Fredrik Øvergård is the founder of Smart113, an app-based communication system for delivering vital information to emergency services. The idea was formed in the aftermath of an accident that left him with a broken back and lucky to be alive.
"It was very sudden as accidents are," explains Øvergård. "I was just playing around on my bicycle with my 11-year-old nephew. My head took the full force of the accident, shattering my teeth and three vertebrae to the point where I am now 3cm shorter."
"The initial 113 call from a neighbour wasn't prioritised as no one understood the severity of the injuries. A doctor arrived and immediately called an ambulance, which took,five minutes longer than it should have because of an imprecise location on their mobile phone tracking system. I remember worrying about internal bleeding but most of all, that I had to tell them about my allergies when they arrived."
Years of recovery and study at the BI Business School led to the lightbulb moment for Øvergård: he wanted to work with and improve the systems of the emergency call centre.
"After six months of full time work on the idea, I managed to get an agreement with the emergency services to test a system. I was able to sit with them and get feedback from the operators. work with design sketches, user experience design and get real feedback. I did that for a year and the project developed a lot during that time. Although there is a wealth of opportunity and possibility for the app, it has to be simple, because people are stressed out in an emergency."
The operator can get location information before they even answer the call, learn personal information and communicate with the user (individuals - or a group in the case of a major incident) by text message.
Øvergård has held a live public test here in Sør-Trøndelag and is now hard at work building an improved version and talking with more possible users. But the journey hasn't been easy, as he explains:
"In order to send GPS data you need a permissions system in place. Do we want a system where the Government can look up where we are? No, I don’t think we want that, so it needs to be volunteer-based, but it's not enough to hope people will download the app and keep it on their device. You can pre-install the app, but operators can also send text messages to users who don't have the app and with one click, get their location. Although the chances of an emergency is very low at a personal level, the need for this system at the systemic level is very high."
"Our biggest challenge was to find qualified programmers that were affordable at this stage of the business. There's not a shortage of skills in Norway, but people are either hired full time or they have their own companies and sell their time at high consultancy rates. I now have a small team in Poland and have visited them in person."
"For an entrepreneur, working with a public entity is time-consuming. The only reason I was able to hold out is I had nothing else to do. I was personally funded by Nav, and my worst case becoming part of Nav was already my reality so there was only an upside."
"One of the key aspects to success with this project is the amount of goodwill and help from a lot of people, because unlike many commercial projects, this stuff matters. Without that goodwill we would not have been able to get to where we are today."
Øvergård is well aware of his unusual path to entrepreneurship, one that no one could ever have predicted.
"I am lucky to be alive, but without my accident, Smart113 would not be here."
Find out more about Smart113 here.
Photo: Trondheim Havn