Already seven countries, including Norway, are involved in the recently established Software Startup Research Network, which brings together people from different backgrounds to share their research on the topic and explore the synergies that can be found when collaborating in the network. The ambition is to grow rapidly across the globe.
The intention of the network is to find out what should be done in terms of research when looking at startups and set a research roadmap for the field. The research roadmap is currently being developed in the form a mindmap that can be found on the network’s website.
The network is an idea of Pekka Abrahamsson, Professor at the Department of Computer and Information Science of the Norwegian University of Sciences and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.
“The idea for the network came out of peer need. We have a lot of people who research on startups but we don’t have a venue to go to. We go to many conferences and may find some people and papers on startups but that’s about it. Meanwhile, there are a lot of teachers and professors out there researching on this very topic," said Abrahamsson.
The modus operandi of the network consists of a biweekly telco into which people are invited to join to explain their own research, ideas and concerns. People share their research results, get feedback and even do joint interviews. Two researchers from different locations can conduct the same interview via a telco and profit from the data. Furthermore, researchers ask questions that are not just of interest to them, but also to someone else in the network. This is done through a basic setup of questions prepared, for example, on user experience. The data and answers are then passed on to the relevant researchers.
First workshop held at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
In parallel to these biweekly telcos, the idea is to get together every six months with proper proceedings to publish initial results of research, which can be taken up into scientific journals. The first ever physical meeting and workshop of the network was held on 2 December 2015 in Bozen-Bolzano, Italy, as a warm-up to the PROFES 2015 conference. The workshop brought together some 20 people - senior, junior, PhD and post docs with both industrial and academic backgrounds.
The workshop saw the presentation of several research papers on software startups. The papers address, for example, pivoting in software startups, what startuppers can learn from artistic creation process and software startup eco-systems. The papers were published in the PROFES 2015 proceedings.
In order to contribute to the perfection of the software startup research roadmap, the participants conducted a Lego exercise mapping the elements that matter to software startups. Divided into four groups, they discussed the individual startup challenges (finance, market, team and product), startup ecosystems, the cross-cutting horizontal concerns to startups, and research methodologies. A Lego structure was then built to illustrate the perceived hierarchy and interconnectedness between the various aspects.
Building the software startup research roadmap
The workshop also heard a keynote from Mark Harris, a former head of Intel’s global innovation program and expert in technology entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial eco-system building. “Entrepreneurship bridges the gap between technology, opportunity and the value,” Harris noted. He believes that people with ideas should get education in entrepreneurship to know how to take them to the market because a lot of inventions are never commercialised.
The network’s biweekly telcos continue and everyone is invited to join. The next physical meeting will take place in Trondheim, Norway, on 13-15 June 2016 in parallel to the 22nd ICE / IEEE. The focus of this year’s International Technology Management Conference is also strongly on entrepreneurship and startups.
Therefore the second workshop will be an opportunity for the network to meet outside pure software context, processes and testing and a place to meet people involved in other types of technology startups. The workshop will naturally deal with the core aspects of the network, but as software startups are not only about software, and startups and entrepreneurship are multidisciplinary, people from other fields can provide helpful feedback on the network’s doings.
"We have a growing community of shared interest and we hope this group grows into 200 people,” said Pekka Abrahamsson. “In some time we will have an institute, from which we can get travel and other funds and it becomes a professional entity. But that is not the most important – the most important is to get the people together and make science help startuppers," he underlined.
"So, if anyone knows someone doing startup research – get them involved. It is easy to join – just let us know that you are in and you are in. Then people work together. You get as much out from the network as you invest in. That’s how it works," Abrahamsson said.
Photo: Rob Campbell