Confessions of a Gold Digger

The task of raising money for a startup is a complex one. Technoport CEO Gøril Forbord tells a personal tale.

Originally published in Norwegian on

Have you heard of the Consul General Adolf Øiens startup grant? To a gold digger, this grant represents the ultimate prize.

In January 2009 I was hired as CEO of the tiny NTNU startup, MemfoACT AS. We were to commercialize a patented membrane technology, but the company had no money, an unfinished product and just two aspiring employees.

You don’t need to be well versed in tech-speak to understand my main task as CEO was to raise money. This kicked off the 18-month era in my life that I call the eternal money hunt. My CEO position could just as easily have been termed “gold digger” in the employment contract.

The learning curve was very steep during this period and now a few years have passed, I think it’s time to talk about the hunt that ended with NOK 16m. It might serve as inspiration for some, but for me it’s just a fun story to tell. I’ve never written a hunting story before, so I choose to begin the story with the bird that laid the golden egg.

No clue

How do you raise money? I really had no idea. It was completely uncharted territory. What do you do when you don’t have a clue? You try all sorts of things, so I chose to follow every possible path.
Most ended up as dead-ends.

The Consul General Adolf Øiens startup grant would, however, prove to lay the beautiful golden egg of a grant that was well worth pursuing.

What kind of bird is a Consul General?

Adolf ØiensAdolf Øien himself was Trondheim’s leading trader in the period from 1895 to 1918, and was later the city’s biggest legacy since Thomas Angell. In his name today are five funds and the board for the largest of these, the capital fund, decided in 2009 to give out an annual startup grant of half a million kroner. A wonderful decision.

The grant itself is an ingenious creation. It covers a year’s work to develop a business idea. Applicants who graduated from NTNU or Trondheim Business School have priority, but applicants with relevant skills and professional experience may also be considered.

I encourage you all to apply but be aware the deadline for this year is this Friday 29 August.

Weeping in the bathroom

Since the grant was brand new and unknown in the autumn of 2009, I followed this path simply because it was a path. The application was written in the departures hall at Værnes and submitted merely hours before the deadline.

Preparations for the jury meeting quickly turned sour. I hadn’t had time to shrink our standard presentation down to the allotted ten minutes. A mistake you only make once, but of course it’s best to never make it at all.

I had hardly glanced in the mirror that morning or thought to iron clothes the night before.

I remember needing the toilet during the interrogation and, still sweaty from the interruption halfway through the presentation, I shed a tear in the bathroom when I was finally through with the jury questioning.

An unexpected success

Fortunately enough, our company had an exciting business idea, an abnormally strong research team in the back and fine plans to build a factory and create new industrial jobs for Norway.

Miraculously enough, the fine folks on the fund’s board chose to look past the shambles of a gold digger they had in front of them. I could not believe my ears one week later when the phone rang. Our hunt was over and the ultimate prize was ours – the golden egg worth half a million kroner!

As good hunters do, we went home and celebrated with family, but swapping our hunting gear for sparkling liquids – a real gold digger marks their triumph in the most unsavory manner.

How to apply

The application deadline for this year’s grant is August 29. You can apply by filling out this form via Adolf Øiens website. They require some additional attachments that deserve a little explanation:

1) The business plan
This is the main document. Write a short precise description rather than a long rambling one. Focus on your core business idea, business model, market opportunities and development plans / status. My tip is you limit yourself to three to five pages, and absolutely no longer than ten.

2) Borrowing requirements
The important thing here is to present a credible financing plan in which all aid, loans and any other finance appears. It is considered positive if the project has received support from public institutions or others.

3) Loan security
Not a required attachment, but submit if you have this.

4) Other personal information
Here you can attach a CV or other personal details that may be relevant to the application.

Good Luck! If you have questions, call Torkel Ranum from the Adolf Øiens Funds on 91 00 31 80, or you can ask me.

Photo credit: William Warby

Share this page

Connect with us!