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Skype founder awarded top Swedish tech prize

David Landes · 14 Sep 2009, 14:55

Published: 14 Sep 2009 14:55 GMT+02:00

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The prize, awarded since 1945 and now worth one million Swedish kronor ($142,000), is awarded to the Swedish citizen who, “through era-defining efforts, or discoveries and creations of new value, especially in the technological realm, but also within science and the arts, promotes the prosperity of our our people”.

The 43-year-old entrepreneur, who also founded the Kazaa file sharing service, is to receive the 2009 edition of KTH’s Great Prize (Stora pris) for his “singular exceptional entrepreneurship and technical knowledge”.

“For Niklas, global communication is as much a a vision of uniting the people of the world as it is a good business idea. He is an excellent example for Sweden’s young technology buffs and an international poster child for high quality and accessible Swedish engineering,” read the citation accompanying Monday’s announcement of the award.

Despite his many achievements, Zennström was humbled by the award, which has previously been awarded to astronaut Christer Fuglesang, songwriter and musician Evert Taube, and inventor Håkan Lans.

“It’s a great honour for me to receive KTH’s Great Prize,” said Zennström in a statement.

He added that he has always had a passion for helping society advance and for trying to reduce the distances between people.

“It’s my hope that through my entrepreneurship that I can inspire today’s young Swedes to take a step in the world of an entrepreneur and together create a better society,” he said.

Zennström studied at Sweden’s Uppsala University before he, along with Dane Janus Friis, started the Kazaa file sharing website in 2001.

In 2003, the pair started Skype, a free, downloadable software programme that allowed free voice communications over the internet between users of the programme.

Story continues below…

Skype was later acquired by eBay in September 2005 for $2.6 billion. Since then, Zennström and Friis have launched Joost, a web-based service for viewing television and videos online.

According to Time Magazine, Skype was ranked as one of the 50 best internet services of 2009.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:07 September 14, 2009 by mkvgtired
"It's my hope that through my entrepreneurship that I can inspire today's young Swedes to take a step in the world of an entrepreneur and together create a better society," [Zennström] said.

Now Sweden should ask itself why Skype and Joost are both headquartered in Luxembourg. If you combine the above statement with his actions I would say he is telling today's Swedish youth that if they want to become a successful entrepreneur they should make sure they start their company outside of Sweden. More proof wealth and capital are liquid and countries have to be business friendly to retain businesses and jobs.
07:18 September 15, 2009 by Leprehcaun
Really? What took them so long? He should have gotten that a long time ago.

Mkv that's BS, that is about greed and making maximum profit. It has nothing to so with it being impossible here. We want this system, we're not gonna turn into the US, sorry but I'd rather die.
08:54 September 15, 2009 by skane refugee
The benefits of this sort of entrepreneurship to Sweden (and indeed DK, where Skype co-founder Janus Friis is from) are unclear ... company HQ is Luxembourg, main offices are London and Estonia

If no company tax, employment or income taxes are paid in Sweden ... the best Sweden can hope for is some philanthropy from Zennström in the future if he hangs on to some of his fortune

Surely Zennström is just a part of the well publicised brain drain of talent from Sweden?!
10:57 September 15, 2009 by Rick Methven
As VAT must be charged on charges made by Skype for Value-added services such as Skype Out. Luxembourg is a cost effective location for both the company and customers with its low rate of VAT.
16:32 September 16, 2009 by mkvgtired
Leprehcaun, I am not saying you have to emulate the US. My only point is HE is preaching to Swedish youth about the benefits of entrepreneurship, and yet neither of his companies are based in Sweden or employ a significant amount of Swedish people. His companies are also mainly avoiding contributing to the tax base in Sweden. I was only trying to illustrate a point that if a country has policies hostile toward businesses then businesses and entrepreneurs will leave. Notice how IKEA is controlled by a Dutch trust and Ingvar Kamprad lists his primary residence in Switzerland. The US is moving closer and closer to European tax rates year by year, so I hardly see it as a good comparison. In my opinion Hong Kong is the best example of a capitalist country in this day and age, and I would say they are doing pretty well. Yes, I know they are now part of China, but their trade policies remain largely unchanged from colonial times.
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