Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurs’

Women of Technoport
15Megan Jones

Megan JonesApril 11, 2014

Bridging the gender gap in entrepreneurship

Gender inequality at work is a global problem, despite undoubted progress in many areas over the last decades. Norway is an international leader in some aspects – not least for its paid maternity and paternity leave – but even in Norway there are fewer women in entrepreneurship. In today’s blog we hear from some of the inspiring female entrepreneurs in Norway working to promote innovation and break the gender divide.

A global challenge

Arguably every country and every sector has its own challenges when it comes to gender, but it’s a fact that around the world women are still more economically excluded. A 2013 report by the World Bank Group concludes that only half of women’s productive potential is being used globally, for reasons that can include “lack of mobility, time, and skills, exposure to violence, and the absence of basic legal rights”.

Women are similarly underrepresented in entrepreneurship. In the words of the 2013 Women’s Report by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM): “In nearly every economy there are fewer female than male entrepreneurs, and they appear to show reluctance to scale their businesses or to enter new and less tested markets”. In general, GEM found that women were more likely to:

  • start business as single founders with fewer employees,
  • start a business out of necessity than opportunity, and
  • struggle to maintain their business once started or to find enough financial support.

Women also had less faith in themselves as entrepreneurs, for instance: “women in Europe and the U.S. are much less likely to believe they have the capabilities for entrepreneurship compared to men in their economies.”

This is a problem that female entrepreneurs also observe on the ground. Aurora Klæboe Berg, VP of Business and Market at Norwegian success story Dirtybit, suggests that, “by stereotype, women have more self-awareness while men have more self-confidence. Women want to know that they will succeed before trying in fear of failing. Being an entrepreneur is high risk, and requires a mix of both self-awareness and self-confidence – independent of gender.”

Tanja Holmen, Project Manager at NxtMedia, a Technoport 2014 conference partner, makes a similar case. “I think part of the solution lies in the need for security, financial resources, and ambition. The fact that so many female entrepreneurs become self-employed or start small enterprises says something about the need to encourage certain attitudes – especially a willingness to gamble with one’s own finances. Entrepreneurship involves a lot of gambling…not to mention madness and fun!”

So what’s happening in Norway?

According to GEM’s report, in Norway half as many women as men are involved in entrepreneurial activity, and half as many own an established business.

In 2008 the Norwegian government set out the target that 40% of entrepreneurs would be women by 2013. In fact, that percentage is decreasing – from 32.6% in 2007 to 25.8% in 2012. This puts Norway third from bottom in Europe, and fourth from bottom in GEM’s list of 24 innovation-driven countries.

“I don’t think quotas and things help very much,” says Stina Nysæther, Co-Founder of Startup Norway. “It’s more about highlighting the good female entrepreneurs that are out there and the work that they’re doing – and not so much focus on them being women, but to create role models for girls. Our focus at Startup Norway is to get people interested in entrepreneurship.”

Aurora Klæboe Berg agrees. “I don’t think that the focus should be on specific initiatives for women, but rather improving the mind-set of our nation. In Norway people are not encouraging each other to succeed the same way as in the US. Everybody expects you to fail, and when you do, they say: ‘I could have told you so. Why’d you bother even trying?’ While in the US the mentality is: ‘That sucks, but what’s your next entrepreneurial adventure?’

“Just a few people are successful at their first attempt. That means we have to be strong to try again several times. In Norway we need more innovation and crazy entrepreneurs so our economy can rely on more than just oil in the future. So if we for some reason fail with Dirtybit, I urge you to encourage us to continue!”

Moving towards a more equal future 

“In Norway we need more funding and more programs, it’s true,” says Stina Nysæther, “but we also need more entrepreneurs – people need to be inspired to start a business.

“What we see that helps in Norway is not about focusing on women but focusing on health, or fashion – picking the topics that potential future female entrepreneurs would be interested in.

“The women and men that show up to our events don’t have differences in ambition or knowledge, but they do see problems in different places,” explains Stina. “For example the winning app at our Startup Weekend in October was Weather Ware, an app designed by a female preschool teacher to help parents make sure their children are dressed for the weather.”  

“I believe that with more success stories, more entrepreneurial attempts will occur,” concurs Aurora Klæboe Berg. “We all need role models, and I hope I can encourage others (both male and female) to follow the entrepreneurial path by being one.”

Tanja Holmen is also optimistic: “I think a lot will happen in the innovation scene in Norway in the future, both for female and male entrepreneurs. Advances in technology are bringing better ways to produce, establish, distribute and communicate. Hubs and flexible workspaces are also increasing with record speed. These are very welcome arenas for innovation, and vital supplements to the more established, traditional incubators that we’ve been using so far.

