“When we joined the programme January we were headed for ‘death valley’ with respect to our funding. Since then, we have managed to raise capital in a demanding market and are on our way up. The greatest value we have gained here is people’s time. It is extremely valuable to get support and advice on raising capital and on how to build up a company,” says Ask Helseth, co-founder and CEO of Spoor.
SEB ScaleCenter began operating in 2020 with the ambition to support startup companies that develop sustainable solutions in the areas of energy and aquaculture. The programme, which is free of charge for participating startups, runs for 12 months. During that time the participants gain access to premises adjacent to SEB’s offices along with continuous advisory support from the bank’s experts.
“When we invest our own time in something that has a positive impact on the world, it does something with us as people. We develop and grow from it,” says John Turesson, country manager for SEB in Norway, who is one of the driving forces behind the venture together with Johannes Breivik, who works with sustainability in Debt Capital Markets.
SEB ScaleCenter focuses on what is referred to as death valley in the startup world, that is, the point in time when a company is too big to participate in an innovation and or new start programme, but too small to be able to secure bank financing. The plan is to take in four companies a year.
“We have chosen to work with just a handful of companies, which allows us to work much more closely with them and customise our support,” says Johannes Breivik. “It is also important that we know their owners, many of whom are already Family Office customers or venture capital units of large companies.”
Since its start SEB ScaleCenter has taken in eight companies – four that have been shepherded out of the programme and four that are participating right now.
“All eight companies have managed to raise capital at higher valuations than they had prior to joining the programme, which is great,” says Johannes Breivik. “A few of the companies that have graduated from the programme have subsequently chosen to pay to remain in the building because they see the value of staying in our premises and having access to our expertise and network.”
Moreover, during the term of the programme the companies have access to one full-time resource per company consisting of volunteers from the StartNHH student organisation at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in Bergen.
“Nine of the students who have participated say that they have landed jobs or internships either with one of the companies or SEB, and 12 say that they have received job offers by referencing their participation in the programme,” says Johannes Breivik.
Advanced computer vision
Spoor uses advance computer vision and AI to detect, track and classify birds in the vicinity of wind farms.
Ask Helseth explains: “We have a number of major crises in the world that need to be solved: One is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, another is protecting biodiversity. On these two points, wind power companies are at the intersection of delivering renewable energy at the same time that they work under strict requirements to protect birds. There are very few solutions for doing this in a good way.”
According to sector analysts, Spoor has world-leading technology.
“The solution today is often to send out a person with binoculars to count birds. This is quite costly, especially out at sea when you need a boat or helicopter. Consequently, you get very little data, which can delay new wind farm development by months and years. By placing cameras on buoys or directly on the turbines, we can deliver a hundred times more data at the same cost.”
Wind farm design
The technology can be used in the planning stage to determine how to design a wind farm to reduce negative biodiversity impact. It can also be used to monitor and follow up how bird life is impacted and thereby obtain better decision-making documentation.
Spoor is also testing the technology to allow continuous adjustment of wind power generation to protect bird life. This can also be done at night time with the help of thermal-spectrum cameras.
“Instead of having people out in the field observing bird flocks to be able to shut down generation, our technology makes it possible to do this more efficiently and precisely. This can entail slowing down individual turbines for shorter periods and thereby reducing the risk for production losses.”
Spoor came in to SEB ScaleCenter in January, when it had four employees. Before summer, the company carried out a funding round, where it attracted a number of big investors, including Nysnø Climate Investment, the wind power company Ørsted, Wiski Capital, and the Swedish company Norrsken.
Today Spoor has three of the five largest offshore wind companies as customers. The company has grown to over ten employees and expects to have around 20 by year-end.
“We are doing a lot that we have never done before, so it is valuable to get help from experts with know-how in financial matters,” says Ask Helseth. “Things that are quite obvious for them may be extremely valuable for us. I also think that we benefited greatly during the funding round by being part of SEB ScaleCenter. Having a quality seal from a renowned brand such as SEB facilitated our capital raising effort.”
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