• Sweden edition
 
Skype founder: 'cold winters' key to Swedish tech success

Skype founder: 'cold winters' key to Swedish tech success

Published: 16 Feb 2012 17:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Feb 2012 17:26 GMT+01:00

Niklas Zennström is one of Sweden’s best known and most successful tech wizards, co-founder of Skype and Kazaa, and founder of the investment company Atomico.

On Wednesday, the tech-guru spoke at Stockholm University to "encourage students to pursue entrepreneurialism", share some his esteemed insights, and to offer a few predictions about there the market for high-tech gadgets is heading.

However, on a snowy day in the Swedish capital, he claimed it wasn’t just the economic climate that was the cause of Sweden’s start-up trends.

“When the weather’s like this outside, what else is there do to besides sitting inside and creating a business?” he said, in response to why Sweden has so many startup companies today.

“But really, Stockholm is one of the places that has become more attractive to go to, and this has nothing to do with the weather. It’s because there are a lot of new, interesting, and high-quality companies here."

According to Zennström, there are several other aspects to Swedish business culture which also helps drive entrepreneurship.

“Sweden is punching way above its weight with great companies in terms of quality. We are not so hierarchical, we like to be pragmatic. It’s a culture that’s suitable for creative-ism and for getting companies off the ground,” he said.

Andreas Ehn, co-founder of streaming music company Spotify was also on hand to discuss management, leadership, and his latest collaboration with the Skype giant.

Zennström’s venture capital firm, Atomico, which has invested in over 40 international companies, has most recently endorsed Ehn's latest venture - Wrapp.

Wrapp is an online mobile application specializing in gift cards and looks set to take over the world.

The product launched in November and has already received funding for $10 million. According to Ehn, the plan is for Wrapp to be accessible worldwide.

But a good idea doesn't necessarily mean success, Zennström was quick to add.

“You have to try a lot of times to succeed. Even if you play golf – I’m a lousy player myself – but I know that if I hit the ball enough times I’m going to have one very good shot, and the ball will eventually go a long distance. It’s like this with being an entrepreneur. The statistics are against you and you’re for sure more likely to fail - but it’s important to try,” he said.

Part of this success can be put down to team management, according to Zennström.

“Don’t be afraid of hiring people smarter than yourself," he said.

"Insecure people hire people who are less intelligent, and that just creates more work. Those who are comfortable with themselves aren’t insecure about not being the smartest, and so can succeed by leading the way.”

The idea of intelligence was touched by Ehn too, who pointed out that a good leader doesn't necessarily need to be the most knowledgeable.

“Management is a support function, people who are solving problems that are in the way – the experts will always have more knowledge about the problem at hand than you do, so let them make the decisions, and just make sure you’re leading them in the right direction,” said Ehn.

During a discussion session with the audience, many audience members asked for the pair's thoughts about the future of technology.

“Today, everything is mobile, and I don’t think we’ll go backwards from this. This is a transition from two or three years ago when companies saw mobiles as a centre of their strategy," said Zennström said.

"There will be a growth increase, and a price decrease in the mobile market. There will be a change with the emerging markets which will yield different behavioral patterns. There will be smartphones in Africa or in the countryside of Brazil, and they will be able to trade with their mobile. It’s about opportunity."

Spotify founder Ehn agreed.

“Smartphones will become the default window to the internet, not the computer. It will be the first interface if you’re building something new,” he said.

As the climates change and technology is embraced, both Zennström and Ehn were interested in their respective products’ usership.

It came as no surprise that a show of hands from the audience showed what appeared to be 100 percent usage of both Skype and Spotify.

As for Wrapp, the response was a little more sluggish, but both men were confident in the product’s future in what is estimated to be a $100 billion American gift card market.

But it’s not just about the financial success, according to Zennström.

“For me, one of the reasons I worked hard was the financial reward, as that was a scorecard at the end of the day and good for competitive drive. But, I also wanted to make an impact. Just seeing that the world uses Skype to communicate is personally really rewarding,” he said.

In light of this, Zennström offered some final words of advice.

"I think it’s important to promote entrepreneurship and to encourage people, and specifically students, to consider entrepreneurship, and not to go and work for a big bank or consulting firm or engineering company – but to think of joining a startup. This is something that’s important.”

Oliver Gee

twitter.com/theuppsalakoala

Your comments about this article

18:39 February 16, 2012 by apelsin000
Linus Torvalds also has brought up exactly the same point, so stop the global warming! LoL
22:15 February 16, 2012 by occassional
I am waiting for Jesse Jackson to kick hell about this cold weather = more entrepreneurial stuff. Wait for it.
06:00 February 17, 2012 by skatty
I prefer weather like Silicon Valley; life and business in a wonderful weather, warm and enjoyable; not cold and depressive, dark and boring for six months!

