She turns the latest research into business: “This is what it takes to make it big”
Published: April 5, 2023, 10:49 amKlementina Österberg is CEO of GU Ventures. As CEO of GU Ventures, Klementina Österberg has helped develop 140 innovative growth companies. Here she explains how companies can avoid getting stuck in the “valley of death”, when loans are better than risk capital – and what can be decisive on the journey from small to large.Read more about how you can secure financing for your continued growth Klementina Österberg is a well-known name in Gothenburg’s research and business circles. Since 2007, she has been CEO of GU Ventures, the University of Gothenburg’s incubator and investment operations, and in 2019 she was named Financial Profile of the Year by FinansKompetensCentrum, which is run by Business Region Gothenburg. However, before she turned ten, Klementina had never set foot in the city. – My family comes from Transylvania, the Hungarian part of Romania. In 1985 we fled dictator Ceausescu’s persecution of Hungarians and ended up here in Gothenburg. It meant a life with completely different opportunities and I am very grateful to my parents for that, she says.
Surrounded by innovation
GU Ventures identifies innovative business ideas rooted in advanced research and helps them become viable companies. Here, Klementina Österberg has to date been involved in developing around 240 new business ideas that have resulted in around 140 companies. She constantly encounters new solutions for everything from the manufacturing industry to healthcare and the energy sector. – One of the first companies I worked with was Surgical Science, which developed a virtual training system for peephole surgery. In another early project, I-Tech, the researchers had discovered that a sleep aid for cats contained a substance that could also be used to prevent barnacles from landing on boat hulls. It’s never boring at my job.
Out of the “valley of death”
In order to finance its companies in the best way, GU Ventures likes to work with a mix of risk capital, grants and credits. With the right balance, you can more easily guide growth companies through the challenging period known as the “valley of death”. – In the valley of death, you are too big to attract the business angels but too unestablished to attract established venture capital funds. Many promising companies are knocked out here, and this applies not least in the current situation, when investors are happy to invest in existing holdings and new investments are made at lower valuations than before, says Klementina Österberg. When risk capital is both expensive and difficult to obtain, other forms of financing, as credits, extra important. Then GU Ventures is happy to collaborate with actors such as ALMI and EKN, the Export Credit Board. – EKN, for example, has a credit guarantee for especially young growth companies, which means that they share in the bank’s risk when they give the companies a loan. This guarantee makes it easier for the companies to get financing and move forward on their growth journey. It can be absolutely decisive for them.
More than just technology
After 21 years at GU Ventures, Klementina Österberg has developed a keen sense of success factors. So what does it really take for a company to make it big? – In my experience, it is crucial to aim for the stars, set out the path and enlist the help of those who have made the journey before. It is also very important to recruit with care and to take good care of everyone involved. Many founders are completely focused on their technology and that’s obviously important – but if there’s one thing we’ve noticed among our most successful companies, it’s how many have supported them along the way.Read more about how EKN can help companies with bank financing
GU Ventures has supported projects and companies born out of the University of Gothenburg since 1995. The company is wholly owned by the Swedish state and has, among other things, been named one of the world’s top 20 university-run incubators according to the UBI Global Index ranking.
EKN, the Export Credit Board, has the government’s mandate to promote Swedish exports and the internationalization of Swedish companies. This is done by insuring payments and sharing risks with the exporting company, its subcontractors and banks. The operation is financed with the premiums of the policyholders. The article is produced by Brand Studio in collaboration with EKN and not an article by Dagens industri