Perhaps even just this change in entrepreneurial culture in Norway will encourage more women to take the plunge.”


Women of Technoport 2014

Successful female entrepreneurs and innovators sharing their expertise at Technoport 2014 include Leila Janah, founder of Samasource; Liz Wald, Head of International at Indiegogo, Lauren Anderson, Community Director at Collaborative Consumption, and Siri Skøien, founder of Comlight. To find out more about these and other speakers or to register, head over to the Technoport 2014 website.

15Megan Jones

Megan JonesApril 9, 2014

Technoport 2014: Siri Skøien on entrepreneurial success

At the end of April innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other technology pioneers will gather in Trondheim for Technoport 2014. In the run up to this exciting event, we will publish a series of interviews with our speakers to learn more about how they are driving innovation. This week we hear from Siri Skøien, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Comlight, a motion-sensing street light system to reduce energy use.

Where did you get the idea for Comlight from, and how did it start?
It really started as an idea – I had no engineering or technical experience, I come from a business background, but I knew that if I didn’t do this someone else would. So for the first year I was working alone, getting the marketing plan off the ground and starting the patenting process. And from there I worked on incorporating electrical engineering and so forth.

How did you find the process of looking for early stage funding?
It was very difficult – very difficult, even in Norway.  This was seven years ago, and I think there’s been some progress since then, but I spent a long time looking for funding. You know, I would keep calling people and I’d get 200 noes and eventually one yes, and that’s what you’re waiting for. One thing I did was I used the local press to get the word out, I tried to get coverage of all the new developments in the local press. And actually it ended up that our first investor contacted me! It may be that I got very lucky, but that’s how we started.

Since Comlight has been going for seven years, as you say, how has the product changed over time?
We’ve made some improvements to the radar detection, and recently to the backend so users like road authorities have a better computer programme to see all the lights individually and manage them. That’s been a big project.

With the radar system, the first generation of Comlight could only detect cars and trucks and other vehicles. It took two years of intensive research and development to create a system that could detect pedestrians, which is what we have now. We’re always working to incorporate market feedback to increase the functionality, and so customers can adapt the system to their needs.

So how would a pedestrian experience street lighting in a place where Comlight has been installed? I can imagine that people would be concerned about safety.
Yes. In fact, though, I often have people come to me and say, “Are you sure it’s working? I can’t see the lights turning off anywhere.” And I say, “That’s great!” That’s how it’s supposed to be. We wanted to create a product that is so effective you don’t notice that the lights are off in front of you or behind you. If you’re walking through a park you don’t want have that spotlight feeling of being lit up on a stage. This applies to cars as well. It’s about safety as well as energy savings – safety and security is a big priority. So the system is working and saving energy, but our eyes can’t detect it.

Where is Comlight going in the future?
We want to stay small and stay innovative – to always be one step ahead, because the customers are always asking for more things. We do have some work going on in Canada and the US, but for this year we are mostly focusing on Europe. Our target customers is big lighting companies like OSRAM and GE, because it’s very time-consuming to go after the end-customers ourselves. Companies like that want to offer smart lighting but they don’t have what Comlight has, so they buy our product and sell it on to road authorities, city agencies and so on.

In terms of developing the Comlight system, we’re looking to increase the functionality so it can do other things like monitor traffic, count vehicles or check speed. It’s possible to incorporate things that aren’t even connected to lighting and energy efficiency, and that’s where this technology is going.

Are you optimistic about the future of smart lighting?
Yes, I’m very optimistic. Smart cities as a concept is really taking off, and the market for smart lighting has grown a lot recently. Norway has fallen a bit behind, people tend to want to install the same systems as they always have, but still it’s increasing here too.

Smart cities are one of the biggest movements of our time, and this has really expanded even in just the last year. This is where the world is headed.

Want to hear more?

Siri will feature at our Venture Angels and Crowd Investors event at Technoport 2014. She will elaborate on the topics explored in this interview as we shed light on the future of funding new ventures. Learn more about Technoport 2014.

Image credit: Comlight AS

15Megan Jones

Megan JonesApril 4, 2014

Technoport 2014: Leila Janah on Samasource and social entrepreneurship

At the end of April innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other technology pioneers will gather in Trondheim for Technoport 2014. In the run up to this exciting event, we will publish a series of interviews with our speakers to learn more about how they are driving innovation. This week we hear from award-winning social entrepreneur Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource.

