Investing for Impact: Ordinary Work for Extraordinary People (full documentary)


After I’d been working in finance for 10 years,
I wanted to make a difference to create a better and more inclusive world
based on the individual strengths to do something meaningful,
but at the same time to business. And that’s how I decided to start Unicus. Unicus is an IT company that only employs people with autism. We do software development services,
data science services and we also do software testing. Our clients include companies like
DNB, Equinor, SEB, H&M, and Nordea. Different clients within different industries. My name is Jan Kristian
and I’m a consultant at Unicus. Asperger syndrome neurological condition, which makes us think and feel
a little bit different than others. And this can manifest in a number of different ways. Some of the common traits would be
that very narrow, intense interest maybe. And often being kind of introvert. Some are sensitive to sounds, light,
picky eaters, and many, many other things. [Unicus Consultant]
What do you think?
Is the code ready to be submitted? Oh, Okay I had wondered for several years before that,
if there was something wrong with me, because I felt that I was a little bit
different than other people. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I believe I was 9.5 years old,
when my father had a computer, and he told me to try to type in program,
and then see what happens. So I did that, and I had no idea
what the code meant. But I got very curious
to see, to find out I was typing these incomprehensible
things and something happened. And I got very curious how that could be. So I started to figure out about programming
already at that age. I actually have a PhD in mathematics
from the University of Oxford And when I was studying, I wasn’t
particularly concerned about getting a job. I thought, if I have a degree from Oxford,
the world would be at my feet so to speak. But what I found when
I went to job interviews was that they were often more interested in personal traits, like being outgoing, being motivating people, cooperating people,
basically salesman type of people. And I’m not really that kind of person. So I found out difficult to find a job
despite having this indication. My name is Gro Rognstad I work for DNB and
I’m responsible for IT banking services. DNB is the largest financial services group
in Norway and also in the Nordics. DNB chooses to work with Unicus
because they are a niche player within the field testing and quality assurance. Jan Kristian has been working for DNB
as a consultant for a few years. His advantage is that he can really dig
deep down in the complex algorithms, and also analyse huge volume of data. If you read about Asperger’s in a textbook, you will often get the impression that
they don’t have any contact with other people at all, just sit in the corner and memorise
train schedules, something like that. That’s not really true for most of us, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. So if you think you know one person with Asperger’s,
you know one, and you don’t know all of them. For me, it’s important to take care of them and interact with them, and taking into account their personality, in the same way as I do with other colleagues. Over the last 10 years, we’ve been supporting Unicus
with financial and non-financial support following the venture philanthropy approach. My name is Espen Daae and I work in business development
at Ferd Social Entrepreneurs. Initially, we gave them a grant paid out in tranches upon achieving certain milestones
both social and financial. We added non-financial support
and help them achieve their specific goals we help them build their management team, we help them with corporate governance, etc. After 3 years of providing a combination of
financial and non financial support, Unicus was profitable and
had a stable customer base in 2013. From then on we provided non-financial support
for a period of 3 years and Unicus was growing steadily
and developing extremely well. The financial support that we received from Ferd
was very important to us, of course, but the non-financial support was
also extremely important and maybe more important
during the phases that we went through. In 2016, Lars and Unicus came to us again and asked for support in scaling the company to take them further on their journey. So we invested in the company,
became shareholders and embarked on the impact journey
with them outside of Norway. We felt that we had to tailor our investment
to meet the needs of Unicus. And for us to make an equity investment
at this stage was new. Ferd Social Entrepreneurs is
an investorforimpact, because we focus on the social issue that
the social entrepreneurs are out there to solve. And that’s where our heart is,
we want to help them solve those issues, and also to scale the social effect
that they are producing. And to us venture philanthropy is
about doing that, that is, combining business with social effect. So we try to do that,
and provide the entrepreneurs with both financial support and
non-financial support in doing that. And a big part of the non-financial support is to give them our competence on
how to build business, but also on how to work
with impact management. Without Ferd,
we wouldn’t have been what we are today, we wouldn’t have been in Sweden
and Finland, and we would not have been
as many consultants as we are today. So they have been really important
for us to help us grow and to be able to share risk and also
to contribute to develop the company. And it is about a relation that
you build with an entrepreneur and the trust you build along the way
to listen both ways, on different advice, and where we want to go
and what ambitions we have. The thing I’m most proud of
with Unicus is that we’ve been able to prove that people with autism can make a real difference and create a highly valuable service and perform services better than other companies actually. Working with Unicus is for me, just like working with other people, they have their own specialities
like other employees. Unicus is clear proof that we can all
be valuable resources in the society, no matter what’s the background we have. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and for the sake of other people with Asperger’s, I hope that other employers
can see the strengths like Unicus does.

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