I remember the first time I had a panic attack. It was back in 1997 and I had just taken over as manager for a successful branch of the Bates advertising agency. Let me tell you, it was horrible. In a rather important presentation for a big customer the blood left my head, my heart was pumping and my well rehearsed presentation came out as a complete babble (in my ears). Luckily I had a psychologist as a close neighbour at the time, and since the situation really got in the way of me doing my job, I asked for his advise on how to deal with it. After good mentoring in causes, effects and breathing techniques, I managed to get back on top again. Somehow both humbled and strengthened by the experience.
In 2011 I left my advertising career to become co-founder and manager for BRIGHT Products. A start-up on a mission to light up the lives of people living without access to electricity with one of the most brilliant solar lamps ever developed. And boy, did I panic during the next four years. Over leaving a safe job, failing prototypes, delays in production, poor cash flow and lost luggage. It was not the same kind of instant panic that hit me in 1997, but rather the sudden fear of everything that could, and oftentimes did, go wrong in the young company. But similar to the first panic attack, the solution was close at hand in the shape of competent shareholders, trusted advisors and a patient and caring family. The fears related to all the unknowns in a start-up phase will come, but they might just be a blessing in disguise. These fears can foster new ideas, strategies and relationships that actually leave you more fit as an entrepreneur and leader at the end of the day.
In my recently published book "Fears and expectations" ("Frykt og forventning") I try to share stories and learning from the entrepreneur journey with BRIGHT. I cover the important drive and visions related to great expectations, but also the experience and learning from times of fear and despair. I think both these forces hold equal value, and that it is a subject often left out of more theoretical literature on entrepreneurship. The book also shares the story of how BRIGHT made it big based on a brilliant innovation, a strong vision statement and through networking across the globe. How we succeeded with crowd funding, how we raised capital from investors, how we built our business model, how we travelled and learned in the strangest places and how we went about the marketing of our products to some very different market segments. When the commercial breakthrough came in 2014, through a long-term agreement with the UN, it soon resulted in the distribution of SunBell solar lamps to over half a million refugee families. Adding up to over two million people who had their fears reduced and their hopes and expectations improved by a solar lamp from Norway.
Since November 2015 I am out of my operational role in BRIGHT and plan to use my experiences and knowledge to help other start-ups succeed with their ventures.