A Startup Success Story - Helgi Hjálmarsson of Valka

While it’s always exciting to interview founders of startup companies in the midst of startup chaos, there is also much to learn from founders of well-established companies. Valka, an equipment manufacturer and software developer for the fish processing industry, has been humming since 2003. It’s the quintessential startup success story, and we got to ask founder Helgi Hjálmarsson about his company at Startup Iceland.

“We started out really small,” he tells us. And by “really small,” he clarifies that he means “by myself, in my garage.” Fortunately, the fishing industry in Iceland was hungry for cost-saving innovation, and his modern 3D design software and fish processing equipment fared well. Then the Icelandic financial crisis of 2008 hit, and his company was forced to look abroad for other markets. He’s now focused on offering complete fish processing solutions to a broad range of international clients. He’s confident that Valka’s new ultra-precise X-ray guided filleting machine— a technology that has been sought by fish processors for 40 years, and which Valka is the first to perfect– will provide the foundation for the company’s next growth spurt.

Helgi has always been an inventor. “If I see potential for doing something better, I like to do it. I really enjoy watching people engaging in the products I helped develop, whether it’s software or machinery.” After graduating from University, he landed a job in the food processing industry. “I found it to be a very interesting industry. I saw a lot of potential… for more automation and better product handling.” He founded Valka to start fulfilling that potential.

He’s come a long way since then, thanks to an unrelenting drive to make the world a better place. “When you’re alone in that garage, you’re thinking, why don’t you get a proper job like everybody else?” he says. “You really have to think about what you’re doing. The main thing is to do something that makes a difference. It keeps the inspiration going.”

Underwriter: Promogogo

Interviewer: Thubten Comerford
Article: Eric Inman

Producer: Hrefna Helgadottir
Video Editor: Jacob Curtis

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