How would you explain Samasource and how it works?

“Sama” is the Sanskrit word for “equal”. The entire SamaGroup (which also includes SamaUSA and Samahope) was built on a shared vision – that of an equal opportunity world, where people aren’t suffering in poverty simply because they happened to be born in a disadvantaged region. We connect people in need to medical care and to dignified work that enables them to take control over their futures.

Impact sourcing is one piece of this strategy. In simple terms, it refers to the practice of outsourcing labor to disadvantaged populations. So if you’re a large corporation and you’re regularly sending work to business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, impact sourcing allows you to use some of those contracts to fight poverty and improve lives. If only a handful of the world’s largest corporations dedicated 5% of their outsourcing portfolios to impact sourcing service providers, it would make a significant dent in global poverty.

Samasource uses the Microwork model. Can you explain what this is and how it has been implemented?

Think of the way an iPhone, or any peripheral device, connects to a computer. You use an adapter cable that allows the two devices to exchange information. The Microwork model is like a massive adapter cable that allows people in poverty to plug their brainpower into global enterprises. It’s a way of connecting these two groups – corporations and the impoverished – for mutual benefit.

Customers approach us with large data projects that require vast numbers of small human judgments. For example, a company might have thousands of photos featuring pieces of furniture that need to be carefully tagged so that computers can be trained to recognize the shape of a chair, or a couch. We break that project down into irreducible tasks, and set up a workspace for them within our technology platform. These tasks then get sent to our delivery center partners in the field, where members of disadvantaged populations are trained to complete them.

Through the Microwork model, you might see a single mother who’s lived her entire life in a Kenyan slum tagging images for a major international corporation. But what’s truly unique about the Microwork Model as a solution to poverty is the way it invests skills and experience in workers. 89% of our workers either go back to school or find further employment in the formal sector.

Some have criticized Samasource for outsourcing the work of US citizens to other countries. How do you respond to this?

This is a common misconception. The services that Samasource provides to its customers – which include huge global brands like Google, Microsoft, and LinkedIn – would in most instances be too cost-prohibitive to complete in the United States. So it’s not as if our workers in Kenya or India are out-bidding Americans for jobs. If our workers weren’t completing these data projects, they’d be completed by a BPO firm or simply not done at all.

With that said, Samasource recognizes that poverty is a global problem, and we’re equally dedicated to fighting it here in the US. I started SamaUSA for this reason. SamaUSA is a domestic program that teaches digital skills to low-income community college students, and helps them to find work on online job platforms like Elance and oDesk. SamaUSA is running in three California community colleges already, and we’re poised to scale the program through the entire country.

Do you have plans for scaling up the impact sourcing model further?

A solution to poverty is only viable if it affects a significant number of individuals, and Samasource has always targeted women and youth who support multiple dependents for this reason. We want the wages we pay to positively impact families and invest new capital in entire communities.

But we’re just one participant in a growing trend, in a fledgling industry. Right now, we’re trying to use our influence with large corporations to support the entire impact sourcing space. We believe that we can scale this model collaboratively, by compelling major brands to commit part of their outsourcing portfolios to any number of impact sourcing service providers.

Have there been any technological challenges associated with outsourcing work? What does the future hold for this?

The lack of reliable Internet access in the developing world has been a significant challenge. One of our model’s limitations is its inability to reach populations that are off the grid. In a lot of remote areas, infrastructural investments must be made before the Microwork Model can be applied and people can be recruited.

We’ve had great success, however, when those infrastructural investments have been made. We’ve partnered with Oxfam Novib and a number of other international NGOs on a project called Internet Now! that’s bringing Internet access and computer-based work to rural areas in northern Uganda. This region was devastated by the country’s civil war and never recovered. Many people there still live in huts, and walk miles every day to collect safe drinking water from public pumps. But with our partners ALIN and Inveneo, we’ve set up solar-powered, Internet-enabled centers in three rural Ugandan communities. The people there may not have running water in their homes, but they’re getting paid to complete computer-based tasks for huge global brands. It’s amazing.

What have been your main triumphs and tribulations as a social entrepreneur, and what advice would you give others? 

Samasource has now reached over 20,000 people through the wages it pays to workers. I consider that a colossal triumph, although it’s just the beginning of what we hope to accomplish. Experiencing the spark of inspiration as a social entrepreneur – that “a-ha” moment when I get an idea that I think can help people – is exhilarating, but that moment is the start of a long, arduous journey toward real impact.