What the hell is the enjoyment of business in North Pole!
08:48 February 18, 2012 by Birbun
It's difficult to think a business in Sweden when the taxes are so high.

You're going to risk your time,money and job to practically work for the State and to keep on the parasites,the drunks,the immigrants and the welfare.

This isn't good.

The max taxation should be 10-15 % max.
12:49 February 19, 2012 by IranianAtheist
"The Skype software was created in Tallinn, Estonia by Estonians Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallinn." (from Wikipedia)
13:10 February 19, 2012 by Rick Methven
The software was developed in Estonia on the design of Zennström.

The design of any software system is the key part, the programming is secondary.

I have 4 major successful software systems that I have designed. Only one have I 100% designed and developed from concept to release, the others have been programmed by contracted developers.
Today's headlines
National
King Carl XVI Gustaf opens parliament
King Carl XVI Gustaf arriving on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: TT

King Carl XVI Gustaf opens parliament

BREAKING: Sweden's post-election parliament is meeting for the first time following a fanfare opening from King Carl XVI Gustaf. READ  

Opinion
Should Sweden's school age be raised?
A high school in Stockholm. Photo: TT

Should Sweden's school age be raised?

After the new coalition announced plans to extend Sweden's compulsory schooling until the age of 18, The Local asked two Swedes at high school if they agreed with the idea. READ  

International
Sweden slammed for ecological footprint
Sweden should increase its renewable energy according to WWF. Photo:TT

Sweden slammed for ecological footprint

Sweden is among the world's top ten polluters according to one of the largest scientific studies looking at the impact of humans on earth, produced by the WWF. READ  

Society
Swede's necklace found after 52 years in lake
Ing-Marie Olofsson whose necklace was found. Photo: Private

Swede's necklace found after 52 years in lake

A 66-year-old Swedish woman got the surprise of her life when a fisherman returned the necklace she dropped in a lake at the age of 14. READ  

International
Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos
Malin Sahlén during a Top Model shoot. Photo: TV3/Nina Holma

Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos

A British newspaper has apologised after a freelance journalist stole a Sweden's Next Top Model contestant's photo and created a fake Twitter account used to trick a UK minister. READ  

Brand stories
Johanna N: beautiful jewellery with a story

Johanna N: beautiful jewellery with a story

Aged just 27 and already living off of her own designs, some may consider Johanna Nilsson lucky. But she doesn't believe in luck. She's the founder of a jewellery line blending sustainability, subtle style, and Scandinavian simplicity - and it's taking the world by storm. READ  

Sport
Heel injury sidelines Zlatan in Barcelona clash
Photo: AP

Heel injury sidelines Zlatan in Barcelona clash

Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona at the Parc des Princes due to a nagging heel problem, the French club have confirmed. READ  

National
Stockholm patient tests negative after Ebola fears
The Infection Clinic at the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge. Photo: TT

Stockholm patient tests negative after Ebola fears

A patient in a Stockholm hospital who was suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus was given the all clear on Tuesday morning. READ  

Elections 2014
New coalition agrees on defence and migration
A Jas Gripen. Photo: TT

New coalition agrees on defence and migration

UPDATED: The Green Party has committed itself to expanding Sweden's defence force, while the Social Democrats have compromised on work permits for migrants. READ  

National
Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden
The patient is being treated at the Karolinska University Hospital. Photo: TT

Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden

Doctors in Stockholm are checking a patient suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Botkyrka
Education
New government to make school compulsory to 18
Politics
Sweden Democrat wins Deputy Speaker spot
National
Swedish scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Blog updates

28 September

Spoiled Doyle (Blogweiser) »

"What you gotta watch out for in Sweden is the good stuff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re_EzUe6xpI In Sweden, it’s the good things you have to watch out for. Video on @TheLocalSweden http://t.co/rAb8eGFdTD pic.twitter.com/w37YYwMXy1 — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) September 29, 2014 " READ »

 

26 September

 (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Autumn swept into Sweden at the start of this week with snow in the north of the country and flooding in the south. As well as a change in the weather, Sweden’s change in political direction became clearer, with Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven formally announcing his party would work with the Greens as..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: September 28th
National
When Italian style meets Swedish simplicity
Lifestyle
Review: Sweden's first alcohol-free nightclub
Gallery
In Pictures: The MS Estonia disaster
Lifestyle
Ten things expat women notice in Sweden
Politics
What's next on Sweden's political stage?
Gallery
Sweden's 2014 election: Most memorable moments
Society
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 24th
Seaman Oliver Gee with his first lobster
Lifestyle
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Gallery
In Pictures: Fredrik Reinfeldt through the years.
Society
Plucked out of Canada for love and guitars
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

877
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN