Founders’ journeys: Øystein Tvedt
In this series of articles, we meet the founders of Norselab’s portfolio companies. Discover what is driving them and what challenges they have overcome on their journeys.
Øystein Tvedt is one of six founders and the CEO of Tau Tech, a tech company rooted in Sunnmøre, Norway. Through in-house developed technology, the company is on a mission to reinvent how we harvest seafood from the seabed.
Born and raised on the rugged northwestern Norwegian coast, Øystein has always chosen the less-traveled paths in his career. Ever since entering working life upon completing business school, Øystein has been developing new companies, including an accounting firm. Growing up with the ocean as his closest neighbor, however - combining entrepreneurship with his love for the ocean was the only way forward.
Re-opening a closed industry
In 2016, the founders of TauTech started looking into the harvesting of Arctic Scallops, a fishery that had been closed off for nearly 30 years due to its devastating implications for the seabed and surrounding ecosystems.
- In 1992, the Norwegian authorities banned the most common harvesting method, which involves pulling a dredge behind a boat, Øystein explains.
The ban implied that delicious and nutritious button-dwelling seafood had been entirely off-limits for almost three decades. While being prohibited in Norway, the destructive method was - and still is - commonplace in other countries, with about 1000 boats using the method to this day.
- It’s a paradox that we excel at catching species that move in open waters, but that we lack a sustainable method to harvest delicacies that mainly reside in one place, he continues.
Tau Tech saw no other option than to reinvent seabed harvesting methods. They explored how new technology could provide sustainable access to forgotten and unexplored seafood delicacies - and end damaging seabed harvesting practices worldwide.
Fast forward to today, Tau Tech has completed a successful research project in collaboration with SINTEF, the Institute of Marine Research, and the Directorate of Fisheries to develop a technology that enables the identification, selection, and sorting of shells without destroying surroundings. A transformative breakthrough because it means that we can once again sustainably harvest Arctic Scallops in Norwegian waters.
- We are incredibly proud of our breakthrough because of the case's complexity. With our technology, we can sustainably harvest a once forbidden delicacy again. It was a long process, but the reward of showing the world a new and alternative solution to sustainable harvesting made it worthwhile, Øystein says.
Partnering for impact
Earlier this year, Tau Tech raised capital from impact investor Norselab and other industrial profiles to harvest scallops using their new technology. Øystein was careful when selecting partners due to the many stakeholders involved: local communities, different governmental bodies, the fishing industry, and private investors.
- Setting up our initial investor team was a balancing act. We wanted to work with investors with close ties to the industry, but also with ones that recognized our technology’s potential to improve seabed harvesting across the world, he continues.
What convinced Øystein to bring Norselab onboard was its track record of investing in R&D technology cases and its thorough approach to impact. Norselab considers impact along three dimensions to ensure integrity and a variety of perspectives on sustainability in their approach while focusing on companies' revenue-generating products and services when assessing investments.
- Tau Tech is founded on the same principles as Norselab’s impact approach. With our product, we’ll put an end to today’s harmful harvesting practices that are destroying marine ecosystems while giving renewed access to delicious seafood.
Advice for other founders
Being a founder is all-consuming in a satisfying way, says Øystein.
His most valuable advice for people with entrepreneurial ambitions is to balance two core principles of entrepreneurship: ambition and prioritization.
- This is probably one of the most important and most challenging aspects of being a founder: having big enough and long-term ambitions while focusing on the right tasks at the right time to pull the company in the right direction, he concludes.
Øystein and Tau Tech are currently planning for the first Norwegian harvest of Arctic scallops in 30 years while promoting sustainable seabed harvesting across the world with their new technology.