UiB Alumni Network
Alumni of the month

Alumni of the month: Helge Høibraaten

Helge Høibraaten is Founder & CEO of Vimond Solutions AS. Thanks to his historical studies at UiB, he has learned to recognize how technology can disrupt a sector and ride the change toward success. Now he has a few tips to share with those wanting to start their own company.

Helge Høibraaten
- "I never applied for a job, when presented with a good opportunity I have always jumped on it. If I were not an optimist, I would not have started Vimond. Moreover, I try to see the best in people as well as in things happening "Helge Høibraaten, Founder of Vimond says.
Andrea Magugliani

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When I enrolled in Historical Studies, I really had no plans on what do next, I loved history and science, and that was all I knew, says Helge Høibraaten.

– When I completed my studies in history, I was working at a local radio station named Studentradioen and I was interested in the world of media. Halfway in my MA in Media Studies, I had the possibility to travel to  the ice-covered Barents Sea with the Nansen Institute to shoot a documentary on climate change. That documentary became the stepping-stone of my career. The documentary was one of the first to air on the brand new TV 2, and it became the first of a series of documentaries I produced, mainly for TV 2.

– What led you to start Vimond?

– While producing documentaries, I was offered the possibility to figure out what to do with the very early experiments TV 2 had done within streaming. This became the start of an amazing TV 2 Sumo journey, which is the streaming platform of TV 2. TV 2 Sumo was ahead of its time thanks to our innovative solutions. In 2011 we realized that we could sell our solutions worldwide and started Vimond Media Solutions, which is now one of leading services to manage and distribute live and on-demand video content.

– What part of your studies has contributed the most to the professional you are today?

– Learning about history, how companies can thrive in times of change. While studying Norwegian Economic History, we had a lecture on how the shipping industry changed when the steam engine was introduced. I was fascinated to see how some of the big players struggled to adapt when the new technology became available. The steam engine meant that they had to reconsider every aspect of their businesses. How is this relevant for me? Well, when the broadband came, it changed the world of television, as we knew it. During my time at TV 2 Sumo, although TV 2 earned all its money from traditional broad banding, I realized that what we were doing at TV 2 Sumo would be vital for a prosperous future for the whole TV 2. Broadband was changing the world of television as much as the steam and diesel engines changed the shipping industry. We saw the potential in the new technology before the others players did, and here we are today.

– Can you define what leadership is for you and how do you lead your people?

– Leadership is about setting a direction and enabling your people to move together in that direction. Helping everyone to have fun and have a good time. At Vimond we are in a luxury position where we hire people, highly educated, that could find another job already tomorrow if they wanted to, he says. 

And his leading philosophy is straight and honest: – As a leader, my role is to build an environment where this talented people can thrive. I also believe in a no-asshole policy, and that it is vitally important to listen to your colleagues, learn from and be inspired by them, and especially have fun toghether. Most of us are at our best when we feel empowered and see that what we do together makes a difference, and where it happens in an environment of trust.

As a leader, my role is to build an environment where this talented people can thrive. I also believe in a no-asshole policy, and that it is vitally important to listen to your colleagues, learn from and be inspired by them, and especially have fun toghether.

– Do you have few tips to students and alumni that want to start their own start-up company?

– Find the right partners; do not look at skills only, but to the person as whole and how you fit together as a team. Think hard if you really are solving a real problem and test your idea with the people around you. Do not be afraid to talk to other companies and learn from other companyies mistakes. Find people that completes you, you need the right dynamic of people that think differently. Do not take yourself too seriously. Accept that you will make many mistakes, learn from them and move on.

– What do you think matters the most IQ, talent or dedication?

– We look for the skills set, energy, dedication and how the person treats others. I have seen many companies with great people that did not work well together as they did not fit as a team.

– What is your view on AI? Should we be concerned or do you think that human kind will manage the transition for the best?

– Nuclear energy, it is one of the most amazing discoveries human kind made and I cannot think of any other energy source that can reduce our footprint on the environment so quickly. At the same time, it can destroy us and make human kind extinct. The same goes for AI, it can solve many problems for us but it is about how it will be used. In my opinion, the issue with AI is the imbalance between everyone else and the people that have the control and how do they decide to take advantage of AI to increase their profits.  The governments play a key role in determining how AI will shape our future.

Can you recommend a book that you think everyone should read?

Bill Bryson – A Short History of Nearly Everything
Yuval Harari - Home Deus, a Brief History of Tomorrow