences between the Norwegian and U.S. business communities?

What’s funny is that I expected the U.S. to have transitioned to an entirely digital system of legal documentation, so I was surprised when I had to physically sign a contract.

Today, most of Scandinavia is paperless – everything is online. I set up my business just by filing forms online, and the information was approved within a matter of days.

Plus, almost all records belong to the public domain, so it’s easy to look up legal information about individuals or companies. Most of that information is less accessible in the United States.

Digital divide aside, I think the U.S. offers a much warmer and welcoming environment for entrepreneurship. In Norway, there’s almost a stigma around entrepreneurship, because the general consensus seems to say that there is no need for innovation.

Most of the country works in the oil industry or for the government, so there isn’t a huge incentive to create something new. But more and more people are looking into startups, especially since oil prices have dropped.

Attitudes are slowly changing, but the culture doesn’t compare to that of the U.S., where entrepreneurship is a way of life. I believe that’s the reason the U.S. is home to the most successful enterprises in the world — you invest in risk-taking and innovation.

That mindset is partially what drew us here.

Can you detail your experience in St. Louis so far and how your company is adapting to U.S. markets?

Our transition into St. Louis has been incredibly smooth.

Even though I’m often traveling back and forth between Norway and the U.S., the company is committed to establishing a strong presence in St. Louis. Arch Grants has made that possible.

Thanks to the support we’ve received, we’ve seen some initial success already. We have two new business partners — one in Missouri and one in Oregon — and we’ve recently made our first St. Louis hire, a promising CSO.

There is an incredible opportunity for us in St. Louis, and AppsCo is currently pitching to a number of big-name corporations who could benefit from our product.

How did you learn about Arch Grants and what was the application process like?

I work with another St. Louis-based startup accelerator called SixThirty CYBER who referred me to Arch Grants. I took their advice, applied, interviewed, pitched — and here we are.

The application process was extensive, but it really works. It’s rigorous for a reason: the Arch Grants portfolio includes some of the best startups in the world. I’m incredibly happy to have been selected.

How has Arch Grants equipped you with the tools to succeed in St. Louis?

Arch Grants has prepared us pretty comprehensively for our U.S. debut.

They’ve not only connected us with potential business partners and arranged meetings for us to pitch our product to potential clients, but have gone out of their way to ensure we understand U.S. contracts, taxes, and more. They even provided us with our own accountant.

Arch Grants is equipping us with all the tools we need to make a splash in U.S. markets. At the moment, we’re working with clients across industries, and we see a future in sectors like the medical and banking industries, where personal data is highly sensitive and has to be closely regulated.

Arch Grants is strategically positioned to help us find the resources and contacts that can help us make our dreams a reality.