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A rendering of the new Nordic Museum in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. (Design by Mithun; image by MIR.)

Seattle’s new Nordic Museum is almost ready for its May 5 grand opening, but before the public gets its first look, the museum will host … a tech conference?

Birger Steen

Yes, that’s right. Plans for the Nordic Innovation Conference, set for this Thursday, May 3, might come as a surprise to anyone who visited the institution in its previous incarnation as the Nordic Heritage Museum. The tech conference is part of a broader effort to make a statement about the museum’s new era and the ongoing impact of Nordic countries on the modern world.

“Nordic culture is not a museum piece. It is very much alive,” said Birger Steen, the former CEO of Parallels and Odin and a Nordic Museum trustee. “It is alive in a way that creates a ton of not only nice music and food and all those things but also very vibrant and sustainable and potentially world-leading businesses. And, in fact, disproportionately so.”

In addition to Steen, speakers will include Vahe Torossian, corporate vice president for Microsoft in Western Europe; Kristin Skogen Lund, CEO of the Confederation of Norwegian Employers; and Fredrik Cassel of Creandum, who was an early investor in Sweden’s Spotify, the popular music service that recently became a public company. I’ll be moderating a panel at the event on “The Nordic Startup Explosion” with Cassel, Gro Eirin Dyrnes of the Nordic Innovation House, John Markus Lervik of Cognite AS and Anne Lidgard of Vinnova.

Fredrik Cassel

“Of course we pride ourselves that the Nordics were a cradle to Spotify, but we think there’s plenty more to come,” Cassel said via phone last week. “If you were to look at what Scandinavian or Nordic culture looks like today, you would see a great ingredient of technology entrepreneurship, and this is something that has really changed in an explosive way.”

As noted by conference organizers, other well-known tech companies from Nordic countries include iZettle, MySQL, Supercell, FAST Search & Transfer, Unity Technologies, MariaDB, Klarna, Zendesk, King, Mojang, and Skype. The event will include ambassadors from several Nordic countries, and part of the goal is to build new connections between the U.S. and the startup community in Nordic countries.

The museum’s new location is 2655 NW Market Street in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, the city’s traditional Scandinavian enclave. Tickets for this week’s Nordic Innovation Conference are available for purchase here, and information about this weekend’s grand opening is available here.

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