case - christian jølck from coloplast

This is the story about Christian Jølck – a MA student who became entrepreneurial by
training, stood out and then excelled as an intrapreneur at Coloplast, a global 60-yearold innovative company with 8.500 employs. Christian became Director of Commercial
Excellence & Marketing at age 28 and co-created 12 product innovations in only 5 years!
Innovations that have increased life quality for people who would otherwise be strongly
limited by their physical illness/handicap.
Ideas for use:
Ask students to make an inventory of means
Ask students to reflect on their own career choices
Optional framing:
An example on how a student can gain knowledge and competences through
entrepreneurship that makes him/her attractive on the job market.
The story about how a Danish student from Aarhus created his own carrier.
1. MA in Finance and International business from ASB (AU)
1 CASE 2.
Christian Jølck, Coloplast a. Took an entrepreneurial elective: “Applied Business Development”.
They made a finance & investment plan for a university “spin-out”.
Based on entrepreneurial extracurricular activity he was hired in Coloplast,
because he stood out.
a. Christian had gained new skills within team work, product development
and more.
b. They did not push on with this highly potential venture.
His motivation was sparked – he wanted to create
a. He assembled a diverse team to compete in The Grundfos
b. The team was a great fit. However they did not continue with this specific
project but stayed in close contact.
Co-founder. Knowing Christian's skills within tech-business and his ability within
teamwork, the student he met in GFC asked him to co-found a project he worked
a. By having a strong and diverse team, and by addressing a huge problem
for millions of people with a novel and feasible solution they won Venture
Cup Startup Competition in the category MedTech – one of the
toughest categories to conquer.
b. Christian was Awarded Talent100 by Berlingske Newsmagazine
Co-created 12 product-innovations in only 5 years with Coloplast.
2 CASE Christian Jølck, Coloplast THE FULL STORY
It all started with the mix of Christianʼs ambition to create something that would change
the quality of life for people in the world and his interest for entrepreneurship, allowing
him to create something innovative. He chose his master degree in Finance &
International Business, which is ranked on Financial Times top100 master degrees as
the only one in Denmark, as he wanted to study something that would enable him to
fulfill his ambitions.
While studying, one of the first choices Christian took was to join a new pilot-elective at
Aarhus Business School called “Applied Business Development”. What interested him
about this course was its focus on creating sustainable solutions in the real world. The
course gave the students the opportunity to choose a project from a batch of patents,
and throughout the course they had to develop a solid business model and a plan for
bringing the project to market. The elective ended when they had produced a high
quality business plan with emphasis on venture capital and an investment plan.
Choosing this alternative elective had differentiated Christian from the crowd together
with his full time job as Managing Director of the non-profit organization for students in
Denmark, Studenterlauget. This choice eventually proofed to be one of the reasons that
Coloplast found him interesting. But despite getting a job in the wake of the financial
crisis, Christian still had a burning desire to create a break-through product – a desire
which seemed to take longer time to realize in the corporate environment.
Christian wanted to build something in the world and as today he was constantly
reviewing new ideas and opportunities. One day he got a call from one of the teammates
that he had earlier participated in the prestigious Grundfos Challenge with, who
remembered Christianʼs innovative skills and his ability to lead teams. He asked him to
review a few ideas, the former team member wanted to realize together with his twin
brother and another fellow student, both Phd students in the natural science field.
Together they reviewed three different ideas, and despite the fact that none of them
were ready-to-sell ideas, they chose to further develop an idea that would solve a crucial
problem for millions of people – the problem that people are dying from malaria.
Millions of people are still dying from malaria, and the team started an investigation into
figuring out why malaria continued to be a problem. The team found several causes for
the problem:
The method of diagnosis itself was insufficient;
there was a high level of resistance to the current malaria drugs in the market;
4 out of 5 actually got a wrong treatment with severe health consequences;
and the current method was slow, too complicated and not affordable for people
living in the rural areas of Africa.
