Interview: GeoSilica

geoSilica LogoInterview date: 24 June 2014

Interviewed by: Tanja & Fe

 

Introduction

The story:

The company geoSilica Iceland ehf. was founded by Burkni Pálsson, Fida Abu Libdeh, and Agnir ehf., pursuant to their final theses done as a part of their B.Sc. studies in Energy and Environmental Engineering at Keilir Institute of Technology. In the fall of 2012 they received a grant from Tækniþróunarsjóður (The Icelandic Technology Fund) which will secure financing for the company for the next three years. The company also had the special honor of being among the top ten finalists in Gulleggið 2013, which is the largest entrepreneurship and innovation competition in Iceland.

See also: Interview with Fida on Ísland í dag

Research Questionnaire

Fida Abu Libdeh1. Name: Fida Abu Libdeh

2. Email address: fida [at] geosilica.com

3. Phone number: +345 5713477

4. Your title in the company: Co-Founder and CEO

5. Company Name: GeoSilica / www.geosilica.is

6. Industry: Healthcare products / Geothermal

7. Company years in operation: 2012

8. Type of company: Private Limited companies (“Einkahlutafélag” (ehf)

9. How many employees does your company have:

2 full time employees and 3 part time employees

10. Annual turnover: 2013: none. They have received grants for approx. 35M ISK for 3 years

11. Description of company:

The main objective of the company is to develop high quality silica healthcare products utilizing wastewater from the geothermal power plants in Iceland which today is largely an unused natural resource. The silica in geothermal fluids can cause severe scaling problems and because of that the fluid is usually re-injected into the geothermal reservoir which is very costly, or pumped out to sea if possible. The company is setting up production of a silica food supplement in the form of colloidal silica to be taken orally. In order to produce the colloidal silica it is necessary to remove all unwanted minerals from the fluid and geoSilica is currently adapting a new method to do this i.e. remove all minerals from the fluid except the silica.

Research have increasingly shown that silicon is an extremely necessary trace mineral for the human body. Silicon is necessary for the correct and efficient formation of collagen which is the main component of connective tissue. Furthermore, it seems play a key role in the formation and growth of bones and directs the body where to deposit minerals as well as helps with depositing them. Silicon is also necessary for a good health of skin, teeth, hair, and nails. Also, research has shown that extra doses of silica can be preventive for osteoporosis in women. Finally, silicon can help the body rid itself of accumulated aluminium which can cause symptoms similar to that of Alzheimer disease and dementia.

12. Company Mission:

To utilise waste from geothermal production to create a sustainable environment.

13. Description of social / environmental mission: As per 12.

14. Would you call yourself a social entrepreneur or social enterprise? Yes.

They are based in the old US navy base in Keflavik. This area has low employment opportunities. GeoSilica would like to create jobs for the local community in Reykjanesbær as well as they make great effort in doing business and shopping for what they need in their community, rather than going elsewhere. They aim to have 20 employees from the local area by 2016.

They have worked in co-operation with Reykjavik University and the University of Iceland where students have been offered to do projects for geoSilica and receive credit instead from their school, this is something that geoSilica considers important; giving the students skills in a work and business environment.

One of the responsibilities that Fida considers to be important is the support of entrepreneurs, and especially women in technology. In her former university that is located near the company, the rate of women dropping out has been increasing and being a former student herself, Fida knows what an important issue this is. Thus, giving these women support is one of geoSilica´s aims as well as to encourage and boost up the women´s association at Reykjanes.

GeoSilica has existed for approximately two years and in those two years the company has seen success as well as had its fair share of struggles as any start-up has. Fida says that they have had to overcome obstacles that they could not have imagined would come up, and considers them to be valuable experiences that she and her co-workers think is important to share to younger entrepreneurs, that are taking their first steps in the entrepreneurial environment of Iceland, and to show them support.

 15. How do you interpret the concept of social enterprises?

“You should be aware of everything around you. We take many things for granted. Its utilising time and money to give to the next generation. I get very angry when people say we use ‘green energy’. They are not aware. It is my responsibility to say no we actually are not.

