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What’s Cricket and Start-ups doing in Iceland?

Bala Kamallakharan (Pilani, ’91) is the founder of Start-up Iceland, founder and Managing Director at Iceland Venture Studio. He shares his life in Iceland, 2008 financial crisis starting all over again.  

Iceland: How it became my home?

My wife is Icelandic, and because we wanted to be close to at least one family, I along with my family, decided to shift there. While on a family vacation to Greece, I happened to cross paths with the CEO of an Icelandic bank. We hit it off, and I took the opportunity and we moved to Iceland in 2006.

Initially, it was an exciting and challenging journey; I met many people and got to know the business environment. I liked working with the smartest and the hardest working people. I travelled the world for the bank, working on some of the most important and strategic projects. I moved to Mumbai after getting appointed as the Head of India operations for the bank. Then 2008 happened and the entire banking system in Iceland collapsed due to the financial crisis that started with the lapse of the Lehman Brothers. The most challenging part started when I moved back to Iceland, was fired from my job, and could not get another job. I somehow managed to create a new job for myself by investing in start-ups and building the startup community in Iceland.

The challenges and opportunities I was presented with in Iceland have been unprecedented. I took advantage of them and built my own future and destiny.

Start-up Iceland

In 2011, I created the Start-up Iceland to help the founders build world-class companies. For this, I connected with Brad Feld, Founder and Managing Director of Foundry Group, a venture capital company in the US. He was in the process of releasing his book titled “Start-up Communities: How to build one in your city”, I reached out to him to explain the Start-up start-up community that I was building in Iceland. The conversation led us to host our first Start-upstart-up Iceland Conference in 2012. The President of Iceland opened the event and people from the government, investors and large corporations participated in the event. 

Today, Iceland is a vibrant place for start-ups and entrepreneurs with more support and capital being invested. I founded a Venture Capital company called “Iceland Venture Studio and Founders Ventures”. The total deployable capital in start-ups in Iceland stands close to $500m, 10 times what it was in 2010 when I started talking about start-ups and technology. 

Indian Start-up Ecosystem & BITSians

The Indian Start-up ecosystem is concentrated in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai. India has a number of ecosystems, which is a huge advantage. 

The biggest challenge that exists in BITS is to think big and outside the scope of what BITSians see on campus. BITSians should connect with the ecosystem leaders, founders, and mentors to learn about the big challenges that need to be resolved. BITSians should also back themselves and take chances to solve the hard problems of the future. 

Cricket in Iceland

Icelandic Cricket is in its very early stage. We have 5 clubs and over 120 players in Iceland who participate in 5 tournaments. Icelandic Cricket is working towards an associate membership status with International Cricket Council. Our goal is to launch women and youth cricket in Iceland and build support so that Iceland can play international tournaments. 

In 2023, Iceland will play its first country-level tournament, where we were invited to the Baltic Cup to be played in Estonia. 

Ultimate Life Plan

My ultimate plan for life is to do less and devote most of my time to working on things that are not solved by markets, start-ups, or capitalism.