Unicus focuses on positive differences
This consulting company is based on the strengths of those with Asperger Syndrome
Unicus was founded in 2009 by the CEO Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, who graduated from the University at Karlstad, Sweden, and has several years of experience in finance. The consulting company is located at the old Fornebu airport and is a niche player that provides services in testing and quality assurance of IT systems on commercial terms for several of the largest companies in Norway.
Johansson-Kjellerød was inspired by a similar startup in Denmark, and they have agreed to share experiences. Last year, Unicus had revenue of over NOK 15 million and almost NOK 4 million in profit. The company has received financial support from social entrepreneurs.
The company is based on people’s strengths and interests. Out of the staff of 17 people, 14 are affected by Asperger Syndrome, which is a neurological disorder within the autism spectrum, often affecting communication skills and hampering the ability to engage in social interaction. On the other hand, those with Asperger’s tend to be very analytical and detail oriented.
Asperger Syndrome is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. People with Asperger Syndrome see, hear, and feel the world differently than other people. Understanding and relating to other people and taking part in everyday family, school, work, and social life can be harder. If you have Asperger’s, you have it for life; it is not an illness or disease and cannot be cured. Often people feel that Asperger Syndrome is a fundamental aspect of their identity. Those with Asperger’s tend to be of average or above-average intelligence and do not usually have the learning disabilities that other people on the autism spectrum may have.
At Unicus, those with Asperger Syndrome are in their right element. Here they can carry out assignments for client companies in areas where the positive characteristics of autism provide a comparative advantage. The main area of work is testing IT solutions. Unicus uses its employee’s strengths, interests, and skills to fill unmet needs in society and industry on a commercial basis. Four of its employees on contract with Telenor found problems in one of the most advanced IT systems in Norway. They are the toughest testers at Statoil!
The company hopes to create both social and financial returns for the benefit of shareholders, the community, and the staff, who may have difficulty getting into the labor market, despite high level of expertise. One of the investors is the family-owned Norwegian investment company Ferd, which has an extensive involvement in social entrepreneurship.
For the last few years, Unicus has made donations to the Autism Society of Norway. The funds have been used to finance the summer seminar for people with autism and their families.
Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.
This article originally appeared in the Aug. 12, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.