Kjartan Slette

Co-Founder & COO, Unacast

Kjartan Slette

Co-Founder & COO, Unacast

I want to fundamentally change global industries. First was music streaming with TIDAL. Now, it’s data with Unacast.

I fell backward into tech. After over a decade in the music industry working with physical products, we were, as one of the first industries, violently disrupted by technology - in our case by Napster and digital file sharing. Our battle for survival was fought in the public domain and how badly we initially lost was visible for all to see.

We did eventually learn, and customer by customer fought our way back to relevancy through subscription-based streaming products. I was so fortunate to be part of the founding team at TIDAL and do my part there as part of the management team and head label negotiator - structuring new business models in an old industry. As Jay Z acquired the company, my colleague Thomas Walle and I moved on to something bigger: Data.

Why data? The world is becoming increasingly dependent on data to power everything from machine learning and AI to marketing, and we saw a need to fix access to and accuracy from location data. So, we founded Unacast and built the Real World Graph®.

The rest is not yet history, and as I write that history, I hope you will read, reflect and comment.

See my
articles and press mentions

2020 was a freakin' hard year

This is an excerpt from my speech at this year's Unacast digital Holiday party: "2020 was a freakin' hard year. For us, yes very much so, but still, for us on this digital Holiday party, we are all in all relatively lucky"

Unacast launches new Platform as a Service product called Turbine - and signs Northern European telco Telia as the first customer

We have been waiting for this for almost a full year, and are today really proud and excited to announce that we are adding a powerful PaaS (Platform as a Service) feature to our existing DaaS product line. Meet Turbine!

Labor Day 2.0

Robots and AI will do great things for humanity, but robots and AI will never go out into the streets and demonstrate for workers' rights. That will always be on us, humans. 1st of May and Labor day has never been more important than right now.

How to Succeed in Partnerships with Corporates (and Pac-Man)

How can startups and corporations work together effectively? Well, it starts with understanding Pac-Man.

Codified Cargo

I wrote this thing on a plane the other day. It's the start of a story. Would you be keen to read more of it?

We’ve tried something new: Veggie Wednesdays

We decided to do our little part to reduce meat consumption by exchanging one meal per week at work with vegetarian food: Veggie Wednesday. We have just started and we have much more to learn, but we are doing something - and so should you

2019 – the ideological revolution

I used to think the next major revolution would be ushered in by AI and robotics or perhaps by a green shift fixing the substantial planet-destroying negative consequences of the industrial revolution by creating new technologies, new jobs and eventually a new earth. I was wrong. I now believe it will be an ideological revolution.

Life is kinda like a game

The theme of the 2018 Unacast Christmas party in Oslo was gaming and gaming culture. We experienced VR Games, AR games, console games, and arcade games. We had lectures and a quiz - all to learn more about this quickly growing entertainment, educational, and professional category. And, we had speeches about gaming. This was mine.

The birth of UNA – a journey through the valley of values

This is the story of how the journey that culminated in the birth of UNA started three years ago. We thought, as most companies do in this day and age, that we must have “some values”. And, so we created “some values”. But no-one used them. Learn about how UNA became the solution.

Cities are becoming products with the help of location data

The cities of tomorrow will increasingly have to exist in a constant state of change to suit changing needs from their residents, as well as from the planet itself (cities need to become greener). Cities are also increasingly fighting for the attention of its current and future residents in competition with other cities. In short, cities are becoming products.‍

Post GDPR - the privacy paradox

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was finally introduced the 25th of May this year and in general it was a welcomed move - also by data centric companies like Unacast. But are there secondary delayed negative effects to GDPR? Perhaps.

Girl Geek Dinners at Unacast

With our continued focus on gender diversity at Unacast we were so happy and proud to be asked by Girl Geek Dinners to host a network dinner for women in, or interested in, technology. Read about the tasks we gave them.

