Did you know the cheese cutter was invented by a Norwegian? Before my trip to Norway this past fall to facilitate a 3DS program, neither did I!

3DS checked another country off the list as we traveled to our first Scandinavian country in October of 2019 to work with another cohort of aspiring young entrepreneurs. This time we hosted the program at the University of Agder in Kristiansand, which is Norway’s southernmost city.

First, though, a personal tidbit before discussing the program. For eight days before the program, I traveled throughout the country with a friend from college who lives in Germany. We both flew into Bergen, rented a car and drove for miles and miles past skyscraping fjords to Trondheim, stopping for hikes and sleeping in cabins in a number of small towns like Ryfoss and Lora on the way. Why Trondheim? One of my favorite bands in the world, The 1975, was putting on a show so we obviously had to go see them (if you don’t know them, go listen this minute). Sure, it was a 12-hour drive to Trondheim from Bergen, but driving through the mind-blowing landscape of Norway is honestly a vacation in itself. 

If there’s one thing you’ll learn about Norway by just being there a day (other than it being crazy beautiful), it’s that Norway is really, really expensive. So most of our meals consisted of $3 gas station hot dogs (pølses) and some chips. On the way back to Bergen, we took a different route through the west coast stopping in towns like Olden and hiking to the top of a mountain where you can find the renowned Loen Skylift. It was a life-changing trip and I highly suggest Norway be on your bucket list of countries to visit, especially if you love nature, hiking, and hot dogs.

Hiking to the top of a mountain in Loen, Norway.

Anyways, back to the program.

My colleague, Dr. Christina White, and I worked with an incredible group of 33 university students from the Kristiansand and Grimstad campuses of Agder, with international students coming from countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Italy.

Some of the ideas the teams worked on over the course of 72 hours:

  • A service that allows people to sell their available internet data in parts of the world where WiFi is not easily accessible
  • A device that is able to track the amount of UV your body is taking in and alerts you when to reapply sunscreen
  • A company that installs tablets in gyms next to machines, showing explainer videos on how to properly do that exercise
  • A drone that can transport types of blood to hospitals that desperately need it for medical operations

It goes without saying that these were some awesome ideas that really had proven gaps in the market.

Students in action, captured during the program

Some highlights from the program:

  • WeFi, the service that allows people to sell their internet data in internet-disparate parts of the world, needed to talk to someone in a country that had poor access to internet. I sent a text to a friend who lives in Ivory Coast and they ended up connecting with him during customer discovery!
  • One of the program panelists, Trond, is the cofounder of NextGenTel, one of the largest telecommunications firms in Norway…I know! So cool.
  • Stian and Ådne, the (incredible) student organizers of the program, had a red carpet where the participants entered the building. It was just as awesome as it sounds.
  • Dr. White held a “Day 4” with the faculty of Agder, discussing best practices of university ecosystem development 3DS has experienced working in 35 countries all over the world.
  • One of the companies, Leco, rebranded as Innow and launched their business officially! Check out their lean business consulting services.

We ended the program with an incredible dinner at a family-owned restaurant in the heart of Kristiansand to celebrate. How do you think I learned the cheese cutter was invented in Norway? The Agder organizers gave me one as a gift. The Norweigian people are a delight and if you don’t go to Norway just to have some gas station hot dogs and see some fjords, make sure you talk to a few of the locals. 

Read more about the program here.