Gøril Forbord

The Technoport CEO

Manifestasjon 2014
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Gøril ForbordOctober 10, 2014

Technology Optimism and Touching Awards

“We must ensure that the different innovation environments collaborate and meet more”, said HRH Crown Prince Haakon as he opened the Manifestasjon 2014 business conference.

Technoport’s representative paid extra special attention to HRH Crown Prince’s request. We now look forward to 18 & 19 March next year for our very own #technoport15, one arena where the main purpose is that innovators will meet.

A commitment to the development of a green, global world economy, and innovation and entrepreneurship as a tool for realizing this were the foundations of Crown Prince Haakon’s speech.

“We need a strong commitment to research, and support for innovation and entrepreneurship. The big shift we are going through, and that much of the development must be about, is the big transition to renewable energy”, he stressed.

A technology optimist

Crown Prince Haakon emphasised that rich countries like Norway must go ahead and take the risk and cost associated with developing new technologies that will give us a green, global economy.

“I am a technology optimist. I have always believed that technology will go ahead and give people the products we really want – and that makes us environmentally friendly shoppers, without the consumer necessarily have to be consciously driven by idealism”, told the Crown Prince, before he revealed he has a preference for a certain type of electric vehicle.

“I’m a big fan of raw electric cars and the cars that people want because they are the best and toughest; not because they feel an obligation to buy one of these green cars.”

Touching awards

The theme of this year’s Manifestasjon was the commercialization of technology, one of two strategic areas of focus for the Chamber of Commerce in Trondheim.

Over 700 managers and key personnel in the Trondheim region’s business and community leaders attended Manifestasjon 2014 There was a good atmosphere, interesting lectures and extremely good “mingle factor”.

Prizegivings have a tendency to touch yours truly. It was in this respect a busy evening when both the distribution of total 1 million in Adolf Øyens start-up grants to ThermaSIC, BeatStac and AssiTech and a very well deserved Madame-Beyer Award for Chamber of Commerce manager, Berit Rian, produced tears in my eyes.

Crown Prince Haakon

See also: Imponerte kronprinsen med «rullator i trapp» (Byavisa)

Photo credit: Gry Karin Stimo / Næringsforeningen

Confessions of a gold digger
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Gøril ForbordAugust 27, 2014

Confessions of a Gold Digger, part 1

Originally published in Norwegian on TrondheimTech.no

Have you heard of the Consul General Adolf Øiens startup grant? To a gold digger, this grant represents the ultimate prize.

In January 2009 I was hired as CEO of the tiny NTNU startup, MemfoACT AS. We were to commercialize a patented membrane technology, but the company had no money, an unfinished product and just two aspiring employees.

You don’t need to be well versed in tech-speak to understand my main task as CEO was to raise money. This kicked off the 18-month era in my life that I call the eternal money hunt. My CEO position could just as easily have been termed “gold digger” in the employment contract.

The learning curve was very steep during this period and now a few years have passed, I think it’s time to talk about the hunt that ended with NOK 16m. It might serve as inspiration for some, but for me it’s just a fun story to tell. I’ve never written a hunting story before, so I choose to begin the story with the bird that laid the golden egg.

No clue

How do you raise money? I really had no idea. It was completely uncharted territory. What do you do when you don’t have a clue? You try all sorts of things, so I chose to follow every possible path.
Most ended up as dead-ends.

The Consul General Adolf Øiens startup grant would, however, prove to lay the beautiful golden egg of a grant that was well worth pursuing.

What kind of bird is a Consul General?

Adolf ØiensAdolf Øien himself was Trondheim’s leading trader in the period from 1895 to 1918, and was later the city’s biggest legacy since Thomas Angell. In his name today are five funds and the board for the largest of these, the capital fund, decided in 2009 to give out an annual startup grant of half a million kroner. A wonderful decision.

The grant itself is an ingenious creation. It covers a year’s work to develop a business idea. Applicants who graduated from NTNU or Trondheim Business School have priority, but applicants with relevant skills and professional experience may also be considered.

I encourage you all to apply but be aware the deadline for this year is this Friday 29 August.

Weeping in the bathroom

Since the grant was brand new and unknown in the autumn of 2009, I followed this path simply because it was a path. The application was written in the departures hall at Værnes and submitted merely hours before the deadline.

Preparations for the jury meeting quickly turned sour. I hadn’t had time to shrink our standard presentation down to the allotted ten minutes. A mistake you only make once, but of course it’s best to never make it at all.

I had hardly glanced in the mirror that morning or thought to iron clothes the night before.

I remember needing the toilet during the interrogation and, still sweaty from the interruption halfway through the presentation, I shed a tear in the bathroom when I was finally through with the jury questioning.

An unexpected success

Fortunately enough, our company had an exciting business idea, an abnormally strong research team in the back and fine plans to build a factory and create new industrial jobs for Norway.

Miraculously enough, the fine folks on the fund’s board chose to look past the shambles of a gold digger they had in front of them. I could not believe my ears one week later when the phone rang. Our hunt was over and the ultimate prize was ours – the golden egg worth half a million kroner!

As good hunters do, we went home and celebrated with family, but swapping our hunting gear for sparkling liquids – a real gold digger marks their triumph in the most unsavory manner.