I think companies and employees should be aware, and it doesn’t matter how much money or time it takes, to be responsible. I am happy to see more awareness (in Iceland) on corporate social responsibility and social enterprise than it was a few years ago.”

 

Questions related to the definition

16. Does your company have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents?

Yes, the main aim of our company is to create sustainability in geothermal industry.

 17. Does your company generate the majority of their income through trade? (51% and above). If not, how much?

Income                                 Grants                                  Investors (future)

None                                     35M ISK                                NSA (potential)

They are producing very little at the moment, about 10 bottles a month, and giving it to people who are showing interest to gain feedback. They require an industrial machine to produce on a larger scale, hence the investment required to scale.

18. Does your company reinvest the majority of its profits back into the social and/or environmental mission? (51% and above), if not, how much?

Currently there are no profits

Future:

No profits will be paid for the next 4 years (2018) at least and funds would be reinvested into research & development. As the main objective of the company is an environmental/social mission in itself, then of course one could say that all of the company´s profits that are reinvested are to help grow and improve this objective.

19. Is your company autonomous of state? Yes

20. Is your company majority controlled in the interests of the social and or environmental mission? Yes

21. Is your company accountable and transparent? (Transparency – corporate actions are observable by outsiders)

Yes, the company is, and always has been willing to share all knowledge and know how. If somebody wants to know what corporate actions that have been taken, they are open to questions.

22. Who are you clients / focus group?

Iceland

1) Young women

2) Athletes

Then they intend to expand into Canada and then USA

23. What KPI’s (key performance indicators) or measurement tools, if any, do you use to access if you are meeting your social impact according to your mission? (E.g. Number of users, number of engaged users. Etc.)

They have not yet measured how much silica they have extracted from the current geothermal plant they’re working in.

24. As per 23, what type of social impact have you created through your products/services (e.g. assisted 1,000 people access to health care they won’t have otherwise). N/A

 

Social enterprise sector

25. If a social enterprise umbrella body were formed, would you be interested to know more about it and possibly join as a member? Yes

26. What support do you personally need from such an umbrella body and/or what support do you think the social enterprise sector requires? Awareness of people who are really walking the talk: clear actions, not just words on websites.

27. How would you like to see social enterprise develop in Iceland? If none, can you recommend a company (NGO) that you may know of that has a social and/or environmental mission?

Ölgerðin – they have publically announced they would assist 100 startups in Iceland and have been very supportive of us.

Kadeco – an Icelandic development company specialized in real estate and business development. Kadeco is the leading developer behind the Ásbrú Enterprise Park located next to the Keflavik International Airport, where geoSilica is currently located.

 

Note: Social Enterprise Iceland does not in any way imply that the interviewed company is a social enterprise. The definition for social enterprise in Iceland is still work in progress through these research interviews. The purpose of sharing these interviews with the public is in alignment with our values of transparency as we share our process of discovery with those who are interested.

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Interview: Startup Iceland

Startup IcelandInterview date: 20 June 2014

Interviewed by: Tanja & Frantisek

 

Introduction

The story:

Startup Communities

 

 

Excerpt from Startup Communities: building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in your city/ Brad Feld.

The onset of 2008 financial crash changed Bala Kamallakhan’s future, as the bank he was then working for at the time had to close their entire international division.

“It was a tough time. I asked myself, “Where and how do we create value and equity?” I had an epiphany; the answer was entrepreneurs and startups. I got to work and met every young entrepreneur and startup in Iceland. I catalogued all of them and saw that at the grassroots level there was a change happening that was not obvious on the surface. I made a personal mission statement that I wanted to help entrepreneurs and startups. When I started on this I really thought the only thing the entrepreneurs and startups needed help in was in raising money. I was so wrong in that notion.”

“It was painfully obvious to me that what the Icelandic entrepreneurial system needed was not just money but also mentoring and a bridge to a larger market. I started doing research and found out this thing called TechStars. I was blown away by the idea and started my campaign to move Iceland toward a startup culture, what I now call startup Iceland. Startup Iceland’s mission is to build a sustainable startup ecosystem.”

