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What is the most imperative quality of a founder?
My son Johann asked me this question this month. He is studying project leadership and innovation and spends this semester in the USA. His first task was to write an essay about an entrepreneur he knew and if possible a family member.
We had an interview over FaceTime and we ended up sitting there talking for three hours. It was fun for both the dad and entrepreneur in me to be asked a bunch of question by my son and student, Johann.
You can read Johann’s essay here:
THE THIRD BABY
9th of September 2018
Atle. One of a few men who has given an actual birth to a baby. One of Norway’s best non-winning Olympic athletes. A successful father. And, a successful entrepreneur.
In his childhood Atle met with both mental disabled patients of his mom and inmates from the prison where his dad worked. Atle became friends with his mom’s patients but when his dad invited one of the nicest inmates over to their house on Christmas Eve, Atle didn’t understand; “How could so good people end up in prison?”
On his spare time Atle was doing sports. As a 13-year-old he biked 323 miles (Trondheim – Oslo) with his father. But as soon as he got the hold of a pair of sharp speedskatesthis became his big passion in life. However, after years of dedication on the ice the life as a speedskater got to an end after participating in the Olympics in ’92 and ’94.
While working in the Norwegian customs and visiting another division Atle accidentally met with a drug addict. A police officer threw the addict careless into a cell for her to get sober again. Atle heard that she’d been there several times before and he saw that this treatment wouldn’t help her change her lifestyle. So, in 1997, to prevent people to end up in vicious circles like this, Johann Olav Koss (the founder of Right to Play) and Atle, started the non-profit organization, MOT.
MOT (courage) is a life skills program for youth at secondary and upper secondary schools. They strengthen youth’s awareness within society problems as bullying, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, exclusion and mental problems. Through MOT-sessions the organization “develops robust youth – who include all” in: Norway, Denmark, Latvia, South Africa and Thailand.
Luck, but stuck
The beginning of MOT is surrounded by deserved luck. Atle got 100,000 NOK (11,800 USD) by walking into the Ministry office. He got the MOT-logo on the back of multiple top league soccer teams by mentioning it in a sentence at a meeting. And the prime minister of Norway does of course mention MOT in his new year’s speech.
However, in 2005, Atle felt like MOT was too dependent of him, so he split the management into an administrative division and a development division. In 2006, Atle even decided that he would quit MOT. Later that year, the Ministry turned their back on him and criticized MOT based on incorrect information. MOT struggled with the economy and when youth at schools started a petition on MOT’s behalf Atle decided to continue his work in MOT.
In 2007, after a rough year, MOT lacked 10 million NOK (1,2 million USD). The management groups he’d created consisted of structure and logic but not much flexibility and innovative thinking. Atle saw that this decision was a disaster and changed it into oneseven-membered group with creativity, knowledge, initiative and enthusiasm. In the end of 2007 MOT was back on its feet with no loss of money.
Listening to this guy’s mouth go it’s obvious that he’s passionate and proud when he calls MOT his third baby. Atle himself says that when he looks back at it he thinks people just liked his energy and saw that he was passionate about his thing. In other words, Atle is saying that a guy gave him 11,800 USD just because he was passionate.
As the big brother of his 21 years old third baby, I know somethings about my dad, Atle Vårvik. If he’s passionate about something he follows through. He’ll spam you down with emails every day. He could be nagging at you for days just to get your input on something. And if you don’t want to like that something you will start to like it when you hear his story behind it.
Even though he’s quite convincing the drive and dedication is what I admire about him. MOT wouldn’t be walking without Atle’s passion. MOT wouldn’t be talking without Atle’s shamelessness of begging for money. MOT would have been dust if he didn’t try to fail and admit his mistakes. MOT would simply not be running today if Atle wasn’t as dedicated with MOT as he was towards the Olympics.