Four weeks ago I arrived in Silicon Valley to attend the TINC-program hosted by Innovation Norway in San Francisco & Silicon Valley. I returned to Norway a couple of days ago after the most exciting and demanding month for a very long time. And it will change the way I think and do business. Strong words. Strong experience. This is my story.
Picture of a drawing on the wall at Innovation House in Palo Alto (Artist: Unknown)
What is TINC?
TINC is short for Tech INCubator, and this is how Innovation Norway (IN) describes it:
“We experience that there are many Norwegian technology startups with an international potential. Our ambition is to make it easier for you to realize it, faster, with less risk. TINC is developed by Innovation Norway in collaboration with Norwegian tech startups, investors and Silicon Valley professionals.”
This is what I have been doing the last month in Silicon Valley and San Francisco attending with the product Ensafer developed by my company Invenia. I applied for the program in March, and was chosen to attend together with five other Norwegian companies. This is what TINC was supposed to give me according to IN:
“TINC is an easy access all-inclusive four weeks business development program in Silicon Valley. The program is offered to Norwegian early-stage technology start-ups with ambitions and potential for international high-growth. After the stay in Silicon Valley, you will have developed and verified a roadmap to internationalization. You will also have completed a market assessment revealing the necessary steps for growing your company faster with regards to resources, competencies, technology development, IP and financing. To lower the barrier to participation, TINC has the objective of being as easy, efficient and secure as possible. We provide you with:
- Top notch advisors and mentors
- A trusted environment designed for learning and networking
- Plug & play – accommodation and office space
Learning by doing is at the core of the program, and TINC is designed as an on-the-job training concept. During your stay you will get a desk at a local incubator. You will be exposed to pitching sessions and be able to test your concept on potential customers and “friendly” investors. You will also participate in networking events to expand your network and be facilitated through the Kauffman FastTrac® TechVenture™ program. Everything to encourage you to think bigger – faster.”
And this is exactly what I got from TINC. In addition each company had individual activities and meetings, and attended events and conferences on their own. This made TINC a holistic and successful program these four weeks from May 21th to June 15th.
What did we accomplish?
It was an exciting and very demanding journey covering a lot of subjects as indicated above. IN did an outstanding job to prepare and implement the program for the six companies, and this was a pilot since this was the first program. The next one will take place from September 24th to October 19th. Deadline for application is June 24th, so there are still some days to write an application for interested startups.
A solid program designed by IN was an assumption for good results. But it was the companies themselves who was responsible for exploiting this opportunity and reach the goals for the program. And the evaluation at the end of the program showed that the participants were very satisfied. Of course, there were things to improve since this was a pilot. We gave feedback on those improvements, and the next program the coming fall will be even better.
What did I accomplish with Ensafer; our product to protect sensitive information on the Internet by using end-to-end encryption? I verified that there is a huge interest for cloud security in the US, and that Ensafer har unique qualities and advantages in the market today. I met a lot of interested people, both via TINC-sessions and my individual work, and the conclusion is that there is a market for us. My plan is to go back to Silicon Valley for a longer stay this fall provided that we raise some funding in Norway this summer as a fundament for such an expansion. So spread the word to interested investors.
I have shared many of the exciting and fine moments from this experience using my social media on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. And I decided to blog while I was there to give a broader insight to my readers. And it started well with my blog post “How I met co-founder & CEO Drew Houston at Dropbox”.
Then I stopped because it takes time to write articles with some depth; not just reporting something. And time turned out to be a very scarce resource for all of us during the program. TINC itself was quite packed with activities, and my own meetings, events and work took the rest. So I decided to postpone blogging until my return to Norway and just post short messages through my other social media channels. It was better to devote my scarce time in USA to activities I only could do there; i.e. meetings, events and networking. So I did, and this is my first of hopefully many blog post from TINC during the next weeks.
A special thanks to the IN-team in SF/SV for making this program possible representet by Anne Worsøe, Åse Pettersen Bailey and their team. Next, the result wouldn’t have been so good without our splendid helpers:
- Coach: Laila Danielsen
- Pitching coach: Nathan Gold
- Mentor: Julie Hanna
- Industry mentor: Mark Robinson
And finally, thanks to the other great entrepreneurs representing Norwegian startups with an international potential: Rune Aleksandersen, Rune Aalberg Alstad, Stein Gausereide, Morten Isachsen, Morten Versvik and Emil S. Økstad. You’ll find them on LinkedIn.
It was great working at Innovation House in Palo Alto and RocketSpace in San Francisco. We stayed in very nice and centrally located apartments at Archstone South of Market at the corner of 3rd Street and Folsom. It was “Plug & Play” regarding accommodation and office space as mentioned above.
Left: Innovation House in Palo Alto. Right: RocketSpace in San Francisco
I’ll be back with more blog posts in the coming weeks to tell my story from TINC (tagged with “TINC”). Meanwhile you can read a blog post from Innovation House from the day we started TINC on May 21st. Or you can read my blog post (in Norwegian) written before I left for USA in May.