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Changing the way allies support allies: ‘It’s all about speed’

With the need for international cooperation among allied nations never more urgent than today, last week’s Hacking4Allies Norwegian Showcase offered a look at some new ways allies are working together to make the world a safer place.

The event, on Friday, April 8, at the Consulate General of Norway’s residence in San Francisco, featured five Norwegian startups and scaleups, participants in BMNT’s Hacking4Allies program, sharing details about their dual-use technologies with Norwegian and American innovators, investors, and multi-national Defense leaders.

A key takeaway from the event was just how crucial our need is to be working together on the world stage.

“Russians are finding out that life without allies is really tough. And life without a way of working closely together is just as tough,” BMNT CEO Pete Newell said in the event’s opening remarks.

Hacking4Allies is a partnership among BMNT; its enterprise accelerator, H4XLabs; Innovation Norway; the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI); the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Norwegian-American Defense & Homeland Security Industry Council (NADIC).

Participants in last week’s showcase are established in Scandinavia, and seek international growth with emphasis on America’s marketplace. The innovations they shared were diverse in scope and contain the ability to solve a spectrum of problems experienced in both U.S. commercial and national security arenas.

Hacking4Allies participants are paired, concierge-style, with an advisor at BMNT Inc.'s enterprise accelerator, H4XLabs, and, over six months, learn how to raise funds, work with the Department of Defense, conduct customer discovery for adjacent markets, and more.

The determination to work together filters through every aspect of the Hacking4Allies program, from application to mentoring to pitching and beyond. Now in its second year, Hacking4Allies has brought promising innovators from Norway to the U.S. covering relevant fields such as big data, maritime surveillance, cybersecurity, military medtech, sustainable training ammunition, AI-based anti terrorism, cold climate electrical infrastructure, underwater robotics and autonomy for sustainable logistics.

“Everything we’re doing comes down to speed. It is about how fast we recognize that there's a new problem to solve; how fast we articulate that problem to a much larger group of people so that we can get diversity of thought in the room to work on that problem; how fast we can gather people together, and catalyze them into something that produces something, and then how fast we can deliver that at scale to solve the problem. It is nothing but speed. We tend to fail at every one of those things without a common language for how we do this,” Newell said.

Major General Odd-Harald Hagen, Norwegian Defense Attache to the United States, brought the day’s events and the Hacking4Allies’ mission into stark clarity against the backdrop of the violent war raging in Europe. He drew the room’s attention to Norway’s reality 88 years prior.

“The world is very different now than it was just a few weeks ago, with all the terrible things happening in Ukraine, and the Russian attack on this sovereign state. Today is the eighth of April. On the ninth of April 1940, Norway was attacked by the German war machine. We have a saying in Norway: ‘Never again, ninth of April.’ And I think there will be similar statements being made about what we see in Ukraine,” he said.

“This collaboration is bringing new technologies into the hands of our combined armed forces. You have to have the right people come together or you’re not going to achieve anything. I’m glad to be in this room today – together with the right people,” he furthered.

Norway’s Consul General, Gry Rabe Henriksen welcomed the cohort and expressed her support for the Hacking4Allies mission, saying, “Americans and Norwegians share much common ground: a drive for innovation and technology, technological development in our industries, a determination for being frontrunners in our fields of expertise, and a strong will to do the hard work required to achieve progress. In addition, we know the value of working together.”

Norway’s Hacking4Allies Companies at a glance

Of the eight companies in the current cohort, five presented their technologies before a mostly American investor audience.

Green Ammo, which aims to transform the way warfighters train through sustainable and efficient blanks for weapons training, expressed the challenges of where and how to navigate the U.S. Department of Defense’s vast landscape.

“We’ve learned that you need both a bottom-up and a top-down approach to actually make things move in the middle where all the program managers are doing the work. We're trying to facilitate that, because there's a strong interest in this type of equipment in the army. It's just a question of getting things moving over time,” CEO Rolf Inge Roth said.

Hoping to tackle extensive problems in America’s electrical grid, AVJU shared its robotic-driven capacity to monitor, restore, protect and repair power lines in real time while simultaneously providing updates to the companies that manage the grids locally. For AVJU, understanding the U.S. market enabled them to define their uniqueness in the field overall. While several American companies sensor and offer dynamic line rating, none actively clear ice, snow or fallen debris, and none can predict necessary maintenance, they explained.

Autonomous combat and consumer vehicle company Yeti Move shared its vision for a common platform that is flexible, vendor agnostic and can be integrated at different levels for enhanced performance within sensor technologies and situational awareness. Established and under commercial contract for autonomous snow-clearing solutions at two major airports in Scandinavia, Yeti Move seeks growth into untapped markets. With their Hacking4Allies experience showing them they are unique in their technological space, they see great potential in gathering several autonomy assets and helping them work together. They said they hope that their time within Hacking4Allies will help them reach new customers within the U.S. Army, with a platform that is ready to perform.

Mnemonic treats cybersecurity as a science, and takes a relentless approach to fact research, development and verification.

“Our capability reduces time for detection and mitigation of a cyber threat from the average 287 days to mere days and weeks, saving companies money while increasing security,” said business manager Kåre Magne Almåsbakk.

As threats from nefarious organizations and adversarial countries increase, Mnemonic hopes to offer U.S. companies and governments improved security while building a knowledge base among staff, thus reducing the consequences to everyday citizens.

With a mission to reduce illegal and corrupt ocean activity by 30 percent by 2030, VAKE offers a marine surveillance capability that serves as an eye-in-the-sky on vessels even when those vessels wish not to be detected or seen.

“Illegal actions in our oceans are a multi-billion dollar problem worldwide, yet with the flip of a switch, ships can turn trackers off and, in the words of our intelligence community customers, can essentially ‘go dark’,” explained CEO Thomas Stendahl Leira.

The company learned that unlike its competitors, it cross-correlates the input from each data source to check that they are giving the same stories, using all information available for the maritime specific use cases. VAKE’s hope now is that they can connect with relevant end users inside the US Coast Guard, Navy, intelligence agencies and DoD, and garner introductions to those with an interest in their technology.

Hacking4Allies Year 3, Call for Application now open

The Showcase ended with FFI’s Tore Helland announcing the call for companies to join the third Hacking4 Allies cohort, which will get under way in August. Companies can apply now here:

“We hope to get new companies that bring unique technologies out of Norway, and we also hope to get insight into the kind of problems the U.S. military and DoD are facing,” Helland said. “This early close interaction helps us select the right companies with the right technology moving in the right direction.”

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