Q&A with Max Gouchan, CEO of ClickLift

Max GouchanThe word startup conjures up images of mobile apps and cloud services, so when something different comes along it can really stand out, especially in the offshore oil & gas industry.

Norway’s R&D expertise tends to be concentrated in the payroll of the major players such as Statoil and Aker Solutions, but maybe there’s change afoot thanks to last year’s Startup Weekend in Stavanger and its novel winner – ClickLift.

Novel not just because of the topic, but also the age of their founder and CEO. At just 19, Max Gouchan is competing in an industry dominated by multinationals. And he’s having the time of his life.

ClickLift is developing a solution to make offshore lifting operations safer and more efficient. Their focus on problem solving and simplicity is grabbing headlines in an industry where bespoke solutions tend to be complex and expensive.

How have you found life as a young CEO in the offshore industry?

I have found it quite exiting, I am surrounded by a team that has 5-10-20 years of experience in this industry, and that really compensate for my young age. I am eager to always learn more and I have a really good mentor, Ivar Hauge Line. I love this industry and I was a student at Stavanger Offshore Technical School. I have also worked with marketing in an oil and gas company called i-TEC so I have some experience, but not as much as the other team members, they are really great! We have already been contacted by big companies, and that shows that people take ClickLift and our technology very seriously. So ClickLift is really looking forward to get an industrial partner and make a real size prototype in the nearby future!

How did you come up with the idea?

Two friends of mine were at a crane-lifting course and they told me it was quite dangerous. I started to think of solutions to make it better, because when I saw the existing offshore lifting methods I thought, wow, this really need some serious innovation to make it safer and more efficient.

What has happened since ClickLift won Startup Weekend?

We have got almost NOK 1m from our partners Ipark Innovation Park and Innovation Norway. We have formed a great team, a great board and are now working on getting an industrial partner to make a full size prototype and get people to work full time. After all we own a big 20-foot container that is just standing there, waiting to be lifted!

Max Gouchan ClickLift

What are your hopes for ClickLift?

My biggest heroes are Richard Branson and Steve Jobs. I want to build a strong company with a culture of making insanely great products to make the life easier and better for many people. I dont think that people who focus on earning much succeed much in forms of startups. Having money as a motivation is not a good motivation, you have to have passion and love what you do. As long as I have a Mac to work on and a car to drive to my office, I am really happy. Waking up in morning and knowing that we are working on something great is what really matters to me in life.

I hope we can establish offices in UK, Brazil, Australia and US as they are big potential markeds for ClickLift. So my hopes are that we are going to grow, really fast and have a lot of fun during it. After all, the journey is the reward.

Why do you think more engineering-based startups aren’t formed at Startup Weekends?

I guess Startup Weekend have promoted a lot of app-based ideas and not focused on other projects that are more technical. I think its all about the marketing. If Startup Weekend promote more ideas that have “success” after Startup Weekend more engineering based startups will be formed.

Was it difficult attracting a team with a relatively “unsexy” pitch?

Luckily Arnfinn Matre, an experienced engineer from the oil and gas industry fell in love in the idea and joined my team. There was also a former crane operator in the audience who joined us. So I guess I was really lucky with the timing!

Is there more entrepreneurial potential in the Norwegian oil & gas industry?

Absolutely! There are many great companies working on great solutions in Stavanger and Norway for the offshore industry today, and I think there is room for many more. After all there are many challenges to be solved the coming years, especially in the northern areas where there are extremely rough conditions and extreme temperatures. I think automation of several process offshore will be in focus the following years, both in lifting and production.

Startup Weekends are held regularly across Norway, in Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim. The next event is in Oslo from 24-26 May.

Photo credits: Pål-Kristian Hamre