When raising money to get Samasource off the ground I heard “no” from a lot from potential funders. I’ve also faced people who think I have no business being in the tech industry as a woman, and as a woman of south Asian descent. But I’ve also been lucky to find kindred spirits who are just as excited as I am about using technology to change the world.

The most valuable advice I’ve ever heard comes from Silicon Valley leader and investor Ben Horowitz: “Don’t quit.” Especially in the tech world, where successes can become obsolete within the blink of an eye, it’s crucial to a have an inner voice simply telling you to keep going, keep refining, keep striving.

Want to hear more?

Leila will speak at our A Tool For Change session at Technoport 2014. She will elaborate on the topics explored in this interview as we shed light on how innovation and entrepreneurship can change the world. Learn more about Technoport 2014.

Image credit:
15Megan Jones

Megan JonesApril 2, 2014

Technoport 2014: Lauren Anderson on the game-changing power of collaborative consumption

At the end of April innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other technology pioneers will gather in Trondheim for Technoport 2014. In the run up to this exciting event, we will publish a series of interviews with our speakers to learn more about how they are driving innovation. This week we hear from Lauren Anderson, Community Director at the pioneering shared economy organisation Collaborative Consumption.

1. How would you explain “collaborative consumption”?

We describe collaborative consumption as the reinvention of old market behaviours such as bartering, lending, swapping, trading and exchanging – but this time they’ve been reinvented for the Facebook age! Social, mobile and location-based technologies are enabling us to share and exchange all kinds of assets now – from physical stuff to less tangible things like time, skills and space – on a scale and in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago.

2. How is collaborative consumption disrupting existing models of doing business?

We are already seeing collaborative consumption disrupting established 100-year-old industries such as car manufacturing, hospitality and even banking by putting the power in the hands of the people. These new technologies are not only more efficient and often more affordable, but they also provide more authentic and personal experiences over mass-produced and standardised, which is something people are hungry for these days. Having said this, there are many ways that existing companies can, and should, get involved in understanding how this consumer shift might affect them, and what they can do to maintain relevance and build brand loyalty with these new consumers.

3. What are some examples of different types of businesses that are leading this movement?

In our directory of examples we have documented more than 1000 examples of collaborative consumption globally, and have found examples in more than 100 countries. But while there are many small local marketplaces in this space, there are also some bigger global companies who operate across a number of continents.

Airbnb, the p2p accommodation marketplace, is arguably the biggest collaborative consumption platform in the world, behind sites like eBay. TaskRabbit and similar task marketplace platforms have been hugely successful. Carsharing and bikesharing platforms are up and running in hundreds of cities around the world, transforming the ideas of mobility. And for a local start-up, EasyBring is a collaborative distribution service, or ‘crowdshipping’, tapping into a network of deliverers who can send packages for others.

4. Cities are also getting involved – tell us a bit more about that.

Cities look after a lot of the regulation at a local level, and in many cases collaborative consumption companies are not adequately dealt with in the current legislation, causing a lot of uncertainty and fear. Other than that, there are many ways cities can adopt collaborative consumption-based models to supply services to residents and also build a culture of empowered citizens rather than a passive community. We expect to see many cities following the likes of Seoul in South Korea, and Portland, Oregon, to really make Shareable Cities part of their mandate.

5. What role can collaborative consumption play in overcoming global challenges such as climate change?

As an example, most collaborative consumption platforms are focused on maximising the ‘idling’ or underused capacity of the things around us – ensuring that the things we own are used to their full potential. Other platforms are dedicated to the redistribution of stuff from where it’s not wanted to somewhere it’s needed, extending the lifecycle of products otherwise headed to landfill. And perhaps most importantly, collaborative consumption encourages people to consider whether they really need to buy something new, or if there are other ways they could access it, which might involve connecting with other people in the community.

6. Where do you see collaborative consumption going in the future?

In the future, we definitely see that there will be much more involvement from existing organisations, as well as local and even federal governments, as collaborative consumption becomes a much bigger part of the consumer ecosystem. We will start to see the most successful models of collaborative consumption being scaled and replicated around the world, and local economies will be strengthened through these new ideas. Ultimately we believe that we will be able to reduce our reliance on the consumer machine, and that we will be able to restore the balance of community and contribution that we are missing today.

Want to hear more?

Lauren will feature at our Troublemakers event at Technoport 2014. She will elaborate on the topics explored in this interview as we showcase stories of some of the individuals behind disruptive companies. Learn more about Technoport 2014.

