TC Høiseth (40) is the janitor's son with a troubled childhood who became a globetrotter and life aficionado, as well as an ambitious businessman who believes in the power of interpersonal relationships.
"Almost daily I have to pinch myself," he says.
Tor Christian Bødtker Høiseth, or "TC" as everyone calls him, looks out over the panoramic view at Besserud, close to Holmenkollen in Oslo. This is where he resides in a 350 square meter house with a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, garage with a gym, driveway with a basketball court and a sunny terrace with a table tennis table overlooking the Oslo Fjord. This was the house he used to dream of when he passed by on the local train as a child.
"When will I wake up from this dream, I ask myself often. Living here is pure magic, and being able to travel the world for work and meeting interesting people. I am proud of what I have achieved, but at the same time, very humble because I have been lucky. I always had a crowd cheering me on and great people around me ", he says.
He is silent for a moment. Lovingly he pats the dog "Bøtta", who circles around his legs.
If there is one life rule that has followed me since childhood, it is: "Never give up". I'm extremely glad about this now because that strength helped me cope. It made me conscious of creating my own life.
Career and leisure
TC Høiseth is a partner in Antler, a global venture capital firm that has established itself as the most active early-stage investor, globally. For 13.5 years he worked in the investment bank Arctic Securities, where he also ran their office in Rio de Janeiro for three years. But there is more to life than work as TC knows well.
He loves to run and has a marathon personal best of 3 hours and six minutes. Nonetheless, sub three hours is still high on the list of future goals. He skis, both cross-country and alpine, walks in the mountains, loves to ride horses and play polo, he can speak Italian and Portuguese, and is known for hosting dinners and large parties - preferably with as many and diverse groups of people as possible. Every Easter at Eidsbugarden (in the Norwegian mountains), he and his friends invite the entire local community for après ski on Good Friday. He loves "people", and it appears "people" love him too.
We met him the day after several months away on business. He spent two months in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and two months in Dubai. The world is the "office" for TC. He is always on the go, often on a flight, which has resulted in him achieving Pandion status with SAS, always on the lookout to meet new people and explore opportunities. Some are best with numbers and spreadsheets, others are best with people.
TC belongs to the last category.
I am privileged to have gained trust, traveled the world and met an incredible number of talented, nice people. To succeed in business, for me, has been about creating trust and good relationships ", he says.
He smiles and reveals impeccable white teeth. He is tall and well-groomed, with half-length, blond hair - almost like a cast of a classic, Nordic man. He could walk down a catwalk without anyone raising an eyebrow.
“In San Francisco, I met the founder of one of the world's first venture capital companies and he invited me to his vineyard in Napa Valley. There we sat and talked about everything including Antler and what we invest in and how we work, until late at night. We drank wine and ate dinner, and enjoyed the natural flow of the conversation. "
He leans over the table.
"From the outside, parts of my work may seem like free time and vacation, but in this job, leisure and work go hand in hand. That’s how this life is. I meet so many people through work that I get close to and who often become my friends. For me, the most important thing has been to create trust, in addition to delivering a good product or service. We are all human, and establishing a friendly tone as the foundation of the relationship certainly makes it easier to see opportunities, rather than challenges. For me, this approach has been absolutely crucial."
Never forget where you come from
Sometimes the place you grow up creates expectations of who you are. If you come from West Oslo, like TC, you are typically born with a silver spoon in your mouth. You are used to a large house, a cabin in the mountains and a fully stocked refrigerator.
That was not the case for TC. Although he grew up in the posh part of town, life was anything but simple. He lived in the janitor's apartment in Hemingbanen, where his father was responsible for the premises of Oslo's largest sports team. TC was an only child and his mother passed away when he was only a year old, and in the small apartment part of the old clubhouse he often felt scared and trapped. His father was an alcoholic, and when he drank he could become angry and unstable, sometimes violent.
"Many of my classmates lived in big houses, and had parents with important jobs and good stable incomes . I did not have any of that, and I constantly tried to hide the situation with my father and his drinking problems," says TC.
He spent a lot of time with his grandmother in Kongsberg (a small town an hour outside of Oslo), and other children in the neighborhood, Then he felt more "normal". There he was like everyone else, and he was not labeled the janitor’s son. He felt the same sense of calm in Bø, where he worked in a restaurant in Sommerland (the local waterpark) all summer long from the age of 11and served soft drinks and pizza and later moved into other jobs with increasing tasks and responsibilities.
“From an early age, I had to take matters into my own hands. If I wanted to wear clean clothes, I often had to wash them myself. I wet the bed, but my father rarely bothered to change the sheets. Usually he would get very angry, so generally I did not dare tell him. If he did happen to find out for himself he just put a towel to cover the wet part which made it feel somewhat ok - at least for a short while. At school the next day I smelled of urine and my friends called me "Stink-osaurus". Then I thought: "No one is ever going to call me" Stink-osaurus" again. This was early elementary school and I must have been 7-8 years old. From then on I took responsibility for showering and making sure I had clean clothes.”
