Posts Tagged ‘success’

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.

Samasource
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: Samasource.org

Motorbike HIGH RES
15Megan Jones

Megan JonesMarch 5, 2014

Crowdfunding Success Stories – 3Doodler

A couple of months ago we talked about some of the most exciting tech to come out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. One of those products was the 3Doodler, whose Kickstarter campaign in early 2013 smashed its target within days.

We thought the 3Doodler sounded so cool that we’ll be having a 3Doodler scribe at some of the sessions at Technoport 2014. In advance of that, we asked the 3Doodler creators to reflect on their crowdfunding success and share some insights.

What lead you to try crowdfunding for the 3Doodler?
All three co-founders have been users of CF sites for some time. Between us we have backed well over twenty projects in the past few years, and at the Artisan’s Asylum, where we work, we have been able to witness other CF projects from inception to execution. We knew that CF, particularly on Kickstarter, would offer a great platform to garner interest in the 3Doodler, test the concept, market to potential consumers, and create a vibrant and supportive community. It also came with the benefits of having all mechanisms, such as payment processing and community management in place.

Your Kickstarter project was almost an overnight success. Did that bring unexpected consequences?
We were prepared in the sense that we had the resources to cope with the emails and media attention. We also had a concrete sense of the goals and budgets of our project before going on Kickstarter, and before putting 3Doodler into the public eye.  That said, the pace of emails and messaged (each of which we committed to respond to) caught us off guard, with thousands coming in a day at one stage. That’s when having a flexible team, and a friend or two to lend a hand can really help.

Would you do crowdfunding again, or would you look to more traditional investors in the future?
Yes, absolutely we would, crowdfunding worked very well for us the first time around. The whole Kickstarter experience was a very positive one for us – we were able to get some fantastic feedback from backers and the community. And that’s why we would do it again – the fact that we get to build a community before 3Doodler had even hit the stores was awesome.

What are your thoughts on equity crowdfunding?
It’s great for feedback and getting your project off the ground, but you just need to be careful and make sure you have resources to cope with the emails and media attention. Make sure that you have a concrete sense of the goals and budgets of your project before going on Kickstarter, since you’re putting it into public eye. Crowdfunding not only allowed us to be financially independent and get proof of concept early on, it also allowed us to build a community out of the gate.

What does the future hold for 3D printing and the 3Doodler?
Tools such as the 3Doodler represent a new medium in 3D expression. This gets you closer to being able to take an image or idea from your mind and render it as a physical object in reality. If you can envision an object you can now create it. And it will facilitate the ability for us to communicate our ideas and visions to one another.

Finally, any tips for product designers considering a crowdfunding campaign?
Prepare, take your time, get it right – make sure your idea’s great, and you have the right people to launch it. The exercise of asking all the right questions up front makes the plan much easier. Don’t ask questions too late! The moment you have launched it’s very hard to correct planning mistakes.

Also, be responsive: Every backer is a key ally. They were there first. Reply to their messages, hear their comments, give them respect. They stick by your side if they do and they’ll let others know. Good communication is also a sign that you are on top of things and can execute. But at the same time, stick to your plan and keep the backer audience in perspective, you can’t change your whole app on the feedback of a few. Keep it balanced.

Image credit: 3Doodler

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

HOOK
60David Nikel

David NikelJanuary 24, 2014

Crowdfunding Success Stories – HOOK

Last year I reported on the success of the Norwegian crowd-funded project HOOK:

Whether it’s due to the funky design, the clever copywriting (strong as an ant, smart as an elephant), the successful $20,000 crowdfunding project, its sheer simplicity, or the fact the inventor spent months researching the idea in public restrooms around Europe, I’m not too sure. I’m not the only one impressed by Hook, a shockingly simple product that fits between a door and doorframe to provide you with a place for your jacket, and slips neatly away in your wallet. (Arctic Startup)

Following the product’s launch and an appearance at the Tokyo Designers Week, I asked creator Bjørn Bye to reflect on the crowdfunding approach.

What inspired you to try crowdfunding?

I have known about crowdfunding from the start of Kickstarter and Indiegogo and have been fascinated by the concept since then. In 2012 my brother and a friend of mine launched a project, and I followed the process from the sideline. The decision to launch HOOK on Indiegogo was both scary and fun. Still, just looking at five or ten project videos on any crowdfunding platform is inspiring and a push to just go ahead.

What was the waiting experience like?

The waiting is an ongoing thrill for the whole duration of the campaign. Not only do you check the progress yourself four times a day, you also know that a lot of your friends and family stop by regularly to see if they have put their money on a good horse. In the case of HOOK there was a quite rapid climb to about 50% of the funding. Then there was a long nerve-wracking quiet period. The campaign went through the Norwegian summer holiday, and I guess that was the reason for the halt. At the end of July I got a few good articles in the right media, and the funding started moving again.

Would you do crowdfunding again, or would you look to investors in the future?

I think it depends on the project or product. In the case of HOOK I had a confirmation on my patent application both for Norway and abroad. I would not have launched HOOK without the patent. The good thing about crowdfunding is that if you succeed you don’t have to sell out shares at an early stage. Instead you build value (if you succeed) and you build your first market and sales statistics. Investors can be a good and necessary stage in an entrepreneurial business, but they sure know what they want for their money.

Finally, any tips for those considering a campaign?

Yes, put effort into making a fun, inspiring and personal film. Pull as many favours as you can from people you know to make it as good as possible. Work on the marketing of your campaign prior to launch. Some successful projects have worked on PR and information months before the launch. I started working on the promotion after the launch and to get attention in the web-jungle is not easy!

Set your goal to what you really need and perhaps even a bit less. The psychology of the community is that if it doesn’t look like you will reach your goal, people wait and see. If you reach your goal early (due to a lower target) more people might back your project since it is a success. There are several blogs with good tips on how to work on a crowdfunding campaign. Search and read a few of these, and if you find tips that strike you as good ideas for your campaign, they probably are.

See the original HOOK crowdfunding project here!