Hunting «unicorns» and norway’s next startup success
The unique programme is primarily seeking to help businesses grow, but the dream is obviously to find the next Opera Software or Spotify.
‒ This will be the leading accelerator for companies looking to grow and increase profits. We will make them into salesmen, by teaching them commercialisation and new business models, explains Torger Reve at BI Norwegian Business School.
The Accelerator Scale-Up Programme, where Reve is part of the faculty, is the major endeavour developed by BI, in cooperation with the American prestigious university MIT, the largest regional clusters in Norway and several of the country’s finest universities.
Together, they aim to find the most promising companies ‒ and provide them with the necessary tools to conquer the world.
Last year a BI study showed that two out of every three new jobs in Norway are created in young startups. The findings offered a sharp contrast to the Norwegian perception of the larger and more established companies being the ones who make the biggest contribution.
A good idea is not enough
Meanwhile, the problem is not the number of startups in the country, but rather how frustratingly few of them grow to be large and competitive on an international level.
‒ Most have a good idea, but then it stops, says the BI professor.
Reve knows what he is talking about. In addition to working on commercialisation projects with top schools like Berkeley and Stanford for several years, he is also experienced with teaching entrepreneurs who became really successful. A former student of his was among the three Norwegians who sold their startup Acano to Cisco for 700 million dollars in 2015.
Torger Reve refers to Acano, together with giants like Opera Software, Spotify and Google, as examples of «unicorns», businesses who grow from nothing to become billion dollar companies. The latter was just one of many search engines, but Google won because of their superior business model, he remarks.
‒ They immediately knew to consider the revenue. It is these things that characterise the really successful enterprises.
In the 12-week-long scaleup programme, which is structured around the MIT model «Disciplined Entrepreneurship», the participants get tailored mentoring from specialists in their field, experts on entrepreneurship and startup professionals who have already succeeded in scaling their own companies.
‒ This is not a study programme with an exam and a curriculum. Here, you will meet potential investors and clients, and learn how you can drive your business to become bigger and more profitable.
One of the highlights is sure to be the module taking place in Boston, taught by MIT professor Bill Aulet. The American first begun working for IBM, before eventually raising several hundred million dollars for his own companies. Now, he uses his knowledge to teach other people his winning method.
‒ Aulet is probably the leading figure in the world of entrepreneurship. He has succeeded on his own, and got quite rich from it along the way.
The businesses they are looking for are not necessarily «unicorns», Reve emphasises, but growth potential and bold ambitions are important. For those who join the programme, the reward can potentially be great.
While raising funds remains the key challenge facing Norwegian companies, the access to fresh capital is easier for US businesses through venture funds. In this programme, participants will get access to solutions for capital acquisition tailored for companies in a Norwegian context.
‒ When the companies go home, they will have grown so strong that they can acquire whatever capital they need. They will also have the knowledge needed to conquer new markets.