In 2012 Korkia, at that time under the name Eera, grabbed the challenge and opportunity to start fostering what today is known as Norsepower, a unique rotor sail solution company. The original invention was almost 90 years old but had before Norsepower never before been offered to the market as a tested and commercially available solution.
The past six years, first as a founder and later on the board, have learned a lot of lessons worth sharing.
Lesson 1: Choose the best advisors
Throughout the process you need good technical advisors, especially if you are a generalist with limited experience in the substance matter. Even if common sense and business experience are useful virtues, you need the advice of experts in technology related matters.
In Norsepower, we have had the benefit of excellent advisors on both technology and the shipping industry.
Lesson 2: The original inventor is rarely the right guy to lead the business
In the case of Norsepower, the original inventors of the 1920’s were for obvious reasons not available, but in practically all cases I have been working with, even live and kicking inventors have had to face the fact that building a business is not their sweet spot.
The decision to strengthen the founding team with an external CEO already in the beginning may be difficult, but worth the effort. Norsepower found the right guy in Tuomas Riski, who has done a great job.
Lesson 3: TRL matters
Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is an essential measurement. At the lower levels, both digital and industrial inventions need to be prepared to reiterate, change direction and even disprove initial assumptions. This is especially important with industrial inventions, where the step from idea to production is much longer than in the purely digital world.
For industrial start-ups, the only way forward is fast evolution of the TRL. The maturing process takes time and requires patience from both investors, the board and the management. Combining this with the necessary driving force is part of the art of fostering an industrial startup.
Lesson 4: Big clients have big demands
An industrial startup often sells their solution to large industrial corporations. These companies have rigorous procedures and standards, which are demanding with the limited resources of a small company. The standards may or may not include procurement, manufacturing, process control, quality systems, risk management, health and security measures, IPR protection etc. etc.
The big question for the startup is when and how to start preparing for all these demands. Too early you do not have the staff for it and too late is too late. Preparing step by step at an early point in time and prioritizing is probably the best piece of advice.
Lesson 5: Know your market
Before establishing Norsepower, Korkia did a thorough assessment of the market opportunity. It was big, but we were still wrong. It’s much bigger. The market segments and construction setup has partially changed. That’s life.
The essential is to know both the market and the right players in the market. However good an invention, sales matters when it comes to the bottom line.
Norsepower is the world’s leading auxiliary wind propulsion provider, which rotor sail technology helps significantly lower fuel consumption and emissions of shipping.
Korkia is an internationally operating company specialized in investing, developing and financing. Our clients include domestic and international investors, corporations and institutions. Korkia was one of the founders of Norsepower and is also one of the company’s investors
Author Erik Floman is Korkia Consulting’s Senior Partner, Norsepower’s Board Member and one of the founders of Norsepower.