He remembers the psychological terror and stress on his way home from school: What awaited him at home? Was Dad drunk or not? Had he prepared the soccer field, Hemingbanen, with chalk to mark the lines which was his job? The sports building had to be opened in the morning and locked in the evening, but TC often had to take over the responsibility.
“Heming players who went to my school could knock on the door of our apartment, asking to borrow a soccer pump (air pump), and dad would open the door drunk and naked. That's not great fun when you're 10 years old…”
TC often ran away from home. He just had to get away. Sometimes he went to his aunt and cousins who lived just across the train tracks, other times he walked up and down neighbouring streets and dreamed of how life could have been. And what was going on inside the big houses he saw from afar. Life inside the unknown living room windows seemed like light years away. It was a different reality, something better. Something safer. A dream world, an almost unimaginable world.
“I had a hate-love relationship with my dad. When he was sober, we were good friends and were very close. Then it was the two of us against the “rest of the world”. The thought of losing him was unbearable, because then I would be completely alone. I told the child welfare service that I wanted to stay with my dad, when they asked me. At one point we got a dog. At first one, then puppies and then we kept one of the puppies so we had two. The dogs became my physical and mental happiness. I could enjoy them and when I was sad, the best thing was to cry my tears into their fur.”
At the age of 13, he made a life changing choice
Some family friends invited him to spend Christmas with their family in Bø in Telemark, and TC said yes. He chose not to celebrate Christmas with his father and his grandmother in Kongsberg. He can still feel the tension, excitement and even guilt as he drove off with his family friends and saw his father and grandmother in the rearview window.
That was the last Christmas he spent with his father.
And he had made his most important choice in life.
“At that point, I took control of my life. The family that took me in knew how things were at home, and wanted to help. Since then, I have been with them every Christmas and every summer, I am regularly at Sunday dinners and we have daily contact on the family WhatsApp chat. They became my new family - a family I love immensely. I really do not know how I would have managed without them. I still feel somewhat intimidated - and extremely proud - when my siblings refer to me as their brother, without reservation or further explanation.”
TC’s father passed away 10 years ago, when he was 30 years old. It was not until TC was around 20, when he felt sufficiently confident that he had established his own life and existence, that he dared to tell others about how it was growing up with his father being an alcoholic.
I hope the path my childhood took has made me more conscious of others.
I try to meet everyone with a smile and respect - and bear in mind that everyone has their own story that may not be so easy. We all play the main character in our own lives, and do our best based on the cards we were dealt.
–You believe your background has made you better at building relationships?
“Business for me has been a lot about building trust, and then you have to be open and honest. I have no difficulty in showing my vulnerability, and when I do, others typically open up as well. I really find this enriching and rewarding for both parties.”
There is something invincible about him
TC’s journey to success and an adventurous career can be compared to the Norwegian folktale story about a young boy called Askeladden, who started off as an underdog with no high hopes and ended up a hero through resourcefulness and resilience.
At the age of 15, he went to high school in the United States for one year. He was the kicker on the school team, and got the nickname "The Norwegian nightmare". He was elected Prom King at the Senior Year Prom. His confidence increased. And a sense of self esteem grew in him.
At the age of 20, he moved to Milan to study economics. He was good at math and science, and excelled at these subjects. After his studies, he received an internship at the investment bank Carnegie in Oslo.
“I worked really hard, and afterwards I did everything to impress the boss and get a permanent job. I tried everything. I sent him pictures from when I was skiing, because I knew he was a ski enthusiast himself. I probably called 20 times, sent emails and followed up. I did everything to show how dedicated and interested I was.”
Never give up
“For a long time he heard nothing back, but TC did not give up. One day when he returned from university, opened his laptop to find an email from his boss. In the subject field it said: "Persistence pays off" . And further: «Dear TC! I have the pleasure of offering you a permanent job in the corporate finance department at Carnegie.”
I believe one of my greatest strengths is that I never give up. People almost have to scream in my ear before I actually agree that the deal will not go through. Sometimes I have spent too much time on a single transaction which in the end did not work out.
He continued his career in Pareto, then Arctic, where he was employed at the age of 23. He was on the front page of Dagens Næringsliv (Norwegian Financial Daily) as the "best paid under the age of 30". As soon as he wakes up in the morning his focus is on the tasks ahead. He often succeeds in engaging the clients / prospective LPs, but not always.
“I do not like to fail. Then I can get upset and angry. But my attitude is: I do not accept defeat, because I never give up. Sometimes the solution may be to recalibrate. Skiing or running in the forest or in the mountains to clear my mind helps. Often in the deep forest with my running shoes on and with "Bøtta'' by my side. After a few kilometres of outdoor high intensity I often get a wave of positive energy, and I get back on the right track. It can give me clarity, so I can see things from a different perspective.”
