#18 Even Kvelland: Never Stop Exploring

updated on 09 February 2021
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Even can state with utmost confidence that he checked many boxes and accomplished what most consider bucket list ideas. Besides his insatiable hunger for new adventures, he enjoys challenging himself and is currently working on solving the climate crisis. His excitement towards making the world a better place was contagious, and our conversation flew in such a natural way, making it feel like riding a bike during a summer day. At times we couldn’t resist bursting out and speaking upon each other as the number of topics felt like running out of an infinite fountain. What a pleasurable ride!

Even is the COO and Co-founder of Glint Solar, and together with John and Harald, they aim to accelerate the floating solar revolution. Even is a Norwegian-American at heart, and had the chance to live in these two separate realities. After being involved in countless projects ranging from the Red Cross in Kenya, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the U.S Department of State, he became obsessively passionate about energy. This newly formed passion brought him to the big apple and Columbia University, where he studied International Affairs, focusing on energy and economics. We can’t wait to jump straight in and unpack what happened behind closed curtains in his unique journey. Let’s go!

But that is only one part of the story.

At Venture Insider, we strive to undress the ups-and-down, the late nights, the early mornings, the failures, and the victories.

In a few words; we want to share the real stories.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Everything in Italic symbolizes the voice of the writer, aka, us at Venture Insider.

Introduce yourself — tell us a little bit about your journey?

I grew up in cold Norway, and I always wanted to explore the world. My dad is a dual Norwegian-American citizen, and his upbringing in the US and my own curiosity for “what else is there?” helped propel me to study and live in the US, first for a year in high school and then to return for college. Living in the US only amplified my global ambition, which later catapulted me into every corner of the world.

My journey is all about jumping from one exciting place to another, collecting as many experiences as possible. I’ve worked in various roles during my career, ranging from social work in Kenya to the US State Department. Currently, I am building a fantastic tech-product to solve the most significant challenge humans have ever faced: climate change.

Where did your urge to explore the world come from?

Norway is considered one of the greatest countries to live in. The flip side is that life is very predictable and safe, which doesn’t translate into the exciting lifestyle I am striving for.

My urge to explore the world began when I moved to a farm in the middle of Wisconsin’s cropland living with a host family in high school. At the time, I was only 17 years old, but I grew and learnt more about myself than I could have ever imagined. After that, travelling and moving outside of my comfort became the new status quo.

What did you always dream of, and how did you nurture your passions?

I always wanted to become a steward of the land. My grandfather is my role model and taking care of nature as a farmer and forester was his prime goal. I hope that one day I will be able to make his dream into my own reality.

Seeking my passions, on the other hand, began during my teenage years. I studied international relations in college, and I was very interested in diplomacy. I thought it was my calling in life until I realized that it wasn’t for me to lock my career in for the next several decades. My passions have always been changing, and I don’t think you should follow a single one.

I believe in the Swedish expression of smörgåsbord, which means that life is like a buffet of opportunities, and I made it my goal to taste as many as possible.

The best way to challenge yourself and find your passions is leaving your country of origin and meeting as many people with different perspectives as possible.

I recognize that this is an opportunity that I am very privileged to have gotten.

Why moving to Kenya?

I believe many decisions in life are greatly influenced by love. My life was no different. My girlfriend (now wife) received a scholarship to work in Kenya after college, and out of curiosity, she asked me if I wanted to come with her. I didn’t have a reason to say no, so I decided to give it a shot.

Kenya was fantastic, and I spent a significant amount of time doing interesting work with the Red Cross and on an energy project with NATO.

The Happy Couple!<br>
The Happy Couple!

What was the greatest lesson from your experiences in Kenya? 

Hard question (laughing).

If I need to pick, it would be the insights of seeing people’s daily challenges, and how vital clean energy is to improve local communities’ lives.

Kenya is an early adopter of small solar systems. Their impact is of great magnitude, and providing families with affordable and reliable energy has an immediate effect on their quality of life.

Living in Kenya taught me that if I wanted to do good in the world, enabling clean energy usage is the way to go, as it is such a multiplier for improving other societal aspects.

Working with the local communities in Kenya laid the foundation of my project with Glint Solar, and got the snowball moving at a perpetual speed.

Even also had time for fun.
Even also had time for fun.

Then you traveled back to the US to study at Columbia University. What happened after?

That’s right. The experience in Kenya made me realize that I wanted to pursue a career in the energy industry. I found the perfect study program at Columbia, focusing on International Affairs, Energy and Economics.

