Posts Tagged ‘funding’

Confessions of a gold digger
4Gøril Forbord

Gøril ForbordAugust 27, 2014

Confessions of a Gold Digger, part 1

Originally published in Norwegian on

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

EU Innovation Funding
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 8, 2014

EU Launches Horizon 2020 Innovation Fund

The European Commission has presented calls for projects under Horizon 2020 – a €15 billion fund aimed at building Europe’s knowledge-driven economy and tackling issues that will make a difference to people’s lives.

A grand plan indeed.

Substantial support will be provided for innovation activities directly aiming at producing plans and arrangements or designs for new, altered or improved products, processes or services. There are three initial channels of funding for 2014:

Excellent Science

Around €3 billion, including €1.7 billion for grants from the European Research Council for top scientists and €800 million for Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships for younger researchers.

Industrial Leadership

€1.8 billion to support Europe’s industrial leadership in areas like ICT, nanotechnologies, advanced manufacturing, robotics, biotechnologies and space. Examples of the rising importance of biotechnology are in industrial applications including biopharmaceuticals, food and feed production and bio-chemicals, of which the market share of the latter is estimated to increase by up to 12% – 20% of chemical production by 2015.

Societal Challenges

€2.8 billion for innovative projects addressing Horizon 2020’s seven societal challenges, broadly: health; agriculture, maritime and bioeconomy; energy; transport; climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials; reflective societies; and security. I imagine energy projects will be particularly welcome, with the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 still in play.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, introduces the program:

“The European Commission’s proposal for Horizon 2020 is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe. It’s an investment in research and innovation to support three major objectives: excellent science, competitive industries, and a better society. Horizon 2020 focuses more than ever on bringing great ideas to the market. It provides opportunities for business and it changes peoples lives for the better.”

“For the first time Horizon 2020 is bringing together all of the EU funding for research in innovation under one single program, and at the same time it’s drastically cutting the red tape so it’s attracting more top researchers and enterprises. I’ve said many times we have an innovation emergency in Europe and Horizon 2020 is our response to that emergency.”

Those words are all well and good, but will the money be spent in existing research environments, or will it be used to boost small businesses who are taking the biggest risks? I hope to see the latter, and Horizon 2020 promises at least €3 billion will be allocated to SMEs, particularly in the Societal Challenges fund, although the focus is very much on collaborative projects.

Read all about how to get funding from Horizon 2020.

Photo credit: Giampaolo Squarcina

Introduction to Crowdfunding
60David Nikel

David NikelDecember 13, 2013

An Introduction to Crowdfunding

Over the coming months the Technoport Playground will host a series of articles, interviews, and discussions around the topic of crowdfunding.

There’s no doubt crowdfunding is a buzz word, but there’s also no doubt it’s changing the way small businesses can get funding. According to research firm Massolution, US $5bn will be raised through crowdfunding in 2013.

A trip back in time

The concept has its roots way back before the days of social media, and even before computers. Way back before any of you dear readers were even born! To learn the roots of crowdfunding, we must travel back to late 19th Century America.

Journey with me…

Statue of Liberty

It’s well known that the French gifted the Statue of Liberty to the United States, but what’s less well known is America had to find $300,000 to pay for the base on which the statue would be constructed.

The American committee responsible for raising the funds approached newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer to help launch a campaign. Through the press, they invited citizens to donate whatever they could afford to help fund the base, and in return each donor would receive a miniature replica of the statue. The plan worked, raising $100,000 in five months.

Cutting out the middle man – to an extent

The internet – and specifically social media – has opened up the world of funding for startups and innovators. No longer are entrepreneurs forced to dress up in suits and go cap in hand to VCs or bank managers.

If someone has an idea, or better still a prototype, they can instantly validate that idea with cold, hard cash. According to Fundable, the average successful campaign lasts around 9 weeks and raises US $7,000.

At Startup Weekend, participants are taught they must validate their idea as early as possible. With crowdfunding, all an inventor needs is a prototype (or perhaps just a drawing!), a YouTube video, and some compelling copy to start a campaign.

Of course at some point in a startup’s growth, VC money will be required. But that money will flow so much faster after a successful crowdfunding campaign that validates customer demand.

Equity crowdfunding – the future?

In most campaigns, donators are rewarded with early access the product or service in question, sometimes with additional benefits.

Following on from the success of this donation-based model, bigger businesses are jumping on board the crowdfunding train and planning an equity-based model. There are legal hoops to jump before this approach will become commonplace across borders, but it looks a surefire bet.

Where this all takes place

Perhaps the best known crowdfunding site is Kickstarter, although it focuses on creative projects. Rival site Indiegogo has grown massively, mainly because of its wider remit. Meanwhile Crowdfunder bills itself as crowdfunding for businesses, and is home to $500,000+ projects looking to attract serious investment.

For those interested in the equity-based approach, check out FundedByMe, who claim to be Europe’s fastest growing crowd investment platform.

I’ve been an interested observer of crowdfunding for several years but have never taken the plunge with an investment.

Have you?

Photo credits: David Muir & Chaymation