The team got a medical student on board and while developing the idea further in the lab,
the medical student went to Ethiopia to meet with patients and doctors to get a further
understanding of the problem and issues. The product idea they came up with was a
simple blood test with a color indicator, similar in concept to a pregnancy test. It would
be able to diagnose whether the patient had malaria or not, as well as indicate which
3 CASE Christian Jølck, Coloplast drug to take to cure malaria. In this way it made the diagnosis process faster, cheaper
and safer; and it would secure the right treatment method.
During the development period, the team had the pleasure of getting in contact with
world leading institutions such as the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and a former winner
of the Nobel Price in Chemistry who worked for the famous John Hopkins institute. All of
them concluded that the solution was very innovative, which only encouraged the team
to take the idea further. With the team effort of using both commercial and scientific
competencies, the group was close to developing something game-changing that in a
simple way could safe the life of millions of people.
However, recourses and media attention is always scarce doing a startup and to get
feedback the team participated in Venture Cup Startup Competition. The team
participated in the MedTech category being one of the toughest categories to conquer,
but the team ended as winners, winning 50.000 DKK, and getting great feedback and
valuable attention to their startup. Further by continuously bringing more positive
attention to his achievements Christian was Awarded Talent100 by Berlingske News
The team invested some savings into the project. They were offered 1.6 mio DKK of
investment from the Danish Innovation Institutions (innovationsmiljøerne) but declined
because they wanted to develop the product further before taking in venture capital. This
was not an easy decision, but the team was sure that it was the right one. After running
for a couple of months, the team realized they needed to put in more resources to keep
going and did so – enabling the project to run for six additionally months.
Despite hard work and reasonable progress, the team did not believe enough in the
project to go all in and paused the development to focus on their respective early careers.
The team could simply not agree on a 100% dedication, necessary to take the next step,
because of the uncertainty and risk connected to a startup. So, the team decided to put
the product in the cupboard where it still remains today.
Nevertheless, they all agreed to stay in contact to keep brainstorming about how to
create new and bigger ideas to keep the door open for new ventures to make the world a
better place.
Putting in extra hours in such a fertile environment meant that Christian gained unique
experience and new knowledge about product and customer development. Although he
had only been in Coloplast for 10 months he was offered an opportunity to develop a
new portfolio of products and create a new category in the market for people with
intimate healthcare needs.
The result came through around 24 months later when he launched a new portfolio of
ostomy accessories, which were born after hard work across the development team in
Coloplast. The team was through all the different phases of creating new products;
ideation, prototyping and concept development, customer testing, pre-launch and launch.
Christian had the responsibility of setting the commercial direction, making product
design and attribute decision in close cooperation with R&D as well as building the whole
go-to-market strategy and launch campaign. After developing the products in close
cooperation with one of the best design companies in the world, one of the key task
Christian undertook was to travel around the world to meet many end-users and listen to
4 CASE Christian Jølck, Coloplast their feedback and thoughts about the prototypes. Christian was the lead to ensure that
this category was built for Coloplast to increase the quality of life for ostomy patients.
Looking back, he learned that to develop a new portfolio of products with that speed and
quality, requires to be ambitious even when things seem impossible, to be close to your
customers and to build a lean team with strong spirit that is keen to execute.
Today, when he listens to customersʼ feedback and the company receive letters stating
that people now are able to do things they could not or did not want to do, he reflects
and believes that he has been part of changing the quality of life for thousands of people
all over the world.
- Invest a lot of time in finding the right people* and build a winning culture
- Make sure to stick to your ambition the whole way through
- Keep a strong focus on being close to customers to stay innovative
Team, Venture Cup:
- David Lindhard-Tordrup
- Anders Madsen Pedersen
- Jakob Madsen Pedersen
- Jakob Virenfeldt Christiansen
- Christian Jølck
Core team, Coloplast:
- Birgitte Stubkjær Qvist-Pedersen
- Jakob Weldingh
- Tage Pors
- Christian Jølck
* Venture Cup recommends great articles from our board member and Everplaces CEO Tine
5 CASE Christian Jølck, Coloplast Appendix, picture of Christians LinkedIn CV/profile