Imagine that you have one of the best ideas in the world. One which will make everyone’s day a little bit easier, a little bit smarter, and a little bit better. However, you lack the money to make the idea a reality. Or maybe you run out of capital, and the world’s best idea is put in a drawer.

There are thousands of such drawers containing good ideas. In 2016 alone, 4 544 bankruptcies were registered in Norway. During the same period, 61 103 new companies were established in this country, according to Statistics Norway.

Still, many ideas survive, even if it takes a long time to develop them. What often saves them, in addition to the indomitable courage of the idea’s originator, is to have some supporters who not only believe in the idea, but who also can do what is necessary to facilitate access to financial backing. This basically means money on the table.

“DNB has Norway’s largest network of entrepreneurs and start-up companies – and investors. It is then natural for us to establish meeting places where good ideas meet capital,” says Benedicte Schilbred Fasmer, head of Corporate Banking in DNB.

Facts

DNB NXT – ideas meet capital
  • DNB’s entrepreneur initiative, which includes start-up pilots, the Start-up Book and extensive cooperation with a wide range of entrepreneur groups across Norway, was extended in 2016 with the NXT concept.
  • The idea behind NXT is to help companies to take the next step.
  • Through the autumn of 2016, local meeting places were set up in Stavanger, Ålesund, Trondheim, Kristiansand and Bergen.
  • In October, during Oslo Innovation Week, a national NXT event was held in DNB’s premises in Bjørvika. More than 1 100 people attended: entrepreneurs, investors, DNB employees, politicians, media representatives and other interested parties, and the final round of “100 Pitches” was held.
  • DNB NXT Accelerator is the next step in DNB’s entrepreneurial initiative, where selected technology companies receive financial assistance and expert advice to realize their ideas through a three-month program. Will be implemented in the spring of 2017.
Pitch and cash

On 19 October 2016, history was written in Bjørvika. More than 550 entrepreneurs, over 200 investors, some 140 DNB employees and more than 200 other interested parties attended DNB’s very first NXT, the latest project in the bank’s start-up initiative: where ideas meet capital.

One of the participants received a lot of attention that evening in Bjørvika (and for that matter afterwards too). Under the flashes of the cameras, with a gift cheque of NOK 300 000, Yngvar Pettersen was one big smile. He had just won the finale of “100 Pitches”, a contest where entrepreneurs and great ideas present themselves to potential investors.

Yngvar Pettersen is managing director of Home Control, a company engaged in smart house technology. In October, he received a gift cheque of NOK 300 000 after having won the final round of “100 Pitches”.

Pettersen is managing director of Home Control, a company founded on an energy-saving power socket, developed by entrepreneur and electrical engineer Per Hopsø. The company was established in 2003, but it is only over the last few years that things have taken off.

“The process of developing electrical components and getting them approved in Norway takes an awful long time,” explains Yngvar Pettersen. He joined Home Control in 2013, when the company chose to invest in a platform for smart house technology rather than in individual energy-saving products.

“It is natural for us to establish meeting places where good ideas meet capital.”

Benedicte Schilbred Fasmer, head of Corporate Banking.
Smart DIY

“We want to make everyday life easier for people. We have developed a Do-It-Yourself concept where customers can remotely control the power consumption in their homes. We also develop smart alarms with sensors and smoke detectors. The concept has been launched in the market and is starting to gain momentum,” says Pettersen, adding:

“We are still a start-up company, even though we have spent ten years on developing a smart power socket, and then almost three years on the concept itself. Things take longer than you think, especially when you do not have access to the public tendering market, as is the case for start-up companies without sales and security. This is where I wish that the public authorities could be more proactive and take long-term risk. There is not a very strong risk culture in Norway,” says Pettersen.

Patient capital

Someone who likes to take long-term risk is Jan-Erik Hæreid, managing director of Alliance Venture, a seed fund. He manages what he calls ‘patient capital’.

“We invest in private technology companies that are in a very early phase, so early that they do not have any financial history to refer to. Then, the challenge is to assess the three Ps: people, product and potential. We must believe in the people, in the idea and in the potential for achieving returns. One successful investment must pay for the many that fail. In the early phase, our role is mainly one of adviser, supporter and offering a shoulder to cry on. In addition, the time horizon for our investments is very long term,” says Hæreid.

“We consider many companies, but making the cut is very difficult. We typically invest in one of every 100 companies we consider,” says Hæreid.

He attended NXT in October and refers to it as a fantastic event.

“Having such a meeting place for investors and entrepreneurs is a very good thing. I think we registered 10 to 15 companies we did not previously have in our database. However, it remains to be seen whether they are worth investing in!”