Image credit:

Wozniak NTNU
15Megan Jones

Megan JonesMarch 17, 2014

Steve Wozniak in Trondheim

Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, came to Trondheim on Friday to speak at StartIT, an event run by Start NTNU and Spark NTNU to encourage budding IT entrepreneurs.

A gifted engineer and a charismatic speaker, Wozniak entertained the auditorium of 500 students with anecdotes about Apple’s beginnings and advice for new inventors. Here are some of his choicest stories.

On the origins of Apple

Before Wozniak took the stage the organisers played the famous 1984 commercial, setting the tone for a trip down memory lane. According to Wozniak, he and Steve Jobs started working together “for fun – not doing it thinking we’re going to have a company, a job”. They were part of a group of people talking about social revolution, he elaborated: “I never did it for the money… it was something I was good at creating and something I thought could help other people – I really wanted to be part of a revolution”.

Beyond that, though, his sheer enthusiasm for his inventions was clear in every sentence. “Once you have a computer it’s a platform,” Wozniak told the crowd.  “I had a goal of someday owning my own computer – then all of a sudden it was apparent I could build that computer”.

In particular he talked about the Apple II. It would be a computer you could use straight from the box, and it would be in colour. “They only used black and white televisions for arcade games in those days… and I was thinking about colour TVs – how they use a nice wave at exactly the right speed – and then the idea popped into my head of using 1s and 0s at the right speed and the computer would think it was colour”.

“We were bringing colour to the world,” he concluded.

The Apple II, launched 1977.

On Steve Jobs

When Wozniak talked, the years rolled away and you could imagine being back in California in this moment of intense innovation and excitement. You could imagine Steve Jobs would walk out on stage any second.

In Wozniak’s story, Jobs and he made the perfect team: “Steve was the entrepreneur, I was just the designer – I understood the market really well, because the market was one person, me. He didn’t know the cost to build but he knew what people wanted and which engineers were able to achieve the impossible”.

Jobs persuaded Wozniak to go further and achieve more: “to design a game that young, game-loving people would like would be the highlight of my life – and Steve said you’ve got to do it in 4 days.” Wozniak explained that this was in the days of hardware, not software, but – “I didn’t question him. We had four days and nights with no sleep – both of us caught mononucleosis, but we delivered it to Atari!”

Advice for IT entrepreneurs

For all the fun of hearing about the past, what really grabbed to audience was when Steve Wozniak turned to the future – to the innovators and entrepreneurs in the room.

“When we started the company we were like all of you… we were young, we had no money, and we had no business experience,” Wozniak began. But “if you want to do new outstanding different things, they don’t have to have value at first – look at Apple…If we didn’t make a profit it didn’t matter, we would have a company that we cared about.”

“What really matters is when something’s in your own head, nothing can stop you,” Wozniak continued. “You do as much as you can with the few resources you have…We bought our computer parts on credit, so you have 30 days to pay for them! We built the computers in 10 days, and got paid cash.”

Steve Wozniak quoted the advice of their angel investor and second CEO Mike Markkula: “we’re going to be a market-driven company, because the greatest companies like IBM were market-driven, not engineering driven.”

To “all these people come out of business school”, Wozniak had this to say: “Please, find the engineering students. All these people who like to create, original problem-solvers…the engineers will be able to give you ideas you never thought of.”

And with that engineering foundation, “build a working model that somebody can play with and interact with – because you’ll be able to convince a lot more people it’ll be fun to use.”

When asked if the students in the audience should pursue a business or finish school, Wozniak laughed and said: “If you have a chance to start a company with a few friends, do it, you can always go back to school! On the other hand, if you can do it while you’re at school…”

Looking forwards

When Steve Wozniak finished speaking all 500 students rose to their feet – a tribute to the man and to the legacy that continues to shape our world.

Earlier in his talk Wozniak threw out the idea that “Steve Jobs would say the computer age is gone”. Hard drives are increasingly located elsewhere – devices like iPads are more like displays.

Technology has come so far from the invention of floppy disks and colour screens in the 1970s – what will the future bring?

Want to hear more?

What is the future of technology and innovation – and what role will Norway play? At Technoport 2014 we will explore topics like this through keynote speeches, hands-on workshops and live crowdfunding. Learn more about Technoport 2014.

Photo credit: Start NTNU and

15Megan Jones

Megan JonesFebruary 17, 2014

10 Exciting Crowdfunded… Gadgets

With crowdfunding, anyone can help turn the craziest of dreams into a fully functional reality. From the innovative to the sustainable to the just plain wacky, these 10 successful campaigns give a taste of the great new tech coming out of crowdfunding.