How to apply

The application deadline for this year’s grant is August 29. You can apply by filling out this form via Adolf Øiens website. They require some additional attachments that deserve a little explanation:

1) The business plan
This is the main document. Write a short precise description rather than a long rambling one. Focus on your core business idea, business model, market opportunities and development plans / status. My tip is you limit yourself to three to five pages, and absolutely no longer than ten.

2) Borrowing requirements
The important thing here is to present a credible financing plan in which all aid, loans and any other finance appears. It is considered positive if the project has received support from public institutions or others.

3) Loan security
Not a required attachment, but submit if you have this.

4) Other personal information
Here you can attach a CV or other personal details that may be relevant to the application.

Good Luck! If you have questions, call Torkel Ranum from the Adolf Øiens Funds on 91 00 31 80, or you can ask me.

Photo credit: William Warby

Technoport Share The Problem Statoil
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Gøril ForbordFebruary 24, 2014

Share The Problem – From the CEO

My one and only assignment during Technoport’s very first Share the Problem event featuring Statoil was to take some notes. Unfortunately, I totally forgot!

I don’t think it happened because I am a forgetful person. I was simply too focused on Statoil’s problem! It was really complex, and not within any of my areas of expertise.

So here goes…

Statoil has a vision. Some time in the future they want to develop on-line monitoring of the environment they are operating in, and thereby be able to operate and take desicions that protects the environment before potential damage is done. An ocean observatory placed in Vesterålen is the first step towards this and they now need input on what sensors to use, how to analyse and use the huge amount of data collected and how to visualise the data from the ocean observatory.

No wonder I needed to focus!

After Statoil’s Innovation Director and Technoport board member, Per Sandberg, had told us about how Statoil is really enthusiastic about this new way of working with open innovation and outsourcing of their innovation challenges, it was the turn of Statoil Project Manager, Mona Låte.

She walked us through the problem, and then the 40 people in the room formed groups to discuss and understand the problem. There were six groups and we were six in my group. Two from start-up companies, one assosiate professor in instrumentation, two from Statoil, whereas one new a lot about the project, and my self. We asked the expert from Statoil many, many questions:

  • Why do you want to monitor the environment?
  • What are the most important metrics?
  • How do you analyze the data?
  • Why is it placed in Vesterålen where you have no operations?

These were all my questions, by the way. My fellow solvers asked some more intelligent questions!

We were then sorted into different groups, with different focus on sensors, visualisation and data analysis. We asked new questions, yet more questions, and then our final task was to give Statoil an advice. It was really interesting trying to come up with ideas, new angels and new questions. My group ended up advising Statoil to decide which are the most important paramenters and use an AUV to collect the data and use wireless transmition of them. So after three hours of constant questioning, some idea sharing, I think I sort of understood what it was really all about.

There is definitely is a business opportunity here, just waiting for the right solvers. If someone can provide Statoil with a simple device with wireless transmission of a few essential metrics, which transform the huge amount of data in a user friendly way into a environmental desition tool for operators, they could sell a lot of devices. Unfortunately for me, I am not that solver. But to be honest, I have done a lot of thinking about on-line environmental monitoring lately. Perhaps one of my fellow Share The Problem participants with greater solver potential than me also does on-line monitor thinking at this very moment!

As a pilot event, we weren’t sure how it would go and what direction it would take, but we were all very excited. A bit nervous in fact, even though there was really no pressure, I wondered what would be the outcome of the workshop, how would the participants react, how many would actually show up? on the outcome of the workshop, or on the number of participants?

A job well done!

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Gøril ForbordSeptember 5, 2013

Welcome to Technoport Playground

Welcome to our new blog: Technoport Playground! This is a blog about innovation, technology and sustainability.

In Technoport we have earlier focused on sharing exiting new knowledge.  We will now go one step further and use our resources on innovation. Can you imagine a marketplace where innovation is the main commodity? We can, and we will work hard to ensure that the Technoport events become relevant for investors, entrepreneurs, industrialists and every one else passionate about innovation.

Lucky for me, this includes me. Ever since I was a student at NTNU I have been passionate about innovation. I do believe that commercialisation of research will benefit the society by creating new jobs, improve existing processes, and every once in a while provide game changing inventions.

This is the reason why I have been working within the field since 2007, first as a project manager at NTNU Technology Transfer AS (TTO). A perfect starting point since TTO’s job is to nurture great ideas from NTNU into industrial application. This job also lead the way into my four years as entrepreneur, when I was offered the position as CEO of MemfoACT, a spin-off company from NTNU. This was a dream come true for me. The learning curve working as CEO and later as VP of sales, has been steep, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about the challenges of bringing new ideas into life.

Innovation and technology are efficient tools for facilitating change, and Technoport wants to focus more on innovation, and how it contributes to make a sustainable society. It is our belief that innovation comes easier when we think aloud together.

In our younger days we did this a lot as we co created sand-castles or invented new rules when the game we played didn’t work with the resources we had available. Hence we named the blog Technoport Playground.

This blog is a place for us, the Technoport staff, to air some ideas and get feedback on what you would like to see at the next Technoport event.

I hope you find Technoport Playground interesting and fun, and I really would like your feedback!  Perhaps you have a good idea that you want to share?