 

Research Questionnaire

1.         Name: Bala Kamallakhan
2.         Email address: bala [at] auropartners.com

3.         Phone number:
4.         Your title in the company: Founder
5.         Company Name: Startup Iceland / www.startupiceland.com
6.         Industry: Education (Conference / seminars)
7.         Company years in operation: 2011
8.         Type of company: Project (not registered as a legal entity), run as a zero balance project where costs are covered by income.

9.         How many employees does your company have?

Volunteers  (2012:15 / 2013: 10 – 12 / 2014: 5-6 )

1 paid person for Program Manager

Volunteer positions: book-keeper, PR/Media, Logistics, and Selling Tickets)

10.        Annual turnover: 2014: $60,000 for 250 attendees (budget: venue, travel & accommodation costs for speakers, food)

11.         Description of company: A resource for entrepreneurs and startups to build a sustainable startup community through tools and resources and creating a network/community.

12.         Company Mission: Build a sustainable startup ecosystem

13.         Description of social / environmental mission: Same as above

14.         Would you call yourself a social entrepreneur or social enterprise?

“I classify myself as Bala Kamallakhan. I try to create value for whoever I work with. I am motivated by lots of things. At the core of it is learning, I believe in the learning side of things, every life experience is a learning experience. The minute I get a bit head strong I remind myself why I do things. If that is a social entrepreneur then yes. Categorising people in what they do is a slippery slope because we put on many hats. But at the core of it I am a very pure capitalist. I believe very strongly if the economic model doesn’t work all other models fail.

I have nothing against communism or socialism or other types of thinking all those models break down because they don’t focus on the core of what makes those things work. What makes a lot of these things work is economics.

That’s why I like the economic model, it gives the individual the freedom to use the system to whatever purpose they want to do.”

15.         How do you interpret the concept of social enterprises?

“I’m a big believer in sustainability. And sustainability is like a table with 4 legs. And even if one of the leg isn’t long enough, the table won’t work. The 4 legs is one is economic, another is impact or social. You can bring it back to the human being: the mind, body, spirit and purpose. You have to have all four. Obviously sometimes one is more important than the other, you have to prioritize.

I think where social enterprises fail to make an impact it’s when they forget to think about the 4 legs, they get too focused on 1 leg, than the other. And I believe the economic leg is critically important. You have to figure out a business model that works.”

 

Questions related to the definition

16.          Does your company have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents?

“Everything I do has social or environmental impact, because when you in the business of building communities it’s resource allocation – it has an environmental impact, it has an environmental benefit.

And my personal mission is I try to do more good than harm, so the net benefit is good.”

17.          Does your company generate the majority of their income through trade? (51% and above). If not, how much?

“The mission of startup Iceland is to build a community. And when you build a community there are many values drivers that come out of it.”

I derive a lot of value of getting know the new comers and investing (Bala is also a VC) in them, so whatever excess I get back from investing, I reinvest into building the community.”

Tickets, sponsorship, partnerships

“The sponsors, they don’t think of it as charity, as they are part of the community and they are a player within the community by being a participant. “

18.          Does your company reinvest the majority of its profits back into the social and/or environmental mission? (51% and above), if not, how much?

“Absolutely, that’s what entrepreneurs do, because it’s your lifestyle, you got to do that.”

19.          Is your company autonomous of state? Yes

20.          Is your company majority controlled in the interests of the social and or environmental mission? Yes

21.          Is your company accountable and transparent? (Transparency – corporate actions are observable by outsiders)

“Whoever asks for it, I can give them the accounts. 1) it doesn’t impact anybody, 2) nobody’s asked me for it. My wife does the books. And she will question me why we need to do something, be able to justify it.”

22.          Who are you clients / focus group?

Leaders (entrepreneurs) and Feeders (service providers, investors) as per the terminology used in the book by Brad Feld.

