The biggest benefit of winning Stage two is not just the money and interests, although that is important for future growth, but it gives the project credibility and make us known in all of Europe, and the affirmation itself is what is most important for Aviant, says Lars Erik Fagernæs, Founder and CEO of Aviant
By Hedvig Skjelbred Svabø
Aviant was formed at MIT where the three founders met during a year abroad from NTNU. Lars Erik Fagernæs the data technology student, Bernhard Paus Græsdal og the Cybernetics and robotics student and Herman Øie Kolden studied physics and mathematics. They needed financial support and entered TrønderEnergi-Bidraget in order to win capital for the establishment. They were rejected as the panel did not believe that three students would be able to make autonomous transportation drones.
– It sounds insane that three students are trying to make autonomous transportation drones and so we had to ask ourselves are we crazy for thinking we can do this, but we wanted to try, says Lars Erik Fagernæs .
No one believed in them, so they collected their savings in order to make a prototype that cost 30 000 NOK. The prototype worked and made people see their potential which led them to receive TrønderEnergi-Bidraget, financial support from NTNU Discovery and even a research collaboration with St. Olav.
– Today we have four paying contracts, a certification from EASA and we have flown the drone from Røros to Trondheim which is the longest autonomous flight ever done in Norway at 120km, says Lars Erik.
I have never experienced anything like it, it was such a stressed atmosphere backstage, we must have looked schizophrenic talking and pitching to ourselves repeatedly.Lars Erik, Founder and CEO Aviant.
From Stage one to Stage two
October 29, 2021, over 2000 people participated in Stage two; the first European competition dedicated to finding the best startups across leading European universities. The competition is held in Berlin each year where 30 of the leading universities in the entrepreneurial field send two startups each to compete for investment in their companies. To find which startups to represent each university a local competition is arranged called Stage one. At NTNU this was Student Investor Day where the victory went to the Drone-startup Aviant and Tech-startup Enernite.
Pitching to victory
Stage two was in typical Berlin underground style held in an abounded factory. There were two stages, and the contestants were divided into four groups: Business innovation #1 and #2, and Tech innovation #1 and #2. For the first rounds each startup had 4 minutes to pitch their innovation before the panel. The panels consisted of some of the most prominent early-phase investors in Europe.
– I have never experienced anything like it, it was such a stressed atmosphere backstage, we must have looked schizophrenic talking and pitching to ourselves repeatedly, says Lars Erik.
Enernite seemed to be the crowd favorite and won the Digital audience award, voted through by the Digital audience. Aviant proceeded to win the prize of Best Business Innovation by STS ventures, which came with an investment prize of two million NOK. This price will only be invested if Aviant and the investors can come to an agreement and CEO Lars Erik explains that nothing is decided yet. Along with the price other potential investors have emerged and Aviant is growing further.
-There has been a lot of interest in the wake of stage two and so we need to access a lot of the offers and act soon while we still have the edge from the competition, says Lars Erik.
Achieving business status
Aviant is a success story on continuing your path even if no one believes in you. CEO Lars Erik explains how it has called for self-sacrifice and hard work, but encourages others interested in entrepreneurship to go for it.
– I feel Janteloven stand in the way of many future entrepreneurs because it leaves us afraid to fail. I think it is important to stere away of this thinking and just make the way as you go, says Lars Erik.
Today Aviant has four paying clients, and their current goal is to deliver on those contracts in order to grow further. They are already expanding the business by adding four new members to the team so that they can reach their long-term goal of becoming leading in autonomous drone transportation across Europe.
– It is important to become an entrepreneur because you love what you do, not to become rich and famous, because most likely you want to achieve either, says Lars Erik.