Other times, during negotiations and discussions with clients, it may be good to act more like the Japanese: Make yourself comfortable with silence when other people are around. Even if you have the floor and the attention in the room, sit back, think again and reflect on the question being asked. Seize the silence, and then answer thoughtfully and clearly. For me, it is not about being the loudest.
- Then you have succeeded?
“Well, the silence gives you time to express yourself better. Often others can become uncomfortable with the silence, so yes, it has often worked as a good solution for me many times.”
When work and leisure overlap and go hand in hand
He celebrated his 40th birthday on a business trip in Dubai, with business associates and friends of friends that he connected with through social media. This is often how he meets people on business trips abroad. When he went to Hong Kong for the first time, he asked on Instagram if anyone knew of any acquaintances there. He received many answers, connected with various people, and was very social almost every night or during the weekend after the work activities were over. Since then, he has kept in touch with several of them. He did the same recently in San Francisco and received more than 50 intros of friends of friends to meet - some work related, some personal.
I love this life where work and leisure go hand in hand, at the same time as I have experienced the world and even more so, learned to know new and exciting cultures. Spending time somewhere and staying for the weekends and prioritizing free time with those I meet through work is for me optimal.
“I can run, go skiing and train with my business partners, go to dinners and be out with them, at the same time with no personnel responsibility in Norway so far. This freedom and flexibility is a form of luxury I have valued very highly and to have been given such a strong degree of trust and friendship from my superiors has always been very much appreciated. My head of departments and CEOs have always been very supportive to how I have chosen to work, and we have had mutual respect and trust", says TC.
But when he wakes up yet another weekend alone on a business trip abroad, of course some second guesses appear.
“Sometimes I think life would be even better with someone. Someone I can share everything with, from early morning to late night. But I have yet to meet that special someone, and hence this is still the right priority in life for me.”
- Is it related to the fact that your father is still on your mind?
“Like a "millstone around your neck"? No I do not think so. I've shaken him off me. The periods I think more about him are typically from November 20 - which was his birthday - until Christmas. When I hear the song "Home for Christmas" by Maria Mena, I remember the day he died, December 15th when we played that song on repeat until he passed away for good.”
TC has the same first name as his father, Tor. But he just wants to be TC.
I was probably tough and mostly managed to take care of myself and set my own boundaries as a child. It could certainly have led to the wrong path. I have a normal relationship with alcohol, I am not angry or bitter, and am incredibly fond of people and life in general. Also, I feel like I've learned one of the most important things in life: Seeing people for who they are as people- and hopefully noticing those who need to be seen.
His look is intense.
“When someone claims that people from West Oslo are superficial and self-centered, I have many examples of the opposite. I was seen and taken care of. Someone saw me when I needed it. There are many ways to “see” others. I was made extra aware of this in Bø many years ago. I got an arm around my shoulder and was asked: "How are you really, TC"? Then the feeling of being seen struck lightning through my body. I have tried to use this approach in meeting others who need to be seen in a similar way.”
The dream house
Six years ago, he bought his dream house. The house he dreamed of as a child. When he one day discovered that the house was for sale, he felt it really unthinkable to place a bid. It was too unreal to live there. And certainly far too expensive. But a friend persuaded him to go for it - and he won the bidding round.
“This house suits me and my social lifestyle perfectly. I can gather a lot of people and everyone knows that the house is always open and they can stop by. As I learned in Italy: If I do not have food, we just pull together a pasta.”
He regularly invites friends home for dinners, lunches, workouts, fun and hang - table tennis, basketball, corn-hole and gym sessions.
When I walk downstairs from the master bedroom every morning, I go out on the terrace, soak up the sun, the fresh air and embrace the view. Then I pinch myself and think, "This is too good to be true."
He looks down under the table. The dog is back at its feet.
“And then I enjoy having «Bøtta» around, of course. The world's best dog.”
We learned this from TC
Never give up.
It's been with me since childhood. The ability to never give up made me get my first job at Carnegie and my boss said to me: "Persistence pays off".
Do not underestimate the power of communication.
Meet all people with respect and a curious smile, not skepticism and prejudice.
Never grow up.
"Never grow up, Peter Pan, never grow up." Retaining childhood and youthfulness is important for the quality of life.
Photograph: Truls Qvale
Journalist: Lasse Lønnebotn
MAN IN THE SHIRT: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood” - quote Theodore Roosevelt in Paris, 1910. In the portrait series, Man in the Shirt, BARONS meets with inspirational people with one thing in common, that they have put themselves in play and at stake. Where do they find courage? What is the most crucial thing they have learned along the way? And what can we learn from them?