23.          What KPI’s (key performance indicators) or measurement tools, if any, do you use to access if you are meeting your social impact according to your mission? (E.g. Number of users, number of engaged users. Etc.)

a)Number of participants of the conference

b) The increase of awareness of startups in Iceland

c) New accelerator programs

d) New businesses have emerged

24.          As per 23, what type of social impact have you created through your products/services (e.g. assisted 1,000 people access to health care they won’t have otherwise).

a) Conference attendees (Yr1: 200 / Yr2: 225 / Yr3: 275 (but won’t want it bigger than that)

b)  “One even metric:The word startups in Iceland in the media before 2008 and after 2009, there are a lot more people that write about it.”

c) Startup Reykjavik (accelerator model) founded by ArionBanki and partnered with InnovitKlak since 2012. Year 1: 70 applicants, Year 3: 240 applicants (tripled in 3 years). Second accelerator program: Startup Energy Reykjavik

d) The model for Startup Iceland we sell, we provide a platform for service providers and buyers that can engage within this community.”

There are businesses that have emerged through Startup Iceland.

The perspective of startups has shifted from being high risk

There are demands, there are supplies, we have figured out how to make that equation work.


Social enterprise sector

25.          If a social enterprise umbrella body were formed, would you be interested to know more about it and possibly join as a member? N/A

26.          What support do you personally need from such an umbrella body and/or what support do you think the social enterprise sector requires? N/A

27.          How would you like to see social enterprise develop in Iceland?

Focus on creating balance of the four legs, and a sustainable business model that works by creating value.

“I would like to see a change in language often used in social enterprises where it focuses on the moral thing to do, the messaging puts off a lot of people.

If you can create the product, the right purpose, the vision and mission and a market, a need for it, you can make it sustainable so it comes back to sustainability. If you start thinking that way, a lot of things are possible.”

“As long as you appeal to the right audience, I think there is space, by building resources and a community of people to give it a shot. You never know until you give it a shot.”

28.          Can you recommend anyone we can interview?

Einar at ArionBanki

Mentors of the Startup Reykjavik

Mobilitus (Toti)

Seafood Cluster

Geothermal cluster

 

Note: Social Enterprise Iceland does not in any way imply that the interviewed company is a social enterprise. The definition for social enterprise in Iceland is still work in progress through these research interviews. The purpose of sharing these interviews with the public is in alignment with our values of transparency as we share our process of discovery with those who are interested.

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Interview: Expeda

Expeda

 

 

 

Interview date: 16 June 2014

Interviewed by: Tanja

 

Introduction

The story:

Expeda is an Icelandic company created by Iceland’s top physicians, researchers, and software engineers to develop the next generation of web-based medical diagnostic information technology. This expert multi-disciplinary team in collaboration with Iceland’s top hospitals, universities, and research institutes has developed the Expeda technology over the past 14 years. Expeda’s mission is to utilize advancements in mega-data processing and analysis, cloud computing, web-based IT systems, and advancements in mobile applications to advance medical diagnostics, enhance physician’s capabilities, and to improve interface between physicians, patients, and researchers.

 

Research Questionnaire

  1. Name: Thorsteinn Geirsson
  2. Email address: thor [at] expeda.is
  3. Phone number: +345 897 9148
  4. Your title in the company: COO
  5. Company Name: Expeda / www.expeda.is / Kt 470201-2230
  6. Industry: Medical & Healthcare / IT
  7. Company years in operation: 2008
  8. Type of company: Private Limited companies (“Einkahlutafélag” (ehf)
  9. How many employees does your company have: 1 employee and 5 contractors
  10. Annual turnover: 2013: 12M ISK
  11. Description of company:

International healthcare software through licensing products either annually or monthly.

Their software aggregates large amounts of information per country (as the information is country specific) and the diagnosis of osteoporosis and rheumatic diseases of a given patient. It is a very easy to use software that any general medical practioner can input data for a patient and get an immediate visual representation of the % likelihood of being susceptible to osteoporosis and rheumatic diseases and the relevant recommended prescription. (In case studies with expert doctors in this field, the software has outperformed, a panel of doctors per given case study).

