Gründerskolen - entrepreneurial inspiration for future Norwegian business leaders

Since 2009, a contingent of Norwegian entrepreneurial students comes to Houston to spend 3 months studying and working as interns as part of the “Gründerskolen” exchange program. The purpose of the program is to inspire young aspiring entrepreneurs and give them the tools, insights and hands-on experience to help them succeed in their future endevaours. Living and working in an entirely different country and business culture is very valuable experience in itself. The program also offers exchange opportunities in Boston, Singapore, Toronto and San Francisco.

The Norwegian students Fredrik Salen and Even Nikolai Lokøy are two of the participants in the Gründerskolen exchange program. They are students of the sister programs Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences in Bergen and Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås.

The possibility of combining an internship with a company and attending lecture series / a study program at Rice University was a large component of why they chose to participate in this exchange program. The classes at Rice have a broad specter of students from different backgrounds attending. The programs are not technology-specific; they focus on all the challenges of start-up companies at large, essentially the core of their curriculum. This provides the students with relevant tools to apply in their internships in Houston.

Fredrik and Even are both very satisfied with the classes they have attended at Rice and with their internship. Most classes are held by guest speakers with an extensive and hands-on industry background, providing valuable insights into how things are actually done. There is an elaborate feedback system, which ascertains that only the best lecturers will be a part of next year’s program. This feature works very well, according to Fredrik and Even.

During the students first week in Houston, the students are paired up with several locally based start-up companies, taking them on as interns for the duration of the program. Fredrik and Even interned for the Norwegian cyber-security company Secure-NOK, at their Houston office. Area Sales Manager, Nina Hesby Tvedt with Secure-NOK is very content with the program, and the contribution made by Fredrik and Even. – Having them onboard, gave us the opportunity to work on projects that we normally don’t find the time to finish. Their theoretical and academic approach is useful, as they as students are inclined to combine systematic and critical thinking with a fresh look at our business. This has been very helpful. As students, they interact with our customers and stakeholders in a different way.  They can carry out market research that we would not normally do and we find that they get different answers than if we reached out ourselves.

Fredrik and Even are very positive about the internship. – We have been given plenty of work, which have been both challenging and rewarding. The internship exposed us to marketing tasks, networking and conference experience. We also learned much from Nina and the founder of Secure-NOK Siv Hilde Houmb, especially on the many pitfalls you face when you start your own company.

Secure-NOK differ slightly from most of the companies that offer internships through the “Gründerskole” program, being mainly American start-ups, in the business of anything from brain damage assessment apps, clothing, to a start-up incubator.

The Norwegian Consul General in Houston hosted a farewell dinner for the students and their host companies on May 24. The Consul General sees the program as an excellent combination of two objectives – Norwegian-American collaboration, and modernization of our industries.