Doing the business

Students at the University of Stavanger (UiS) have enjoyed substantial success with several innovative commercial concepts during recent months.

An example of such entrepreneurship is provided by Renate Fossmark Pedersen and Sebastian Risbakken, who have participated successfully in several business idea competitions this spring.

“You need a nose for good concepts and to commit to the ones you’re enthusiastic about. Then you can go far,” says Pedersen, who is studying for a BSc in economics at the UiS Business School.

Both she and Risbakken are active in Start UiS, a student organisation with about 20 members which works to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the academic community.

“An entrepreneur can’t create that much on their own,” says Risbakken, who took an MSc in industrial economics this spring.

“If you have somebody to bounce ideas off, it creates synergies.”

He says he has built up a big network and learnt a lot during the two years since joining UiS Start.

The Startup Weekend competition for commercial concepts took place in Stavanger during April 2013, with no less than 28 ideas presented. Seven were further developed by the roughly 70 participants.

Pedersen was taken with the idea of an app which can combine social media and news, and her group created this during the weekend under the name iBubble.

Based on Facebook settings and “Like” clicks, the app knows where its user is at any time – allowing it to provide details of relevant events in the area. This idea won the competition.

The Startup Weekend clearly whetted Pedersen’s appetite, and she took part immediately afterwards in the Innovate4good conference on social entrepreneurship run by Microsoft in Stockholm.

Attracting 80 young people from the Nordic region, this event was presented with as many as 140 ideas. An eight-strong team including Pedersen won with a solar-powered refrigerator.

Its creators may get backing from Microsoft to continue developing a concept which could help small farmers and fishermen in sunny regions to conserve their produce and boost sales.

“My main driver is undoubtedly the thought that everything’s possible,” Pedersen explains. “Even the craziest notions are worth pursuing, providing you’re a bit crazy yourself.”

All that is necessary is the boldness to jump in and hit the accelerator, she maintains, and says she has become motivated to help other young people to realise their ideas.

“Showing others what opportunities are available and giving advice are a driving force in themselves. But the group and the network I’m part of are also incredibly inspiring and motivating.”

Risbakken won the local final of the Venture Cup with a new type of cycle lock which quickly tracks down thieves, following up an idea sown at the University of California in Berkeley last summer.

He was then in a group of Norwegian students from the NTNU and the Universities of Tromsø and Agder who attended a course at the US institution’s school of entrepreneurship.

Equipped with an alarm, SMS alerting and GPS, the Alert Lock device is connected to the bike owner’s mobile so that a thief can be located fast.

“A lot of bikes get stolen,” Risbakken observes.

“This problem will go on growing with the rise of organised crime, and as more and more Norwegians take up cycling. So there’s a market.”

Economics students at the UiS have clearly been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, and Risbakken himself sits on the board of several business start-ups.

“The creative pleasure is what drives me,” he says.

“I find it very rewarding and educational to work with other able people and swap experience. It’s fun having a lot of irons in the fire.”

His MSc compared entrepreneurial cultures in Stavanger and the USA, and concluded that Norway has some way to go in this area – particularly when compared with California’s Silicon Valley.

“Americans are open and sociable, and share their ideas,” he notes.

“We Norwegians aren’t very open, and don’t want to put ourselves forward and take chances. But that’s what you’ve got to do if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur.”

This article is printed in Univers nr. 1 - 2013

Text: Karen Anne Okstad
English translation: Rolf E Gooderham
Photo: Asbjørn Jensen

Start UiS
This student society works actively to ensure that innovation and entrepreneurship plays a bigger role in the life of the University of Stavanger. It serves as an arena for knowledge development and network building for roughly 20 active members, and forms part of the Start Norge organisation with 350 active members. See

Venture Cup
This ranks as the biggest business planning competition in the Nordic region and is only open to students. It aims to be a prime mover for innovation through marketing and communicating knowledge about entrepreneurship. Student organisation Start Norge is responsible for the contest.

Startup Weekend
This annual business idea competition was staged for the third time in Stavanger this year. It forges contacts between future entrepreneurs and the business community. Good ideas are presented on the first day, and form the basis for business plans which are then developed over the rest of the weekend.

Sebastian Risbakken and Renate Fossmark Pedersen at the University of Stavanger.

COMMITTED: Being members of the Start UiS student organisation has taught Sebastian Risbakken and Renate Fossmark Pedersen how to make success in business idea competitions. What drives them is good interaction with others and the thought that everything is possible.