We increased women working at Unacast with 241% in just over a year - now at 41% of total

March last year we realized that we had a gender issue at Unacast - and since then we have worked really hard at improving. We are proud of our results but must now look at diversity in a broader perspective. Cultural background is the next focus area for us

It’s time to think outside the (black) box - better products and smarter decisions with transparent location data

It’s a paradox that when companies are employing outside data to power their products and/or decisions they are not actually basing those on data – but on conclusions on data made by others. Let's open up the black box of location data.

We are all going to Ibiza tomorrow - for a workation! A work-what?

Tomorrow we are flying the company to Ibiza for a week of work, socializing and fun. We have these all-hands company meetings several times a year, most often in NYC or Oslo, but this time we are taking it to the next level. But why? Isn't this just a vacation? No, it's a workation!

Unacast is recognized as one of the best companies in the world on gender diversity

We are so proud to be nominated by Oda Network, as one of three companies in Norway that are best at gender diversity. And since Norway is one of the best countries in the world for gender diversity, well, that means that Unacast is leading the way on a global scale too.

How we chooose to offset our CO2 emissions

As a company situated on both sides of the Atlantic we're bound to travel by plane to keep the team coordinated. But how best to minimize our CO2 footprint? We chose Chooose

We raised $25 million (so far) with these 10 + 1 simple guidelines

When we founded Unacast, Thomas and I always knew that we would need external capital injections to fuel our ambitious, global journey, and we early on created the below-mentioned 10 + 1 guidelines. Hopefully they can be of some help to you as well.

Free socks for all

The benefits program at Unacast is awesome, but it is the item mentioned at the very bottom of the long list of benefits that best describes how we think about work: We provide a yearly budget for everyone to buy kickass socks 🧦

This 8th of March I'll do more than march

I'll be truthful with you. I haven't been 8th of March marching before. This year I am doing more than marching. I'm getting up on stage to speak.

Why Thomas Walle and I invested in The Nordic Web Angel Fund

Neil Murray of The Nordic Web closes an Angel Fund to invest into the most ambitious early-stage Nordic startups: The Nordic Web Angel Fund

Why a good company with good people should have a code of conduct

Why would an already good company like Unacast want or need to remind ourselves to #begood? It's to create a tidal wave of our own

What startups could learn from the startup conference Slush

I’ll come right out of the gate and say: Slush impressed me this year. Massively. From my perspective Slush is more than just a meeting place for new companies - Slush could also be a model for them to mimic

How to reverse engineer memory to create a lasting impression

Think back to all the times you spent weekends with your friends at university. Can you distinguish these weekends from each other, or do they all seem sort of similar - like it was all one long Saturday? The cool thing is that you can use these shortcomings of the brain to your advantage.

40 is the new 39/Teachers, leave those kids alone

Today I am 40. Halfway dead. And halfway dead should lead to some reflection. No, I’m not getting the red cabriolet. I said reflection, not desperation.

Confessions from a founder and a father

It’s 5 am Central European Time. My body thinks it's 11 pm Eastern Standard Time. I’m getting tired. I have to get up soon.

We stopped talking about diversity, and did something about it

In just six months we have greatly improved the gender balance at Unacast, now at 36% women and 64% men. How did we do this? The answer is as easy to communicate as it is hard to do: We wanted to improve, and we worked hard to do so.

Would you accept a friend request on Facebook from your toilet?

You might have heard the term, without reflecting over what it means. What it really means. They call it Internet of Things. Sensors, wireless transmitters, receivers and processors have become powerful and affordable enough to be included in everything.

How advertising technology companies conquer the world beyond advertising

Many of the defining global tech companies are built on proprietary graph data, and some of these have in turn used that strong core position to go from advertising technology to “all kinds of”-technology and industries. I will use Unacast’s proprietary graph to show how.

If data is the new oil, physical retail needs to build oil platforms - fast

I want to take the narrative further from my previous post and talk about the specific actions a physical retail store (or retail store chain) could take to get closer to that elusive digital future - and to compete as Amazon is moving in on the physical turf.