1. WakaWaka Light and Power

WakaWaka Power

Image: WakaWaka

This lamp is solar powered and super efficient, lasting for up to 80 hours. It can stand up on its own or attached to a bottle top. The WakaWaka Power, released in 2013, can also be used to charge a smartphone, MP3 player or tablet.

Even better, the profits from sales in the West are used to give WakaWakas to some of the 1.2 billion people without access to electricity. Replacing kerosene lamps with solar light cuts down on CO2 emissions, reduces health problems like burns, and saves families money. That makes WakaWakas a win-win!

These nifty gadgets have had three crowdfunding campaigns – Kickstart and Symbid for the WakaWaka Light, and again on Kickstarter for WakaWaka Power. Or you can check out the website to buy the gadget yourself.

2. Glowing Plant

Image: WIRED

The boundaries between technology and nature are sometimes hard to define. No more so than with this crowdfunding project, which caused quite a stir last summer when campaigners offered to give away free glowing plants to their Kickstarter backers.

The project seeks to develop sustainable, natural lighting by genetically modifying plants to glow in the dark – but its wild popularity comes from its wacky, science fiction appeal.

The founders describe their crowdfunding success as an exciting new development for synthetic biology, but critics worry about the environmental risks when GMOs are freely distributed. In the wake of this controversy Kickstarter has banned GMOs as rewards, alongside guns and alcohol. Interested people in the US can still pre-order glow-in-the-dark seeds or plants on the Glowing Plant website, but distribution to Europe is illegal under EU law.

3. Wood. Head. Phones.

Image: Inhabitat

Except for the wire inside them, these headphones are made entirely of wood. The inventor, a 19-year-old product designer from Oslo, named them after the Norwegian word “treskalle” – literally meaning “wood head”, or “stupid” – because, as he says in his crowdfunding video, “this is, in a lot of ways, a stupid product”.

In spite of this modesty, the headphones supposedly have a sweet sound and are custom-made for each person in ash, oak, cherry, or walnut. It’s not clear if you can still buy your own Wood. Head. Phones., but the Facebook page is a good place to start looking.

4. Kano

Image: Kano

If you’ve ever wanted the satisfaction of building your own computer, then look no further than Kano. For geeks and newbies of all ages, this cool kit comes with 11 components – including how-to guides – and is cute enough to give mainstream laptops a run for their money.

With Kano you can make games and learn code, and it’s open source, so using it can only get more fun. The smash hit Kickstarter campaign raised 15 times the original goal, and you can find out more or pre-order your own at the Kano website.

5. Morpher

Image: Indiegogo

Do you use a helmet when you cycle? Many people don’t, and this British inventor thinks he’s found one reason why: helmets are too bulky, especially for people using a bike rental scheme. The solution? A folding helmet.

Morpher folds in half, making it easy to slip it into a rucksack or laptop bag. It should be as safe as an ordinary helmet – most of the crowdfunded money will be used to meet international safety standards – and even comes in pretty colours. Check out the Indiegogo campaign or Morpher website for more info.


Image: Indiegogo

Tired of boring furniture? Well, designers in Germany have developed modular shelving that is non-toxic, long lasting and completely recyclable. Beneath its funky shape lies a high-tech structure of polypropylene plastic foam that also makes it lightweight and shock-absorbent.

With BUILD you decide what shape you want, and can put it on a wall or use it to divide up a room. Plus if you move house or need an extra few chairs for that big dinner party, each block doubles up as a box, a seat, or even a cooler. Check out the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, or go straight for the product.

7. ThePresent

Image: thepresent


Relaxed yet? No? Well maybe it’s time to welcome ThePresent into your life. Its New York inventor touts this as the first 365-day clock – in one year the hand only rotates once around the face. With its colourful display to evoke the changing seasons, this clock is a reminder to stop and smell the roses.

The Kickstarter campaign has a great video about how the clock was made. Check out ThePresent website to learn more or get your own.


Image: autoevolution

Between walking and cycling lies a third choice for the eco-friendly commuter: the electric, folding scooter. JACK, as this Dutch prototype is called, weighs less than 20kg, can be charged in a car or home, and fits easily in a car boot or on public transport.

JACK can travel at speeds up to 25kph (15mph), but with a full battery it only lasts 20k (12.5 miles) so it’s more suited to a city spin than a road trip. All the specs are on the Symbid campaign page or the JACK website.

9. Tellspec

Image: Tellspec

If you’re human, you’ve probably worried about what’s in your food at least once. Does that apple have pesticides on it? Are there nasty additives in my pre-packaged sandwich? How many calories are in that slice of cake?

