The history behind Thorsten Heller and Greenbird Integration Technology
5 years ago, Thorsten Heller decided to leave his secure position as a Chief Technology Officer to create his own business. Today, Greenbird is a highly successful company, which recently became finalist in the prestigious CODE_N competition at CeBIT, the world’s leading business IT event.
Greenbird develops integration technology that helps energy companies to connect metering devices with the end users, and the company has delivered solutions or consulting services to utilities operating more than 50 percent of the electricity meters in Norway. And now, they plan to go international. As an entrepreneur with ambitious goals, Thorsten shares his thoughts about how to reach them.
You have experience from several startups, so creating something on your own was not new to you when establishing Greenbird. What made you decide to create a startup in the first place?
I already had the dream about starting something on my own when I went to university, but what actually made me do it was a combination of having a good idea, the possibility to do something about it, and the right people around me. The first company, ARCTIC.PARK Consulting, I started with a friend of mine who had different skills than me, so we were quite complementary. This was the number one reason; I would never have made it alone.
Greenbird is a young company, but has become very known, especially in the energy sector. What were the most effective ways of raising awareness of the company?
For us, Linkedin is the best marketing channel we have. I have around 1500 contacts, and what we post on Linkedin is very quickly noticed. We are often asked to speak at different conferences, and we say yes every single time. In these situations, we do not speak about Greenbird, but they see our logo, and we speak about what we know best. In this way, people will remember us by our expertise.
Thorsten’s tip: Market yourself by sharing your knowledge.
What were the first few steps in getting the company up and running?
In the beginning, we spent a lot of time building the framework. It was important for us that everything, such as all the documents and PowerPoint presentations had the same brand image. It could be as small as everyone having the same e-mail signature. This made our potential customers believe that Greenbird was much bigger than it was.
Thorsten’s tip: Make sure that the startup appears as an established company from day one.
What has been the biggest challenge for Greenbird, and how did you overcome it?
We experienced that we were eaten up by our own success. We managed to attract a lot of customers, and we did not have the time to follow them up. Then we had to slow up a bit, as well as hiring more people.
Thorsten’s tip: Do not offer more than you have resources to manage.
Greenbird has grown from six employees one year, to twelve the other and now around 30. In which way have you created an organization culture among the employees?
We wanted to have an informal culture, so you will rarely see me in a suit. To promote Greenbird, we often wear green clothes, I even have green socks! However, the most important thing is that we have a big idea that we pursue. This excites people; they want to be a part of that.
Thorsten’s tip: Invite other people in, and let your vision be their dream as well.
What has been the best highlight of this journey so far?
In 2012, we had a party for our customers in a big bar in Oslo, and we managed to fill it up. It was really nice to see that we had so many customers that wanted to be there and spend time with us.
What advice can you give to young entrepreneurs, who have limited business experience, but a big dream?
Go for it! If you have high ambitions and a drive to follow your dream, you have what it takes to reach far.
Thorsten’s parting words.
There are three conditions that should be present when deciding to become an entrepreneur:
1. You have to have a vision
2. You have to have support from your friends and family, as you will work day and night to make it work
3. It is good to work together with one, two or three people who share your dream. If these are people with different skills who can complete one another, you would have the perfect team.