Hiring is easy. And that's why it's so hard.

I'm highlighting some of the recent articles from the Unacast blog, where we talk about hiring and how to improve hiring processes (through transparancy), and the beta launch of our Diversity Dashboard.

Why Amazon is the Napster of Retail

The digital tidal wave has and continues to alter the landscapes of most industries, and retail is the latest to find itself submerged in the sea of change. Like the rise of Napster permanently changed the way we listen to music, new technologies are now changing retail.

The importance of storytelling

Storytelling is important in most of what you do throughout a life, and especially in building companies. I learned storytelling by joining case competitions at Copenhagen Business School. So, what did I learn there?

Location data for brands: ‘Alternative facts’ no longer

As the proximity industry grows, it’s important for brands investing in location and proximity to understand the differences between the various data points and technologies on the market.

«Even rotting corpses have culture»

A recent example of how culture is itself not the solution is, of course, the troubles of Uber and its CEO Travis Kalanick. So, what went wrong?

Digital Detox 2017

How do we manage the positive and negative aspects of the mobile phone? It’s not complicated and the adjustments are small.

Top ten tips for starting a tech company when you’re from Norway

The typical recurring questions I get are: How did we initially start out, and what tips would I give to others starting companies out of Norway? So, dear Norwegian aspiring entrepreneurs, here are my top ten tips.

From zero to xerox – How we failed at diversity

I am torn as these thoughts rush through me like the windows in the boardroom were suddenly removed and the New York winter wind demands us to cool our heads and confess: We failed at diversity.

Lessons from the WiMPs who created TIDAL

This text is intended to shed some light of the early mistakes at WiMP (now TIDAL) and how the Norwegian startup ecosystem can avoid some of the same mistakes.

Proximity to 2017: Predictions

2016 was not the year of Proximity, and 2017 will not be either. The reason being that Proximity is already all around us, hiding in plain sight.

The biggest thing at Slush was this tiny map

It's always cool to meet our partners in the wild and see how they are each and everyone sensor by sensor changing the world by connecting physical to digital. At the Slush conference in Helsinki, Steerpath showed us the way forward.

Did Apple sort of announce iBeacon 2.0 by removing the headphone jack From iPhone 7?

When Apple launched its iBeacon protocol at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013 it laid the foundation for an entire new industry — the proximity industry.

What do you do when one of your colleagues is choking to death?

What do you do when one of your colleagues is choking to death? What do you do when one of your employees is having a heart attack? What you do when someone is dying?

A gift from Proxbook: 55 proximity use cases

Proximity technology is thriving in commercial settings. We have compiled some of the recent uses cases from Proxbook as inspiration

I don't work for free - And neither should you

Well, that's not entirely true. I do work for free, on certain occasions.

I'm writing about beacon networks in the definitive book on proximity

Key stakeholders from the proximity industry join forces to share knowledge on beacon deployments and more

Unacast raises $5M to index the physical world

Proximity marketing is maturing as US media veterans invest in Unacast together with European VC Open Ocean Capital

Shhh! This is our plan. Tell everyone

We have written quite a few articles on our product offerings and outlook on the industry, but I recently realized that we hadn’t shared the full plan.

Don’t feed the startup

If you are non-Norwegian and given the odds you probably are, you don’t know or perhaps even care about the Norwegian startup scene. But it does exist.

One year of proximity – The Unacast journey

Unacast launched commercially at SXSW one year ago. Join us on a trip down memory lane to look back and reflect on just how far this industry has come in such a short time.

What Jay Z and TIDAL can teach us about adblocking

History doesn't always repeat itself

Yes we can! On creating the language of proximity

Building a tagging taxonomy for the proximity industry

7 proximity trends

These are the proximity and beacon trends you should know about in 2016

The pull of proximity is push

With Proximity we are finally seeing tangible potential in Internet of Things

Proximity equals success

Coca-Cola radically increased click-through rates on online ads with the use of technology from Unacast

It’s not about beacons. It’s about proximity

The new possibilities that beacons and proximity technology are ushering in are truly limitless. For the first time, businesses and brands can digitally communicate with their users based on their exact proximity to any place, or any object.

