Simon Werner-Zankl, Entrepreneur, the co-founder of Trustcruit, graduated from JIBS BBA-programmet in 2008
Could you tell us what happened after graduating from JIBS?
I started working at a recruitment company called Framtiden. They called me 6 months before graduating and asked me if I would like to work for them as a financial assistant which I gladly agreed to. I stayed there for 7 years and worked mostly as a CFO. Then one day a friend of mine encouraged me to go to an idea pitching competition at Science Park where one could win 10 000 SEK. I won the competition and started building my company. It is based in Science Park Jönköping which has helped me to accelerate my business.
"A friend of mine encouraged me to go to an idea pitching competition at Science Park".
The first years of Trustcruit (formerly named Sprancher), from the idea pitch event to 2,5 years later, was about realizing that we had a big problem with a wrong solution, and we had the wrong solution twice. However, we still knew that there was a big problem which we tried to address, we just needed a different solution. Half a year ago, we talked to our customers and decided to go with a completely different solution which we sell today and which we have had a great success with and in only 6 weeks we have 4 of the 25 biggest recruiting companies as customers.
What is the problem that you are addressing with your product?
When one publishes job ads, there are few job applicants that are qualified for the job. Statistics shows that around 80% of the candidates see and browse job ads via their cell phones. However, they cannot apply for a job via a cell phone. Our own data shows us that only around 7% apply via a cell phone. All big e-commerce platforms measure different aspects of their business, they talk to their customers, learn from them, use services like Trustpilot and so on. However, nothing like this is being done in the recruiting business today. We have approached many different applicants, sent them a feedback form, measured how many of them apply via a cell phone and asked them how we could make this process better. This way we have created a tool to make the recruitment process better. We present the data that can be acted on.
The first solution that we have come up with was a marketplace where you could sign up if you had a job and wanted to change it. Companies could then browse in the system and find suitable candidates. We did not have that much success with that product. The second solution was a slight adjustment to the first solution. Today we have a lot of knowledge in this area. We believe that the solution that we are working on now will make the applications via a mobile phone skyrocket. It is also a much better business model. We could not have achieved this if not the failures that we have behind us. If you want to become an entrepreneur in tech industry, you must understand that it is almost never the first solution which is the right solution.
"We believe that the solution that we are working on now will make the applications via a mobile phone skyrocket".
Where, do you think, people should look for new business ideas?
I am sure that every human has business ideas, no matter if you are 98 or 10 years old. There are always things that could be done better and that is a good start. If you are that person who wants to take an idea and try it out in the real world, I could recommend you reading the book “The Mom test” which will help you evaluate your ideas. When we worked on our idea, we sold it to our customers before writing a single line of code. I love customers, they will tell you so much, both good and bad things. Learning how to talk to customers is what mom test is about.
"I love customers, they will tell you so much, both good and bad things."
Another advice that I have is to consider the Lean startup theory – taking one step at a time. If you can make one customer happy, there is a probability that you can make 2 customers happy. Build on that and continue developing in this manner. In our case, writing a code comes very late in this process.
How does your typical day look like?
We have a lot of structure but we are also free, in a way. We measure the output, not the input. It is not about how many hours you put in, it is about the result, the value that you bring to the company, regardless if you have spent 10 minutes or 10 hours finding a solution.Therefore, a typical day is never the same. Programming is the core of the Trustcruit´s product so we focus a lot on that.
How do you see your company developing in the future?
We have high ambitions; we want to be next Klarna or Spotify. But don´t get me wrong, we are not here for the fame, we know that we can help so many applicants and recruiters and this is why we do it.
Do you think that digital entrepreneurship is different from other forms of entrepreneurship?
Yes, I think so, and in digital entrepreneurship it is very important to reiterate, to be able to change things fast because there will always be someone else doing what you do in a better way. Therefore, if you want to make it scalable, the dialogue with customers is crucial.
"In digital entrepreneurship it is very important to reiterate, to be able to change things fast because there will always be someone else doing what you do in a better way."
What about the growth of the company, what signals would tell you when it is time to recruit more people?
In this business, we always have to adapt to our customers´ pace since they are the ones providing us with data and feedback. We could hire a bunch of programmers and work day and night but that would not work because it means we would run faster than our customers. For example, we have earlier developed this great dashboard for our customers with possibilities to analyze data from all kinds of angles. The response from them was “Can´t I just get a simple pdf file via email once a month?” They simply did not need another complicated analytics tool. Customers will tell you how they want to use your product.
"Customers will tell you how they want to use your product."
I am sure that there are many JIBS Alumni who have great business ideas. They can always approach me; I will be glad to give them feedback and advice. I am a proud JIBSer and we should support one another!
Breaking the routine
by Lukas Charitonovas, former JSA President
Even if you have a year or two of studies left, one day, not far from today, you will be a JIBS alumnus. This letter is about one important aspect which will change once you have left the university. It's about daily routine, but from a different angle. Let's talk about two things in particular – unexpected job offers and unexpected friendships.
"When you are a student, it's pretty easy to break the routine."
When you are a student, it's pretty easy to break the routine. You can go on a trip almost immediately if you really want to. You can go abroad to work or intern with little effort. You can easily take a year off and do something else. And in the meantime you meet new people, are exposed to new ideas and information.
When you start working, routine becomes much more common. Exposure to new people, places, unexpected ideas and information tends to decrease. Sometimes, same-old-routine is the only thing you have. And that's a problem. A problem for a different reason than you might expect. In 1973, a researcher, named Mark Granovetter, published a research paper called "The Strength of Weak Ties". In this article, Mark pointed out that you are much more likely to get a job through random acquaintances than your close friends. Other research also notes that breakthrough ideas often come from random events.
"Unexpected progress and breakthroughs often come from influences outside of our routine groups and routine tasks."
Importance of random events and acquaintances is logical, once we think about it. People in our close circles tend to think in a similar fashion, access similar information. They might even know the same people as we do. Therefore, it is logical that our routine will rarely produce unexpected events or unexpected progress. Instead, unexpected progress and breakthroughs often come from influences outside of our routine groups and routine tasks. It is important to break the routine.
When I thought about this myself, I noticed that some of my closest friends came from seemingly random events. I once got an email from a person I had never even seen. Today, this person is a very close friend. Another time, I was hesitating whether or not I should go to an event. I really wanted to attend the event, but nobody wanted to join me and the event was in another country. In the end, I went alone. Today, two of my closest friends are people I met at that event. In my life, these are not rare exceptions. A while back, I needed to collect some information on traineeships, so I picked up the phone and called an unknown person with some seemingly embarrassing questions. Unexpectedly, that call ended up in a job offer, and a good one at that.
Think about your own achievements, events, friendships and generally things which you are proud of. How many of them came from random and unexpected events? I suspect that random and unexpected events had a large influence on your life.
"When was the last time you did something for the first time?"
With this article, I would like to suggest to make a habit of "breaking the routine". To meet new people on a regular basis. To attend new events and seek exposure to new ideas and different viewpoints. Try new things. When was the last time you did something for the first time? In the end, these seemingly small and invisible things, make a world of difference.
Tim Nilsson, the Managing Director of Glispa, graduated from JIBS in 1998
What does JIBS stand for to you, how would you characterize it?
JIBS to me is full of emotion. Ever since that first day we were in the Dagens Nyheter with a full page ad marketing the First class of JIBS. I remember feeling special being part of the very entrepreneurial first graduation class. We did not have the school built until the 2nd year, so we were in Erik Dahlberg Gymnasiet. The name was so sexy and also made a lasting impression on me that I am an “International” Business school student, thus it drove me to visit other countries and become open minded and think global from day one.
"I remember feeling special being part of the very entrepreneurial first graduation class."
I was always very proud every time I paid off my CSN loan since I knew that my education at JIBS put me on the path to where I am today, and I knew my family would not have had the means to put me through a university as in other countries. I was always very grateful for that.
What did you bring with you into professional life from JIBS?
The first thing is the ability to network and nderstanding the power of a network within a university to work in unison. Team play, sharing notes, emotional support and of course extracurricular activities such as AIESEC were great for networking.
"The emotional part in the brand does contribute to establishing a self-confidence needed for things to come."
Then you also learn to think critically which is the key asset to reach success. You also get a strong foundation and base of key knowledge and the ability to source information and structure it. The emotional part in the brand does contribute to establishing a self-confidence needed for things to come.
