Alumni of the week

A green family affair

Tone Bjørseth-Andersen & John Andersen Jr.

Chairman of the Board (Tone) & CEO (John) at Scatec AS

MSc in International Strategy and Marketing 1995 (Both)

“The willingness to take risks needs to be coupled with expertise and experience.”

When Scatec, a Norwegian cleantech investment group, are looking for new companies to join their family, they always have their eyes on companies with a green tint.

Tekst: Morten Ståle Nilsen - Foto: Marthe Garmann

Tone Bjørseth-Andersen and John Andersen, Jr. are full-time partners in the most fundamental sense of the word.

Not only are they married, with three children. She is also the Chairman of the Board, while he is the CEO of Scatec – a company «in the business of creating businesses», as their homepage has it. Meaning it’s an incubator, a company that helps other companies reach their potential.

– What we do here, broadly speaking, is business development. We help embryonic companies become real companies, and we have a special affection for industrial technologies. We’ve always had our eye on what we might call «green» technologies, or sustainable technologies, the pair explain.

Creating sustainable value

Scatec’s vision was conceived by Tone Bjørseth-Andersens father, Alf Bjørseth, who founded the company in the late 80’s. Bjørseth, through Scatec, was the Founder, President and CEO of REC – Renewable Energy Corporation; one of the largest solar energy companies of its time.

– It’s part of our vision for the company that we want to create value by developing more sustainable technologies. 20 years ago, that might have sounded like a purely idealistic venture. But a lot has happened in those 20 years. Today there is mainstream recognition that having a sustainable business model is an integral part of creating value. In that sense, our work has gotten easier.

Alf Bjørseth, a legendary figure in Norwegian science and entrepreneurship, remains on the board of the company, but retired some years ago.

– The difference between Scatec and a typical venture capital firm, or a private equity firm, is that we only invest our own capital. We do not raise capital from other investors into a fund, and we do not have a fixed investment period. That gives us a certain freedom to work long term.

Taking risks

However, the company does not necessarily open the door for any startup who comes knocking. They prefer to get in at a very early stage or having the project being initiated by them in the first place.

Their main goal is finding radical innovations. For three reasons, they believe being a smaller company makes them more agile than the bigger industrial owners.

– It’s about three things. 1. The willingness to take risks. 2. The willingness to take risks. And 3. The willingness to take risks. Of course, the willingness to take risks needs to be coupled with expertise and experience.

The couple met while taking the Master of Science programme in International Strategy and Marketing at BI in 1993. John had started working as a research assistant at the Institute for Strategy the year before, and «very nearly became an academic», laughs Tone.

– It was a real formative experience for me, says John.

Special kind of purpose

Before Scatec, Tone was actually a professional ballet dancer. She had left Oslo for Stuttgart, and their world-renowned ballet school, immediately after finishing obligatory junior high school, and worked at the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet upon returning home.

– Then I was injured, and had to take a break. I decided to give BI a try. But first I had to complete my upper secondary education.

However, Tone has kept in touch with her great passion. Today, Scatec is a proud sponsor of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet.

Together, Tone and John say working for a family-owned company gives them a special kind of purpose. Working on projects that might actually help the planet, rather than harm it, is a boon too, they agree.

– It requires patience and devotion – you have to be utterly motivated.