Tellspec hopes to answer these questions. Through spectrometry, Tellspec uses a laser to scan the chemicals inside a piece of food, and then wirelessly sends the results to your smartphone. For anyone with a food allergy, watching their weight or just keen on good food, this is definitely a product to watch. The Indiegogo campaign finished in November, so stay tuned on the website for launch as early as August.

10. Emotiv Insight

Image: Kickstarter

It’s not a jetpack, but it comes pretty close. The Emotiv Insight will allow you to move objects with your mind. With previous models, people have used their thoughts to create music, drive a car, manipulate a robot, type on a keyboard, and operate a wheelchair. This new model, crowdfunded on Kickstart, should also be able to record emotions, stress levels, physical fitness and facial expressions.

Emotiv Insight works through electroencephalography (EEG) to interpret the neuron signals  in the user’s brain. To make it more accessible, designers are making this gadget lightweight and cheaper, and adding dry sensors (so you don’t need to smear gel on your head every time you use it). Whether it’s helping people recover from injury, manage a disability, or just try out something awesome, this gadget screams “watch out, world”.


Is there a gadget we’ve left out? Which one would you choose?

NTNU Success Stories
3Eirik Gjelsvik Medbø

Eirik Gjelsvik MedbøFebruary 7, 2014

From NTNU to the World – Entrepreneurs Reveal All

Last month Technoport kicked off the semester for the cooperating villages in Experts in Teamwork, with inspirational talks from three young entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs shared how they have built up companies or organisations, starting as students or recent graduates, and what they have learned from that experience. The feedback from the audience after the talks was really good, so we thought we would share two of the talks with you.

Dynamic Rock Support

Gisle Østereng started and headed one of the most successful companies from NTNU to date, Dynamic Rock Support. He began the work having only a few years of experience after he finished his NTNU studies, when he met a professor at NTNU who had developed a new, more solid rock bolt for the mining industry.

Gisle shares how he and his colleagues, after a few difficult years, “cracked the code” and became the fastest­growing company in Mid­Norway in 2012. He talks about how they got investors, how they initially tried to sell the bolt, and the fact that “you don’t have to be smart to become an entrepreneur”, as he puts it. He also surprises by emphasizing that it was their least experienced salesmen who got the best results.

Engineers Without Borders

When Line Magnussen did a field trip to Bangladesh during her Developing studies at the University of Oslo, she discovered the need for small technical solutions to simplify the lives in developing countries. She then decided to study mechanical engineering at NTNU, with the long­term goal to develop a stove to be used in developing countries, and then start a Norwegian department of Engineers Without Borders. Along with several others, she managed to start Engineers Without Borders in Norway in 2011, but somewhat ironically, she still hasn’t developed the stove!

In this talk, Line tells the story of how this plan played out, and what she has learned from starting a national humanitarian organization for engineers. She explains how her passion for the cause more than compensated for her lack of experience as a student, and the importance of talking about your goals and dreams when you try to get attention and help from others.

Do you have any feedback or questions? Don’t hesitate to comment below!

Photo credit: NTNU Engineering

DIGS logo
60David Nikel

David NikelNovember 29, 2013

DIGS brings co-working to Trondheim

Innovation and entrepreneurship in Trondheim is dominated by academic influence. NTNU’s School of Entrepreneurship churns out eager graduates year after year, while their Technology Transfer Office looks to commercialise the institution’s extensive research.

Of course, this is no bad thing.

Academic strength has positioned Trondheim as Norway’s knowledge capital. But what is there for people outside the academic bubble?

The answer – until quite recently – was not very much. The Leiv Eiriksson Nyskaping (LEN) R&D incubator provides valuable assistance to entrepreneurs but in a traditional working environment. Little other infrastructure existed, driving many of those talented NTNU graduates down to Oslo, or even abroad, to grow their business.

The global co-working phenomenon

Co-working provides a professional yet relaxed work environment for people looking for a creative, affordable way to work, collaborate, and innovate. It’s nothing new, variations exist all over the world with a range of aims, from supporting hip tech startups in NYC to driving social change across Africa.

Oslo’s MESH is the flag-bearer for Norwegian co-working, but up until now, Trondheim lacked anywhere similar.

Introducing DIGS, a versatile and highly-visible space on Olav Tryggvasons gate. It’s only been open for a few months and is a long way from completion, but has already attracted high-calibre visitors such as Liv Signe Navarsete, the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development at the time.