Tell us what happened after you have left JIBS. How did you get to where you are today?
Lots of diverse and international experiences and failures brought me to where I am today. I went to high school my senior year in Wisconsin, US, went to HPU in Hawaii during my 3rd year at JIBS, went to North of Norway in Tromsö to work as a fisherman during summer holidays, went to live in San Sebastian after university to learn Spanish, backpacked through Asia for 6 months and later I would work in Copenhagen, Berlin, London and Stockholm.
"The two most important factors for growth after studying all these growth companies were recruitment and accounting/financials."
The key was to learn from each mistake, improve and then fight even harder next time around. I believe I got very lucky since I have a very creative personality and tried out many different projects in various environments. I started my career as a “Tillväxtpilot” - Pilot of Rapid Growth and worked for IT consultancy company SYSteam in Husqvarna and was lucky to participate in both their internal trainee programme and the external trainee programme "Tillväxtpiloterna" during which we went on inspiration trips to meet founders like Jerry Yang, Yahoo, and Erick Wickström, Icon Media Lab, etc. There I learned that the two most important factors for growth after studying all these growth companies were recruitment and accounting/financials. From that moment on I decided I would leverage my personality and become the best recruiter out there, and find a business partner who was very strong in the controlling/financial part. I did then exit SYSteam to commercialize this trainee programme for which we got venture capital from venture capitalist firm Momentor in Stockholm. We ran some interesting projects but did not manage to secure enough funding and the Internet bubble burst also significantly played a role in moving on and closing down this chapter.
"I analyzed the macro factors and decided to move to Berlin that held a lot of potential."
I then took some odd jobs, went to Spain to learn Spanish, and after being the finalist at company NEFAB from 100 applicants, they said it came down to me and another candidate and that they picked have him because it was too risky to choose me as I had started my own company. I then decided it was time for me to leave the region and think bigger. I analyzed the macro factors and decided to move to Berlin that held a lot of potential. I applied at a company called Jamba that was led by the Samver brothers that were unknown at that time. I worked directly under Oliver Samver and did a good job. I was referred to Zanox who was just about to internationalize. With Zanox I quickly learned German and was eventually added to the executive management team as the only international member. I also went over to London as a turnkey manager and was acting MD for Zanox Ltd. Working in both Germany and UK has offered some tremendous learnings that I would later capitalize on.
"Working in both Germany and UK has offered some tremendous learnings that I would later capitalize on."
After Zanox exited for 215M Euros in 2007 I decided to start up glispa GmbH in Berlin with my friend Gary Lin who has been running a smaller version of this in the USA. We decided to set up global operations in August 2008 in Berlin and I brought my first German hire to Zanox UK back to Berlin to become glispa hire #1 as well. We spent two weeks doing a business plan for glispa and we set the bar for 50M revenue and 50 people and creating glispa Labs and glispa Global Group. 7 years later we sold part of the company to Market Tech and Teddy Sagy Group (Founder of Playtech), and created glispa Global Group. The investment power of the group accelerated our technology development into a fully-fledged mobile ad tech power house and we are now launching two new brands and potential unicorns - Voltu (still not public) and Ampiri (public) and making several acquisitions. My main contribution was in the initial stages where I recruited the first 30 people, and also developed global operations. After that I have remained in the MD role but have been primarily acting as an entrepreneur and leading pivots, creative projects, M&A activity.
The way I see it, the financial freedom has given me the opportunity to think bigger (not money driven) and of course improved my general knowledge about investments. I have created my own real estate and investment company Urban Viking GmbH, mainly acquiring real estate and buildings in high growth cities. Currently at glispa I am driving the launch of Voltu, the first global performance influencer network. I have plans for several new projects but taking things one step at a time. In particular one project is really big but aimed at making society better and offering more fun for children. This is a passion project I hope I can pull off in some shape or form at some point in the future.
"At the end of the day I have been handed a ticket to the big league and I have to up my game to stay relevant and keep growing."
I have never worked so hard and long hours as post-transaction – and there are a lot of learnings from this process as well. At the end of the day I have been handed a ticket to the big league and I have to up my game to stay relevant and keep growing.
Veronica Fossa, an entrepreneur, graduated from JIBS in 2012
What has happened since you graduated from JIBS?
