Technoport 2014: Jonas Kjellberg talks startups
One of the big themes of Technoport 2014 is troublemakers: people who aren’t afraid to disrupt industries with new ways of thinking and new ways of doing business. One great example of a troublemaking company is Skype, the VOIP service and instant messaging client that transformed the way many businesses, entrepreneurs, and ordinary people communicate, almost overnight.
Jonas Kjellberg is well-placed to tell the story, having joined Skype’s co-founders during the very early days and steering the company’s rapid global growth. Since the sale of Skype to Microsoft, he has worked extensively advising other start ups as well as consulting and starting his own businesses. He lectures at Stanford University on sales cultures and how to bring product sales, profitability and the whole company together, and is co-author of Gear Up.
He’ll tell Skype’s story during Technoport 2014’s Troublemakers session, but I managed to ask him a few questions in advance to whet your appetite…
Can you tell us about your role(s) at Skype?
I joined the founding office in Stockholm and was initially responsible for the biggest region, which at the time was the Nordics. When the company grew bigger I became responsible for all revenues generated from clients.
Did you have any idea back then that Skype would be as successful as it has been?
I liked the product and the people in the team, and I had worked with them before. That it could become that successful, was not in the cards, It had been a very rough start of the project. But the product had a great global delight so there was a dream that we could hit it big. But competition was against giants like Microsoft and their MSN Messenger, AOL, ICQ, and all the telcos in the world, so there were many that hated what we did.
Why do you think the Nordics have been so successful at producing startups?
I think there is a tradition of product innovation in the Nordics that results from our traditional industries. But the more tech-based startups that make it big, the more people there are that have done the journey and know what it takes to build a high potential venture.
Can you explain what Gear Up Ventures is and who might find it useful?
Gear up is a framework that will help you create a high potential venture. It explains all the parts that need to be in place, to get the wheels spinning. The framework was initially developed at Harvard, and has been the backbone of teaching at Stanford, to foster and teach great entrepreneurs.
Should a startup think global first, or build up a successful business in their home market first?
A startup should always follow its own beliefs. My personal view is that you should try to think big, and get the global approach in to the DNA of the company from the start. It is hard to add that later.
American companies often have the world as their target market, and would never dream of having just one market at the size of Finland, as their only market. So it is a mental approach, but there is no right or wrong.
Want to hear more?
Jonas Kjellberg will be talking troublemakers at Technoport 2014. Want to join him? Register today!