The next step for NXT

Pettersen in Home Control also uses the term “fantastic” about DNB’s NXT event: “DNB has put itself on the map when it comes to innovation, and the whole event had a good mix of talks and mingling. We were noticed by several investors due to NXT, and it is my hope that we will now see more concrete action in the technology industry, and that investors will actually invest in us,” says Pettersen.

Benedicte S. Fasmer in DNB appreciates that the NXT event was well received by both investors and entrepreneurs: “Growth companies have expressed that they wish to have meeting places between capital and entrepreneurs, while investors want help in finding the best ideas, preferably in an informal setting. We achieved more than we could have dreamed of as so many attended NXT in October,” says Fasmer.

Towards the end of 2016, DNB took yet another step in its entrepreneurial initiative, with the launch of DNB NXT Accelerator. In cooperation with StartupLab, the bank announced a programme for leading technology companies within everything from voice recognition to security and fintech. Through three months in the spring of 2017, five businesses will receive access to up to NOK 1.3 million and be followed up daily by Norwegian entrepreneurs, mentors who themselves are start-up founders and DNB’s business and IT experts.

“Our entrepreneurial commitment is not just about being a good bank for start-up founders. Due to our position in the corporate market, this is also a natural way for us to contribute to the restructuring of society,” concludes Fasmer.

 

Five entrepreneurs about DNB NXT

"Hearing other people's stories is inspiring, and I got a lot of inspiration that day."

Abiri Ward, Burrito Project

Product/idea: The Burrito Project is Oslo’s first Mexican-American burrito place, whose goal is to serve high-quality fast food with unique flavours and a wide range of choices. The Burrito Project was one of several food suppliers during NXT in Bjørvika in October.

What were your expectations prior to the NXT event – and were they met?

“I expected to meet people from the whole of Norway. Preferably potential investors, but also other entrepreneurs and business owners. Hearing other people’s stories is inspiring, and I got a lot of inspiration that day. In addition, it was fantastic to be able to participate actively in the event with our food, and the response we received was really incredible.”

"A lot happens when ideas meet capital, and in Oslo, the participants were of very high quality."

Mireen Fikse, Urban Cultivator

Product/idea: The concept is an indoor kitchen garden for homes, restaurants and caterers. In a specially designed cultivator, herbs and vegetables are grown under optimal light, heat and irrigation conditions.

What were your expectations prior to the NXT event – and were they met?

“We are located in Trondheim, where DNB does a lot of good work for the local entrepreneur network. When I was invited to Oslo and NXT, my expectations were to meet like-minded people and get new impulses from many great people. A lot happens when ideas meet capital, and in Oslo, the participants were of very high quality. The event definitely met my expectations.”

"DNB NXT surpassed our expectations by a comfortable margin."

Vinoth Vinaya and Maths Mathisen, Hold

Product/idea: Hold is a mobile app that rewards students who put their mobile phone aside in favour of school work. The longer the mobile is not used, the more points are awarded. The points can be traded in for various goods and services from the app’s partners.

What were your expectations prior to the NXT event – and were they met?

“DNB NXT surpassed our expectations by a comfortable margin. Everything delivered before, during and after the event was of an international standard – impressive to achieve in little Norway, and good for cultivating a venture capital culture! We met with relevant investors and are now in dialogue with several of them. The event has provided us with favourable conditions for growth now that we will soon raise capital for our further expansion in Europe.”

"It was great to be able to showcase our company and our progress to so many potential investors and business partners."

Kimberly Larsen, Time to RIOT

Product/idea: Time to RIOT is a web-based market place and digital platform for creative visual services. Here, freelancers working within film, advertising, design, etc. can showcase themselves, and potential clients can find the person they are looking for to join their projects.

What were your expectations prior to the NXT event – and were they met?

“Prior to the event, I mainly focused on my own role during the final round of “100 Pitches”, but the whole NXT was an amazing experience. We are currently in the process of completing a private placement of shares in the company, and it was great to be able to showcase our company and our progress to so many potential investors and business partners. We are in dialogue with several of them now.”

"I have had many exciting meetings with contacts I made at the event."

Kristoffer Lande, Gobitech

Product/idea: Gobi started as a Snapchat bot, developed by and for Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) students. Today, Gobi is a way for groups, large and small, to communicate using snaps and to share everyday moments. This is a way to easily keep in touch with people you do not see very often.

What were your expectations prior to the NXT event – and were they met?

“I hoped to gain valuable insight and knowledge from people who have been in the game longer than me, and at the same time network with interesting people with a similar mentality. DNB NXT was the perfect place to do this, and I have since had many exciting meetings with contacts I made at the event.”