Startup Campus founding partner Murshid M. Ali on creating a community where everyone can thrive
— Discussions and dialogue open up for the creation of ideas, and this happens in spaces such as Startup Campus, says Murshid M. Ali from Norsk Solar.
With the official opening of Startup Campus on October 31st, we do of course have both great ambitions for the future — and great things planned. And one of the ways in which we are set for a bright and continuously innovative future is through our founding partners.
Below, you can read about Murshid M. Ali — the CIO of Norsk Solar, and the former CEO of Huddlestock. He is one of the first interviewees in our column on founding partners, their journeys, and why they have decided on joining the Startup Campus as founding partners.
Tell me a little bit about yourself — who are you and what are you doing in the startup world?
I was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in Stavanger, and did my masters at Grenoble École de Management. I worked for a couple of years in the energy and finance industry, before I decided to start my first company at the end of 2010. It was a consultancy and taught me the ins-and-outs of entrepreneurship. In 2013 I sold my part of that business and embarked on a Phd in Economics, while founding the Fintech company Huddlestock. Our vision with the company was to use new technology and build a platform where anyone, regardless of their investment amount, would be able to tap into investment ideas formerly only accessible to institutional investors.
In 2020 we are rolling out our platform in Germany together with BNP Paribas to fulfill this vision on a grander scale. In 2017 I was one of the co-founders of Norsk Solar, a Norwegian renewable energy company within solar energy. In 2018 I left as CEO of Huddlestock and began as CIO in Norsk Solar. We have now built two solar parks, one in Pakistan and one in Ukraine. These parks power more than 65.000 homes with renewable energy every year. I fly a lot in my work, so I feel I have contributed somewhat to justify all the flights I embark on each year. The impact is profound for being a startup-up, founded by a few entrepreneurs with some ideas and capital.
Why did you decide on being a founding partner of Startup Campus?
Entrepreneurship fascinates me, because ideas combined with sound execution and capital can literally move the world towards a better place. Entrepreneurs are dreamers, and often need to be diligently positive towards people, markets, and opportunities. I love being around them because they are always open and inclusive (at least the ones I know). Being part of a place like Startup Campus — where entrepreneurs meet, share great ideas and start companies — is a true honour.
I was one of the co-founders of a startup space in Stavanger, Mess&Order. At its height, it was a wonderful place, where many people met their co-founders, whom they today run companies with — companies that move the world towards a better place (on a small scale, and a big scale). Co-working spaces that bring ambitious people together is a great thing, and therefore it was a natural for me to join as a founding partner of Startup Campus.
If you can share some advice for how Startup Campus can succeed in the best possible way — what would that be?
I love literature, and books, often good autobiographies — one of my all time favourites is Lee Kuan Yew (often called the father of Singapore) and his book from Third World to First. One of his most important take-aways is that if you want to build a great society that grows rapidly, it is of utmost importance that everyone feels they have equal opportunity to thrive (and achieve success) if they are creative, smart, and work hard enough. A society or a country is more like a macro space compared to Startup Campus, but there are some key insights; First, make everyone feel included. Entrepreneurs are old, young, educated, and those with no education.
The common denominator is their drive, dreams, passion and vision for the future. Second, create a space that encourages people to share their ideas, talk to fellow entrepreneurs, and learn from each other. I would not setup generic pitching events where entrepreneurs pitch to a bunch of investors who has never been an entrepreneur themselves. In a seed-phase, the last thing entrepreneurs need are these types of investors. They need hands-on, post-entrepreneur investors who have been there, done that, and who can bring intelligent capital to the table right for that stage.
Startup Campus is set to become a meeting point and arena for learning for entrepreneurs, investors and everyone else at different stages. What do you want to learn more about — and who do you hope to meet here?
I think that there are a lot of interesting things going on in technology these days. Moore’s law is applicable in several industries, and due to that there are opportunities everywhere. The future will have more decentralised infrastructure solutions due to renewable energy, battery storage technology, and autonomous transportation mechanisms. In addition, we are looking at a transition in traditional sectors such as finance and the health care sector, where we see movements from an oligarchy type of market, to a more fragmented space.
Discussions and dialogue open up for the creation of ideas, and this happens in spaces such as Startup Campus. I am hoping to meet entrepreneurs, people with ideas and drive to create things. All great companies and things start with these guys and girls, and these are the ones I hope to meet at Startup Campus. In addition, I hope that there will be events where we can learn from experts within certain fields, like academics and investors with a high degree of niche knowledge. It could be anything from artificial intelligence to omni-channel sales distribution, as long it is relevant for the entrepreneur in their company’s early life cycle.
Kindness is generally underrated: But who has helped you in your career and what did they do for you?
I have been very fortunate to learn from the very best executives and founders, whom have been mentors and taught me a great deal about business — from both large multinational corporations, to growing family enterprises, and technology entrepreneurs. Many of them have helped me getting introduced to clients, getting fundraising, advice on management, board compositions, and more.
I have listened to advice, but I have also critically examined everything. I think one of the most important traits of early entrepreneurs is being humble and to listen to what Ray Dalio calls “believable people”. Believable people are individuals with proven knowledge and experience in certain domains, for example in starting and running a business. In entrepreneurship there is no truth, but it’s like the philosopher Arne Næss said “dialogue brings you to the closest thing to truth”, and I sincerely believe that.