I graduated from the Master in Economics, Management, Technology of Entertainment and Art in 2012. At the time I was already living in Helsinki, Finland, working as a freelance business developer and marketing specialist for some design and fashion brands and attending some courses at Aalto University in International Design Business Management.
Two happenings marked my future career as an entrepreneur in the food industry. First, I was one of the 10 participants of Open Kitchen, a food business course offered by the City of Helsinki and Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund where we learnt the ins and out of running a food business for 3 weeks, followed by designing and running a restaurant for 10 days. Second, I participated in the European Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, a program that brought me to work for a luxury dining agency in Copenhagen.
"I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so at some point I quit the job."
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so at some point I quit the job and moved back to Helsinki. In March 2014, I founded WE Factory (www.wefactoryandco.com) as a nomadic food experiential design agency, made by people for people. With a multicultural, strategic and fresh approach, I curate and help design memorable food experiences to empower, happify and innovate individuals, organizations and brands. Ever since I have been traveling and working for music and food festivals, toptier brands, tourism organizations and institutions in Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Russia, Sweden and Italy.
Tell us more about your business!
Not long after relocating to Helsinki and starting my own company – after Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs – I realized that I cannot settle in one place only. Ever since the second half of 2014 I have been living and working as a digital nomad. This means traveling to clients and exploring cities and communities I am interested in. Of course, it does not come without challenges, but I feel that I can offer an added value to my clients because I am always up-to-date in the latest trends and I can translate them into actionable strategies and concepts.
At the moment, my base is in Veneto, Italy, my native country. I just got back from a month traveling between Estonia, Finland and Morocco. In Estonia I launched WE Factory Academy, an experiential training and gathering that helps food professionals, entrepreneurs, designers, and consultants unlock their inner designer and creative gumption, and evolve their business to meet the challenges ahead. It is a new concept that leverages on the importance of experiential learning.
"My day-to-day job involves everything from concept design to social media marketing, production, PR, sales, etc."
After the success in Tallinn, I am planning to take it to different locations around Europe in the next months. Besides, I am working on a book about food experience design and collaborating on some interesting projects. My day-to-day job involves everything from concept design to social media marketing, production, PR, sales, etc. Sometimes, the amount of work is really insane so I am looking into growing my team. It looks like 2016 will be a pretty busy year!
Have you encountered any challenges along the way?
When I look back at my first year as an entrepreneur, I did underestimate the difficulties one encounters in a country that is not one´s native one. Some cities in the world are definitely big enough and international to welcome a big number of foreign entrepreneurs. Personally, in Helsinki I always felt that not mastering Finnish as a mother tongue was a huge drawback in order to start a conversation with potential clients. That is why halfway through 2014 I started realizing that I should consider moving to other markets – more open minded in respect to my business and my personality.
"In the beginning I had to learn many skills by myself or ask friends for help because I could not afford to outsource."
I do not regret moving away because the relocation and the choice to opt for a part-time nomadism has led to interesting opportunities! Also, often people do not understand what my business is about and they ask me if I am a caterer, if I organize food events or if I am a food blogger. So over time I have spent a lot of energy in pondering over the way I communicate what WE Factory is about and how I can help clients in a totally different way than other agencies. In comparison to medium and big agencies that provide a similar service, the service design – though my unique asset relies on the food industry – I definitely had a much smaller, if any, budget for marketing and brand identity. In the beginning I had to learn many skills by myself or ask friends for help because I could not afford to outsource.
Any insights you would like to share with us?
Over time I have learnt that a business is like a person, it needs to be nurtured with the best care. And as an entrepreneur and a human being you need to be able to accept change and adapt quickly. It is definitely the perk of being a small business in comparison to corporations. Many people expect to be successful since the first day of business but that is not how it works. It takes lot of hard work, patience – and of course – good contacts to grow it.
"Over time I have learnt that a business is like a person, it needs to be nurtured with the best care."
Sometimes it is not easy to be extremely motivated and I loose my inner voice and what my mission is about. Especially when I do something innovative, I need to trust myselft because I know that I am not 100% into it, but nobody can do it for me. When I find myself being exhausted, then I take some time off, surround myself with my best people, travel and start fresh. I am learning day after day to be working “on" my business and not “in" my business.