Almost a hundred Nordic environmental technology companies are competing for honour, glory and the attention of international investors in the Nordic Cleantech Open business plan competition, were the Nordic Innovation Centre is main financer.
Nordic Cleantech Open fits well into Nordic Innovation Centre’s work of securing start up and growth companies access to competent risk capital, and the ambitions of the politicians to develop the Nordic countries into the “Green Valley of Europe”.
Back to the future
Earlier this year, the historic Trolleholm Castle in Lund, which dates from 1538, welcomed 25 far younger and more forward looking start up companies from all over the Nordic countries to a two-day training and networking gathering. The entrepreneurs are training to meet Nordic and international investors who could help to turn their dreams and ambitions into reality. The dream is to enter the market with new technologies for greener and more energy efficient solutions.
The world needs green technologies and the Nordic countries are well under way
Industrialisation, globalisation and population growth are putting raw materials and energy supplies under great pressure. If we are to maintain a high standard of living in the west, while new economies grow in parallel, smart technologies will be needed, along with models for sustainable utilisation of the world’s renewable resources. The ambition is that, with Nordic technologies, the blue planet will be green and sustainable for future generations.
Entrepreneurs and polar heroes
Bright minds and good ideas aside, there is no ignoring the fact that these companies are high-risk projects – something about which investors are painfully clear. In line with Nordic tradition, they are ploughing new furrows and exploring new areas. Some have been entrepreneurs before, others are first-timers.
One could compare an entrepreneur’s route to the market with an expedition. It is a race to get there first, without dying along the way, something Amundsen and Scott could have told us about, had they still been alive. Danger lurks around every corner and the entrepreneurs are exposed to high risks.
Against all odds
According to the statistics, most of them will fail to build the growth companies they dream about. The risks they will face include:
- Technology risk: will the technology work in full scale? Is it the best technology? Will the patents hold in the face of international competition?
- Lack of competent capital: the entrepreneurs are dependent on capital to develop and launch their concepts. A capital drought in the venture market makes the competition for money tough. Access to capital is important, but competent capital is even more important. Competent investors understand the entrepreneur’s market and have experience and networks that could be vital.
- Market risk: is the market ready to accept their new technologies, or is it too early? Is there infrastructure in place? There are many forces at work here, and the entrepreneurs must convince customers and partners that turning green is profitable.
Money rules, and only the best will get it
In a capitalist world, money rules. If you cannot find investors with faith in the idea, then your dream will never become a reality. And like most capitalists, the investors are only concerned about one thing: the best possible return on their money. If investors are to risk their money, they must have great faith in the concept and the team. They must see a clear market potential and be convinced that there will be many or major customers. Otherwise they will not invest. It’s as simple and as brutal as that. Green is good, but it needs to pay as well.
Time is money: Three minutes to convince
Investors are busy people who know that time is money. That is why the companies must train, so they can tell their stories quickly and convincingly – a so-called elevator pitch. At Trolleholm Castle in Lund, the participants in Nordic Cleantech Open had three minutes to present their business ideas to the jury and Nordic investors. To convince people inside three minutes, you must be well prepared, but several of the companies managed it.
Next stop London
On 14 February, Nordic Cleantech Showcase was launched at the London Stock Exchange. The event presented some of the Nordic countries’ foremost environmental technology companies, ready for rollout on the international market. As part of the event, Nordic Cleantech Open’s Top 25 start up companies were presented to the international investors in London. Some also had their own stands, where they could demonstrate their technologies.