Proximity 2.0: The power of working in networks

2015 is truly shaping up to be the year of proximity, mainly driven by the explosion of beacon technology at the retailer level

Offline is no longer off limits

In Unacast we believe online retargeting from offline data to be one of the large paradigm shifts to hit advertisers and media channels in the coming years

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Business Insider

The guys who helped build Jay-Z's streaming service Tidal are raising monet to follow your every move

Two of the founders of Jay-Z's fledgling music service Tidal are building a startup focused on mobile location data. The two executives, Thomas Walle and Kjartan Slette, have raised $17.5 million to expand Unacast


Unacast bags $17.5M to do more with location data

Unacast, a location data startup from Norway, has today announced a $17.5 million Series B round — to fuel business expansion, including into his home turf of Europe


The Nordic Web launches an Angel fund to find the region’s under-the-radar startups

The Nordic Web, a research and analysis company which specialises in covering data on tech companies emerging out of the Nordic region, has started a new Angel fund. The fund will invest across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Ad Tech Daily

Unacast’s Proximity.Directory Report

Bank of America and Citibank Among Financial Services Companies Turning to Proximity Data for Sophisticated Industry and Customer Insights at Scale in Real-Time

Business Wire

Unacast Continues to Attract Top Location & Proximity Data Industry Executives

Unacast, the world’s leading platform of location and proximity data and the creators of the Real World Graph™, today announced the addition of Ariyo Noibi and John Patrick Smith to its Data Partnerships team. Noibi comes from PlaceIQ and Smith from Cuebiq - both prominent companies in the location and data space.

Business Wire

Beyond retail: Healthcare, marijuana & aerospace defense manufacturing industries turn to location technologies to prevent theft & save lives

Proximity.Directory, the world’s largest directory of proximity companies, has released its Q2 2017 Report. This is the ninth Proximity.Directory report to be released

Street Fight

Location data for brands: ‘Alternative facts’ no longer

As the proximity industry grows, it’s important for brands investing in location and proximity to understand the differences between the various data points and technologies on the market. These differentiators can greatly affect how the proximity and location data is applied towards a brand’s marketing goals.


OpenOcean’s investment in Unacast  -  the value of high quality proximity data

In May 2015, OpenOcean invested together with Norwegian Investinor, alongside NYC media-industry veterans, such as Jonah Goodheart, Michael Barrett and Bill Wise, in proximity data company Unacast Inc.


This startup wants to be Google for the physical world

Unacast is out to change the world of advertising forever - and it just might succeed.


Directory provides insight on the smartest cities

Singapore, New York, Barcelona, Oslo, London and San Francisco are the smartest cities in the world, according to the Proximity.Directory. The report finds that smart city technology is set to grow $27.5 billion annually by 2023.


The evolving road of beacon tech

When Apple launched its iBeacon protocol at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013 it laid the foundation for an entire new industry — the proximity industry.

StreetFight Magazine

Unacast raises $5 Million to build beacon network

Today the company is announcing that it has raised $5 million in series A funding, led by Open Ocean Capital and Investinor. The company says it will use the funding to develop more partnerships to build out its network of proximity companies so that it can use the aggregate data to “index the physical world.”

Fast Company

The makers of Tidal are now creating a proximity network

Norway's Unacast is looking to make proximity data more useful by creating what is, in effect, the offline cookie. Unacast's management team includes CEO Thomas Walle and COO Kjartan Slette, who were part of the team who created WiMP, later known as Tidal, and sold to Jay Z.


Unacast and becoming a backend for beacons

Simply stated – Unacast wants to be the backend for the beacons – or more accurately proximity technologies in general.