Monday, August 19, 2013

Charlotte Vorkinn talks about the Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program in Houston

Charlotte Vorkinn talks about the Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program in Houston

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Lillehammer, Norway but I am a so called “Oil-brat” and I am raised in different cities around the world.

What university did you go to?

I have a bachelor’s degree in International Marketing from BI Norwegian Business School and had a year abroad in Singapore to complete my degree at Nanyang Technological University.

What brought you to Houston?

I got an internship at Innovation Norway Houston who, amongst other things, facilitates the Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program (Gründerskolen).

What is your group’s mission?

The Gründerskolen program in Houston is a joint cooperation between Oslo University’s School of Entrepreneurship, Rice University’s Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Innovation Norway and young, growing companies in the Houston area. The overall objective of this collaboration is to give the participating students a taste of entrepreneurship, to help them better understand local business culture, and to stimulate ideas that can be of value to them in the future. 

The Gründerskolen program in Houston is a required component of a MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship offered at several universities in Norway. For three months the participating students work full-time on an unpaid basis with local start-up companies while attending evening classes at Rice University studying innovation and entrepreneurship.
As a formal partner to the Entrepreneurship Program, Innovation Norway coordinates the placement of students in start-up companies abroad. 

What exactly does it bring to its participants?

The purpose of the program is to give students a “real-world” experience in an entrepreneurial environment, providing them with insight into the operation and management of a company in the start-up phase.

Who would benefit from your program?

The student placement program can be thought of as a combination of a traditional internship and a consulting engagement. Depending on your company’s needs, a team consisting of up to 4 students can work with and examine your company’s processes, and provide in-depth recommendations for necessary improvements. A typical project might involve the development or distribution of a new product; how to streamline a purchasing process; creating an annual sales forecast procedure; market research; or exploring the capital appropriation process.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?

Locating suitable start-ups in the Houston area to host student interns for three months requires that we have ongoing insight into Houston’s entrepreneurial environment. As we have experienced in previous years, some start-ups are simply too young to take on interns as they do not have the available resources required to supervise and mentor these students.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

If you are a Houston area start-up or know of any that could benefit from hosting one or more of our interns, please do not hesitate to contact me (Charlotte Vorkinn) or Eric Namtvedt for more information.

What Houston-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?

Our ongoing cooperation with the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship has been invaluable to the programs’ success. We attend all of their Venture Forums throughout the year as they serve as excellent arenas for meeting new exciting start-ups from the Houston Area. 

For additional information regarding the program see:

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