12.         Company Mission:

To provide quality global healthcare market with quality and reliable tools to provide ultimate care.

Providing expert information to everyone. Giving the general practioner access to diagnosis of hard-to-diagnosis diseases such as osteoporosis and rheumatic disease.

13.          Description of social / environmental mission:

To enable the general public easy access to expert medical knowledge by doing so we will allow them to receive better healthcare at a lower cost.

14.         Would you call yourself a social entrepreneur or social enterprise?

Yes, as we have an impact in society: increasing access to expert knowledge, increasing quality, lowering costs.

15.          How do you interpret the concept of social enterprises?

It has a collective gain, there’s something in it for everybody, equality.

 

Questions related to the definition

16.          Does your company have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents?

No, description as per the general Articles of Association.

17.          Does your company generate the majority of their income through trade? (51% and above). If not, how much?

Mostly licensing income, very small part is from grants.

18.          Does your company reinvest the majority of its profits back into the social and/or environmental mission? (51% and above), if not, how much?

Currently there are no profits as they are still in start-up phase

Hard to say right now as they don’t know where the market is going, but the investors are definitely looking for return.

19.          Is your company autonomous of state? Yes

20.          Is your company majority controlled in the interests of the social and or environmental mission?

Yes to the point of the intention of the product, but they don’t not see themselves as a social mission driven company.

In Iceland, the 95% medical field has access to the software at a very low cost. They are currently serving as a test ground.

21.          Is your company accountable and transparent? (Transparency – corporate actions are observable by outsiders)

Yes, as per the requirements of a registered company (independent auditors for the annual accounts, regular BOD meetings and tax filings).

22.          Who are you clients / focus group?

B2B

Medical professionals

Medical Insurance providers

Pharmaceutical companies

Dairy industry (in relation to osteoporosis) – potentially

B2C

They have produced an app for the general public to access for diagnosis, but it isn’t their main focus.

23.          What KPI’s (key performance indicators) or measurement tools, if any, do you use to access if you are meeting your social impact according to your mission? (e.g. Number of users, number of engaged users. Etc.)

Not at the moment.

As the medical data is very private, it is difficult to access any KPIs related to the impact of the use of the software.

24.          As per 23, what type of social impact have you created through your products/services (e.g. assisted 1,000 people access to health care they won’t have otherwise). As per 23. above

 

Social enterprise sector

25.          If a social enterprise umbrella body were formed, would you be interested to know more about it and possibly join as a member?

We would be interested to participate and become a member.

26.          What support do you personally need from such an umbrella body and/or what support do you think the social enterprise sector requires?

Be part of an organization that promotes social entrepreneurship and social enterprise in Iceland in order to bring about positive social impact. It could provide capacity-building programmes and business services, and fostering synergistic partnerships among key stakeholders, e.g. government, businesses and public sector to build up individual enterprises and the sector at large

Specialties: Healthcare and IT.

27.          How would you like to see social enterprise develop in Iceland?

There is a fertile ground for projects / enterprises aimed at the common good. That is definitely what we are doing.

Some problems facing Iceland at present:

1)      The ISK is a problem in terms of attracting foreign investors. They will be paid in Kroners which they cannot use.

2)      There is a large gap between the super-rich and the super poor that is something not talked about much in Iceland. It is nothing like the developing countries, as there is social support, but it still is increasing. Disposable income has dramatically decreased which is meaning a lot of the Icelandic workforce is going abroad where it is possibly 2 -4 times more than they can save in Iceland.

28.          Can you recommend a company (NGO) that you may know of that has a social and/or environmental mission?

SAA -National Centre of Addiction Medicine – www.saa.is

Samhjálp – http://www.samhjalp.is/

Odd Fellows – www.ioof.is / www.oddfellows.is

 

Note: Social Enterprise Iceland does not in any way imply that the interviewed company is a social enterprise. The definition for social enterprise in Iceland is still work in progress through these research interviews. The purpose of sharing these interviews with the public is in alignment with our values of transparency as we share our process of discovery with those who are interested.

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