DIGS street-front entrance

Open-plan office space

When the renovations are complete, DIGS will offer 1,000m² of offices, open-plan desks, event spaces, and even a street-facing cafe. Co-founder Arnstein Johannes Syltern told me about the concept and what “success” would mean:

“We spent a year travelling as far as San Francisco looking for inspiring co-working concepts. But one thing was important – we couldn’t just lift a concept from Berlin or London and expect it to work in Trondheim. With DIGS we’ve tried to design a concept that will work for a smaller town and our unique environment.”

“It’s important for us to widen access to Trondheim’s innovation scene and give thinkers and creators an independent place to meet and mix. I’d love the city of Trondheim to be known for knowledge and innovation more generally, not just because of NTNU.”

Success through collaboration

While remaining independent, close co-operation with academia will of course be essential to DIGS’ success. The early signs are positive. In fact as I write this, DIGS tenants AssiStep just announced receipt of an NTNU Discovery grant of NOK 900,000. The news was greeted with congratulations and back-slapping from every single member, highlighting the collective spirit that’s quickly developed here.

Collaborative environment at DIGS

Marine technology startup Searis was one of the first tenants at DIGS. Co-founder Bernt-Johan Bergshaven is in no doubt of the benefits to his company, and the city in general:

“DIGS is a very healthy environment for us as we can instantly speak to other members with totally different skillsets. Each week someone new stops by who asks us challenging questions from a private-sector perspective.”

“After I finished my Cybernetics degree, 70% of my class left Trondheim, and many others stayed on to do research. People are already seeing DIGS as a reason to stay and are starting to think about possible ventures they can start.”

As a tenant myself I am somewhat biased, but I’m in no doubt that DIGS will provide a place for Norway’s expert engineers to create value for Trondheim long after their studies are over. Work is ongoing but you are welcome to pop in for a tour. Get in touch via

3Eirik Gjelsvik Medbø

Eirik Gjelsvik MedbøOctober 1, 2013

Sparking student innovation

“A little less conversation, a little more action please”. Elvis Presley probably didn’t write the song intending to describe innovation, but he actually sums it up quite well; innovation needs action! Spark is a new initiative at NTNU aiming to help students take action and be innovators and entrepreneurs themselves.

What do you do when you think you have a good idea? How do you begin? What should you say, or can you say anything at all? How can you develop your idea? These are questions that often remain unanswered, stopping creative students from exploring their ideas and being obstacles toward innovation. Employees at NTNU can get help answering them using the Technology Transfer Office (TTO), whereas students haven’t had that opportunity. Until now.

Spark was created in cooperation between NTNU and TrønderEnergi, and has one main goal: to nurture and help students who think they have a good idea, to actually do something about it. Spark employs students having started companies themselves, as mentors for students with an idea, to help sort out where to begin and what path to take. Also, the initiative can help by providing that small amount of cash that is often needed in the nascent stage, to make the first prototype or get meetings with potential customers. All mentors are hired by NTNU and have signed a confidentiality agreement with NTNU, so they cannot say anything about the idea to anyone unless the student wants them to.

Spark was soft-launched this September, and it has already gotten a massive feedback from students with ideas. The number of students contacting Spark every week since the softlaunch has shown that the initiative, being unique in Norway, actually answers to a real problem. We have people coming to us wanting to make various types of initiatives, from board games, via apps, to new organisations for different purposes.


Photo by: Start NTNU


So, why should you become an entrepreneur already before you graduate? There are many possible answers to that question, but some of them are:
● It’s some of the best experience you can have applying for a job later on, or you could actually create your own job.
● If you ever want to do it, now is the time where almost no-one else depends on you, and you even get a student loan and scholarship so you don’t have to work. When you have a mortgage, family, spouse and a paid job, you will find it much harder to try. Do it now.
● The university is an unlimited source of good knowledge in a wide range of areas, and as an interested student, you can harvest it for free. Scientific employees are less “threatened”, or afraid to seem stupid, when speaking to young students, and will more
easily share both what they know and what they think they know.
● The younger you are, the more innovative you are. A study from the University of Texas and the University of Massachusetts shows that freshmen are more innovative than graduates, as they think more “outside the box”.
● You are tired with school and want to use your abilities to something that actually creates value, rather than writing reports or exercises trying to find predetermined answers.

So if you have a halfway good idea, you can now come to us in Spark and talk about it, and we will help you find the next steps to maybe make it happen. Maybe you will make the next Fun Run, Fast, Chipcon or Atmel? Or, do you want to help us make Spark even better? Contact us at

Photo by: Anne-Lise Aakervik