Listen to the Future

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Kristian Aartun, a young Norwegian entrepreneur, is the driving force behind the annual international entrepreneur conference, NIEC.

This year’s honorary chairman, Ryan Blair, an American entrepreneur and  New York Time’s best-selling author, along with Aartun,  has gathered some of the most brilliant minds in technology, creativity and entrepreneurship from across the world at the Deloitte House in Oslo. Blair is the CEO and co-founder of Visalus and was named entrepreneur of the year 2012 by Ernst & Young. He will be speaking at NIEC next year. This year’s conference was named Listen to the Future.

Mingling at the NIEC Conference 2014
Mingling at the NIEC Conference 2014

This year’s NIEC (Norwegian International Entrepreneur Conference) was held at the new headquarters of Deloitte’s auditing and consulting firm located in the architecturally acclaimed barcode district in Oslo.

Kristian Aartun tells us that after meetings with the Norwegian Department of Education and Virke, the Enterprise Federation of Norway, he was inspired to establish an international annual entrepreneur conference in Oslo. When he was looking for his first speakers, he came across Ryan Blair (see above) and invited him to give a lecture at The Norwegian Polytechnic Society.

Along the way he became the Norwegian manager of J. Reuben Silverbird, who recently had published his book “Two Sides of Life”. He invited Silverbird to give a lecture in his home town Askim.

“Silverbird is a peace ambassador with strong bonds to the UN,” said Aartun at that time. “In his peace work across the world he has met Dalai Lama, Yassir Arafat, Mother Theresa and Bill Clinton. He has given lectures on motivation for big enterprises and at universities like Columbia and Stanford.” Aartun tells us that a copy of Silverbird’s book was sent to the newly elected president of USA, Obama, and received a warm thank you letter.

The idea of an international conference started to grow in Kristian’s head. His father told him about an interesting professor in innovation in Holland. Kristian, who now lives in Amsterdam, met by coincidence this professor when walking in the streets in Amsterdam, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Kristian meets interesting people from all over the world and is known for his serious intentions and extraordinary network building capacities. He has recently been asked by Amir Sheik to invite Queen Ranja of Jordan to give a speech next year.

Kristian emphasizes that his target group is people in the age group 17 to 88. “It’s never too late to be inspired by good role models,” he says.

Liam Bates at the NIEC 2014
Liam Bates at the NIEC 2014

120 participants were enthusiastic listeners at this year’s event. It was more like a gathering of a large family. We spoke to one of the key note speakers, Liam Bates, a Swiss born American television host and adventurer, now living in Bejing, China. His first appearance on Chinese television was during the 2010 Chinese Bridge language contest, a world-wide competition for students of Chinese, in which he received first prize and the eloquence prize. The show aired in front of a TV audience of almost 300 million.

“I received an e-mail from a guy called Kristian who told me his father had seen me on television,”  he tells us. “He invited me to this conference. I had never heard of neither Kristian nor the conference before, so I googled and thought I might consider it. I had never been to Norway before, so I thought it might be worth going, and here I am.”

Mupin Xie from the Netherlands (left)
Mupin Xie from the Netherlands (left)

Liam speaks fluent Chinese.  One of the participants, a Chinese student of law at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, told us that Liam speaks better Chinese than he does, since he hasn’t been home for some time, and therefore is not as familiar with some of the newer expressions.

Today Liam is working on air purification systems in China,  noting that the pollution is so heavy that he can almost not see the building across the street where he lives. “It is healthier inside than outside,” he says, and that his girlfriend starts coughing whenever she visits.

“But don’t ignore China,” he summarizes. “You cannot afford to.”

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Another keynote speaker was the international award winning entrepreneur, speaker and author Rafael Gordon.

Rafael calls himself a life strategist, leadership specialist, and innovator of inspiration. He gave a touching speech about his poor childhood,  how he had to struggle to survive mentally, and how he gradually invented a means to go from one landmark to another. He is a recipient of the Global Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Social Entrepreneurship and has provided key insights into the environmental and physical circumstances that impact an individual’s personal and business performance.

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Lisa Lipkin, auditor, editor and CEO of Story Strategies, was the first speaker with interesting views on story telling. She was also the moderator of the this brilliantly conducted conference.

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After the conference there was a reception and dinner in the bar and restaurant house Mona Lisa in downtown Oslo (images below).

Text and photos: Tor Kjolberg
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