Monday, June 10, 2013

Spotlight On: Silje Vallestad

Name: Silje Vallestad
Title: CEO & Founder
Company: Bipper
Location: Norway

A little about 'Bipper': Bipper was founded by Silje Vallestad, a mother of three, after her six-year-old daughter's friends began using cell phones and she was unable to find custom mobile solutions that covered her needs as a parent concerned about her children’s safety. Bipper developed and launched MobileKids in Norway and Bulgaria in partnership with two operators in the fall of 2010 and brought the mobile application for smartphones to the international market in 2013. The company launched bSafe in 2011 prompted by requests from mothers who wanted access to the same SOS feature available on their children’s MobileKids app. Headquartered in Norway with offices in Silicon Valley and Kiev, Bipper has received awards that include Red Herring Global, Rookie of the Year, Bully Award, Mobile Premier Award and SIMagine. In 2011, founder Silje Vallestad was named Norway’s Entrepreneur of the Year. 

1. What is your “elevator pitch”? What problem are you trying to solve? The bSafe app transforms smartphones into the ultimate personal security device. With the use of advanced technology and innovation, we are making men, women and children safer at the touch of a single button. It's the affordable, low cost safety solution for mobile users.

2. How did you get started? Our neighbor visited my daughter, and she brought her cell phone. She was only 6 years old and I was shocked to see her with her own cell phone. However, I saw the benefit of providing cell phones to children, in terms of safety and communication since many children in Norway walk back and forth to school by themselves without adult supervision. Instead of providing my child with an ordinary phone I looked for an appropriate communication service for children but I could not find one. This is how the idea for the business started and everything has grown from there in terms of developing a service for my kids. It is all centered around needs I see and feel as a woman, mother, friend and family member. The technology and business are things I have learned along the way

3. Where do you see the mobile landscape in 5 years? The landscape is changing fast, and during the five years that I have been in business it has changed much more than anyone was able to picture. I believe that the three new big trends within the mobile landscape are security, health and safety. I’m talking about how to protect your data and keep it safe and secure. About how we can use technology to keep you safe, which is one of the main tasks we are working on with Bipper. For health, cell phones can be a part of the medical system and provide everyday testing, and there will be more development of hardware where the cell phone can be used to measure for example blood sugar levels or your heart rate.

4. Any wisdom you can share for aspiring female entrepreneurs? If you are going to start a company you have to be prepared that it will be really difficult. It will require you to work day and night and it will be your life, not your job. It will probably be the toughest but also the most enjoyable thing you have ever done. It is incredible to create a dream and to make that dream come true. When you are starting a company you need to think it through, and make sure you actually want to do it or not. It will take several years of your life, and those years are going to be all about your company. This will require a lot of time spent alone and away from your friends and family. However, the learning experience is like nothing else, and it is life altering!

5. Any additional comments? You have to remember that it is a waste of your time, a waste of people’s money, and a waste of resources to start a company if you are not prepared to follow it all the way through. Think very hard about choosing the right people to help you to start the company. I started the company myself and was the sole founder, but one of my insights is that I definitely will start my next company with other founders since it can be a lonely place. The person you will start your company with is probably not going to be (nor should they be) your best friend. Starting a company with your best friend can be a recipe for disaster since your best friends are normally people that you are quite similar to in terms of interests, knowledge and reference points. There is no need to duplicate yourself and your talents within the founding team. The founding team needs to consist of people who compliment each other, and these are people that you might have to go looking for. This recommendation also applies for employees when building your team. You need to find people that are better than you, and people who can complement you and the other team members. Culture and work ethic are also important, and all of your staff members need to work together and be able to even party together because you will be living your life with these people.


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