How the creative industries can help us in times of crisis

— Interview by Benedicte Tandsæther-Andersen, Startup Norway

Anniken Fjelberg from 657 Oslo, onstage during the Fundraising For Startups program for creative industries, which was held in cooperation with Angel Challenge and Innovation Norway. Photo: Startup Norway / Benedicte Tandsæther-Andersen

- We want to communicate the possibilities that are embedded in these sectors and within the creativity of people establishing these businesses — and we also want to show the trend of investment cases already available, says Anniken Fjelberg from 657 Oslo.

Interview by Startup Norway / Benedicte Tandsæther-Andersen. Originally published at on May 4, 2020.

As the Coronavirus continues to exert its grip on our societies and relations (how long has it been since you last saw the people you talk to every day?), it becomes more and more apparent that the creative industries play an important role in our lives.

Not all of us know exactly what the creative industries are, but we are still likely to make use of creative innovation and technology several times a week. It is the creativity that shines within for example music, augmented reality filters in Snapchat, a well-told Netflix series, or a computer game that might challenge you in new and fun ways. In total, there are 11 sectors within the creative industries; architecture, gaming, design, film, literature, music, advertising, print media, TV and radio, visual arts and performing arts.

The creative industries are one of the world’s most rapidly growing economic sectors. The sector provides 29.5 million jobs globally, and with a global revenue of 2,250 billion $US, the CCI exceed Telecom services revenues, and surpass India’s GDP (EY 2015).

No matter what, creativity is likely to mean a lot to you at this point — perhaps more than you imagined before the Coronavirus became apparent in everyone’s lives. As the Co-founder and partner of 657 Oslo, Norway’s largest coworking space for the creative industries, Anniken Fjelberg knows how much these 11 diverse industries impact our lives, and how these industries might offer us consolidation during stressful times.

In times of crisis and stress, humans tend to turn to entertainment and culture for adding quality to our lives. You can see this reflected in investment trends in our global society, says Fjelberg.

At the same time, many of the creative industry sectors are under immense pressure because of the Coronavirus: In a time when people are worried they might not have a job the next month, they are most likely also reluctant to spend money on products and innovation.

Most investment trends have been changed because of Covid-19, but at this point we can definitely say that the creative industries have had a formidable growth because it already was one of the fastest growing industries in the world before the pandemic. These past seven weeks has propelled our consumption of online entertainment and communication beyond imagination. As out-of home entertainment options are canceled, Verizon informs that gaming data usage on the company’s networks has increased by 75 percent in the U.S.

Not everyone will respond to the Coronavirus crisis in the same way — the nuances of this situation can make it challenging to fully grasp the ripple effects. Some are struggling and might not even want to talk to their family and friends — failure at keeping a job and paying bills is not necessarily made easier by the knowledge that many are affected this way. Others are simply bored at home — whether or not they are doing home office, they are likely to seek out something they can occupy their time with.

People are spending their quarantine and isolation time on digital platforms, streaming music, as well as watching movies and series. By helping people connect with stories they love, platforms like Netflix is able to provide comfort and escape as well as a sense of community during this pandemic. Other and less digital parts of the industries, however, are suffering. When it comes to production of TV content, almost all filming has now been stopped globally. This has been devastating for millions of workers in the TV and film industry who are often paid hourly wages and work project-to-project.

In their shareholder letter this quarter, Netflix states that “We expect viewing to decline and membership growth to decelerate as home confinement ends, which we hope is soon.” In total, Netflix have committed to spend $150 million supporting the industry through this crisis.

The awareness of not celebrating during this crisis is largely about ethics, but also the awareness that markets are fragile — we cannot know the full extent of how the downturn will affect businesses, people, and entire societies. Value chains of entire industries might go down the drain along with this virus if the home confinements lasts for a long time. It will take months, if not years, to recover. As for whether or not now is a good time to start a business, Fjelberg says good ideas always are in demand.

Regardless of whether or not a society is going through a pandemic, there will always be risk connected to starting a company. But if you have found a problem you would like to solve then I think you can get a good start during this time period as well, since a crisis also can offer a lot of opportunity. When value chains are forced to disrupt there will be room for digital newcomers like for instance, who developed a game-changing AI technology providing insights and collaborative workflows between architects and engineers.

Romly (Peder Brand) and Ubranded (Ingrid Emma Klæboe Jacobsen & Mari Nickoline Floden) were two of the creative startups that participated in the Fundraising For Startups program at 657 Oslo during the spring of 2020. Photo: Startup Norway / Benedicte Tandsæther-Andersen

We are living in a time when companies need to be agile and adapt to changes in their environments. People are consuming products and services faster and in new ways, and many startups are solving the challenges for established companies. Some startups are also pivoting to survive the crisis. In most cases we see an accelerated digitalization process to buy pass limitations of physical production or traditional distribution.

Digitalization is the key to scaling businesses around the globe, and the creative industries are no exception. Norwegian startups like Vev,, Graphiq and timetoRIOT are platforms for content, creativity and recruitment. Vev is disrupting the way media houses produce content through bridging design and code using reusable building blocks, while is disrupting the influencer marketing industry by connecting micro influencers directly with brands. Graphiq and timetoRIOT both connect creative work with freelancers, and timetoRIOT now also offers their platform as a PAAS (platform as a service) to other industries.

However, Fjelberg says it is important to be aware of how the Coronavirus probably will affect all the 11 creative industry sectors in different ways: How will the virus impact other parts of the creative industries such as fashion, advertising, publishing and architecture, compared to music and film? It is difficult — if not impossible — to predict. Then again, the potential has not been diminished by the situation — our societies still depend on both creative industries and creative minds. The survivors will be the ones who are adapting the fastest.

In Norway, it is important to have more investors see the potential of the creative industries. We want to communicate the possibilities that are embedded in these sectors and within the creativity of people creating these businesses — and we also want to show the trend of investment cases already available. In this space, competitions like 657 Oslo’s Creative Tech Hunt and Angel Challenge’s initiatives are great contributors.

At the same time, the creative industries (as a phenomenon) are still quite new to many Norwegians, even though we often use the products weekly — if not daily. This also explains why many companies have struggled to get investments for their creative innovation in Norway. Fjelberg says Sweden traditionally has come further on the journey of bringing their creative industries’ startups forward and scaling them: For decades, they have provided the world with innovative products within industries such as fashion and music. Even so, the Norwegian mentality on creative industries is about to change — after all, we have to keep up with the market abroad as well.

I think the creative industries will continue having a cumulative growth after the pandemic has slowed down, and our societies have opened again. Humans will always have a need for communication, creativity, art and aesthetics. Within the creative industries we see many different ways of exchanging services or social interactions, and much of the innovation is about spending time together and sharing an experience. And the cultural industries is not lagging behind either; During Covid-19, many of the most prestigious museums in the world organized virtual tours of their galleries, the Munch museum in Oslo being no exception. Experience, expression and creation will always remain an intrinsic part of humanity’s list of priorities, says Fjelberg.

Originally published at on May 4, 2020.



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Anniken Fjelberg

Anniken Fjelberg

Experienced leader, entrepreneur and advisor. Passionate about collaboration for innovation, and how we build identity and trust. Early stage (angel) investor.