After Columbia, I was convinced that working in capital allocation was the best way to impact the world. I was also lucky enough to land what I saw as my dream job: building a sustainable finance team at Wall Street. I felt on top of the world, but everything went crashing down after running into visa issues. I was about to enter the most challenging period in my life, and I had hit my lowest point ever.

What was your experience at Antler like, and how did it all start? 

After getting “kicked” out of the States, I felt like starting over again. I flew back to Oslo, where I had coffee with an old friend. He told me about Antler and spoke very highly of its program. At one point during the conversation, I thought this could be something for me. I decided to apply, as it was “only” a ten-week commitment, and in the worst case, I was going to find a job somewhere else. 

One day, on my way back to Oslo from Istanbul, I received the call from Antler. The signal at the airport was terrible, but I managed to note that I was in. I was very excited as I felt ready to start my life as an entrepreneur.

Even in action!
Even in action!

I loved the program, and the best thing by far was meeting my two great co-founders, Harald and John. Antler allows you to meet people from all over the world, with a genuinely unique perspective, and the chance to create something meaningful. It has been an amazing ride building our company together, and I couldn’t have done it without Antler.

What is special about your co-founders, Harald and John?

The quality of our conversations, and that we decided to tell who we truly are. My first conversation with John was about how to handle relationships with parents-in-law. It was a terrific conversation, and I got to know a specific part of him that told a bigger story about his character. Moreover, one of the first exercises we did together was writing down our values and the company values. Lastly, the three of us all live by the simple saying of “happy partner, happy life”, and we always try to support each others’ lives. 

What’s the concept behind Glint Solar? What’s the company’s mission?

At its very core, we are accelerating the solar revolution. We believe the opportunities within solar are truly revolutionary in terms of scale. As our initial market entry, we picked a smaller subset known as floating solar within solar, which for many might sound very sci-fi. However, it is one of the fastest-growing segments in clean energy. Our value proposition is to aggregate satellite data by looking at multiple factors and providing reliable information about where to build solar projects.

In essence, with our novel approach, we are able to both drastically open up the realm of potential — sometimes overlooked — project sites and provide a comprehensive first analysis of each site. We believe this can truly accelerate the origination process of solar energy projects.

If you could change one thing in your journey, something you now have regret for, what would it be?

I believe life never plans out in precisely the way you think. It certainly helped to be positive, and I consider myself optimistic by nature — which is a great quality to have in the startup world, which can be an emotional rollercoaster. Even when things go sour, something good usually arrives shortly after. For example, if it weren’t for my unfortunate visa issues, I wouldn’t have co-founded Glint Solar.

What are the milestones that are still left to be achieved on a personal level?

We are closing our second round of funding as we speak (that is why my head is all over the place at the moment). Moreover, we aspire to hire the most wonderful people, and so far, we have received interest from the very best and brightest, which is a significant milestone.

On a personal level, I aspire every day to be the best colleague to my team possible. In order to achieve that, I have to take care of myself. Not to forget, that I still want to learn more languages as I think it is the best way to learn more about a new culture. Lastly, my wife and I have planned that one day, we will buy a van and drive from Oslo to Cape Town. We will take six months off to make this happen, but I am a terrible mechanic, so it might take even longer (laughing).

Do you have an inspiring figure?

My grandfather. He had the best work ethic I’ve ever seen, and as mentioned earlier, his goal was to take care of nature. Not surprisingly, he lived his whole life on a farm and spent his days working outside, but would sit in their library and read philosophy at night. 

He stood out from the crowd, and he never cared about other people’s opinions. He would also tell me that when he planted a new forest, it was not for his generation's benefit, or even the next one, but for his grandchildren’s generation. In a world where we often chase quick profits, this has been a precious lesson for me. I respect that!

One book?

Educated by Tara Westover

The one Billion Dollar Question: Elon Musk wants to sell everything he owns and go to Mars, would you join him?

Absolutely!

I believe humans should push the boundaries of exploration and discover the unknown. Moreover, fortune usually favors the brave, and being daring is something that I always aspire to be. Lastly, imagine for a moment spending months or even years together with Elon Musk.

Once you set out in life, you don’t know whether there will be a point of return. That is the name of risk-taking.

Our Main Takeaways

  • Keeping a positive mindset, even in the lowest moments, is vital. This is how Even got the opportunity to found Glint Solar.
  • Clean energy has the power to improve local communities’ lives. In Kenya, providing families with affordable and reliable energy has an immediate effect on life quality.
  • Happy partner, happy life. Ensuring the whole team is on the same page from the start, in terms of both values and objectives, ensures fewer conflicts in the long run.

Inspiring story Even, thank you very much.

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