Today we’re talking with Hampus Jakobsson, a serial entrepreneur based in Malmö who has recently founded Dexplora – a company that will develop tools for sales people. Previously, Hampus sold his company TAT to Blackberry for $150million.
Hampus, tell us about yourself and your background?
I’m a ‘fourth child’, so I’ve always been taught that I had to solve problems on my own, and I think that was a good way to become an entrepreneur. Actually I never thought I would become an entrepreneur and never considered it until we started TAT at the end of 2001 during my last years of my CS masters. The first year it was more or less a hobby project – we did everything from special effects, music videos, ads, software consultancy and even an arts exhibition. All projects were fairly successful, as we always give our best when we do something, but didn’t always pay so well. So when Sony Ericsson contacted us at the end of 2002 and wanted to pay a lot of money it felt like we should pursue that.
Tell us about the TAT story?
Blackberry acquired the 180 man strong TAT in December 2010 for $150m – when we had done a bit more than 0.5bn devices with our customers and probably close to 100 major design projects.
So the “modern” TAT story started by the end of 2002 when Sony Ericsson contacted us. We built a small graphics engine for them which they licensed and integrated that into their devices. For this we were awarded a fairly small license in hindsight, but back then getting 1,000,000 SEK or even just 400,000 SEK for something was amazing. And the consultancy kept us afloat so we could keep hiring (the founders had salaries in the size of 10,000 SEK) and expanding.
As earlier said we gave our best so the results were pretty impressive. But we kind of grew restless with just Sony Ericsson as a customers so we started chasing – and 2004 we started the Samsung love affair and the two companies fit like glove in hand and together we created miracles – and Samsung paid us sensible hourly fees and royalty in ranges of €0.1 / device as the volume grew it grew the company – and we kept hiring to expand (always slightly, but just slightly cash flow positive).
Then 2006 we kind of had “nailed” it and started with more “repeatable sales” – Motorola, Nokia, General Motors, etc. Then in 2007 we were contacted by Google to design Android and after some haggling (we did have design services, but the main point was to make sure devices that used our technology were successful to maximize the sales volume to maximize our royalty, we didn’t really want to sell the hours just as design – but Google were “persuasive”) we did the original design of Android and the first devices. Then we started to get some good traction in Japan, China and Taiwan. And more automotive manufacturers joined the customer list. But as Android came out we realised that we had to adapt to this new world of open software stacks – our main licensing revenue came from “closed”, internal, proprietary operative systems of the manufactures and now as Android came about the world kind of changed.
No longer a vendor needed a super tight relationship and confidentiality agreements, but anyone could put stuff online and try to sell to the manufacturers and of course Google themselves constantly improved their OS. Still we were “superior” (as they said in Korea) but the race was on and we needed to move not only faster but to another part of the stack. In parallell with our user interface “engines” we started to build an app – a meny and first screen replacement called TAT Home. And after some traction there (among others Disney licensed it for a phone in Japan) we needed to hit the pedal and started filing for an IPO on OMX/Nasdaq.
But the stock exchange was in turmoil by 2009-2010 so we needed to postpone it and just when we started to feel the sweats we got a call. In mid October 2010 we were called by Blackberry who wanted to acquire us – and we originally were quite sceptic but after some amazing meetings we understood that we would get a much better leverage of our strengths, we would not have the issues of Android and the whole shift to open, and we avoided a lot of the stall points of growing a company from 180 people to the sizes of 400s.
So Blackberry acquired the 180 man strong TAT in December 2010 for $150m – when we had done a bit more than 0.5bn devices with our customers and probably close to 100 major design projects.
What is Dexplora and how does GetSalesDone fit in?
When we built TAT we tried to make sure everyone had the best possible tools for their job, but we weren’t too pleased with what we found for the finance, sales, and marketing people. So the idea with Dexplora was to build tools for sales people.
When we built TAT we tried to make sure everyone had the best possible tools for their job, but we weren’t too pleased with what we found for the finance, sales, and marketing people. So the idea with Dexplora was to build tools for sales people.What we very quickly stumbled over was the fact that sales people were so unsatisfied with their tools (the so called Customer Relation Management – short CRM – system) that they didn’t use it except when they really had to. And that is not often. The result of this is that the data in the CRM is useless. Useless for the sales person – for them it is just boring reporting. Useless for management - ranging from the issues of what happens if a sales representative quits and another needs to continue with customer not knowing who to contact or what was said last – to the more troublesome that forecasting, strategy and marketing planning are all three heavily dependant on the data being there. What is a quarterly forecast if you are summing up garbage? And marketing ang strategy? Where do our best customers come from – lead source – or who are our most important competitors – or even – what industry are we actually strongest in. If you have 10+ sales people and are working 50+ opportunities a quarter CRM discipline is needed.
But as earlier said the CRMs are so user unfriendly that the sales reps avoid reporting to greatest extent. We have built a two sided system so that it is easy to input data and a system that prioritises fields and data missing so instead of updating 30+ fields and data point per customer a sales person have 5-8 fields a given time.
Where will Dexplora be in 3 years?
We hope to have a good amount of really happy customers and growing faster than is comfortable to handle!
You juggle a few balls – investing, advising and a founder role. What do you enjoy most?
I enjoy learning. I invest to get skin in the game to get me to advise “for real” as a part of the team. I started to invest because I was getting far away from startups – as TAT was 150+ people at the time – so investing got me back “in the scene”. But of course you learn a lot more from doing it yourself. I would say I enjoy the mix – but my own company takes 90%+ of the time and advising is more of a “hobby”. And I avoid investing in more companies as I to my surprise have found to have a finite amount of hours per day – I guess it is age.
What’s it like being an entrepreneur in Malmö – and how do you think it compares to Stockholm or Gothenburg?
Very hard to tell as I haven’t tried the other two. I think Malmö has three amazing benefits. Firstly, you can bike everywhere and it take 10 mins maximum from door to door – so you meet a lot more people. Secondly, housing and offices are cheap and abundant – and you can live biking distance from work. Lastly, Copenhagen and Kastrup (CPH airport) – 20 minutes with train and you have a capital and one of the best connected airports. At TAT this was perfect with all international business, now I more see the benefit that we can easily meet advisors, investors, and customers as people do stop by in Copenhagen.
From what I understand Gothenburg’s main problem is that it gets kind of “inbred” – if you start a company in Gothenburg you tend to hire people there, who even grew up in a 50 km radius, your investors and advisors are from there, and sometimes your customers are there. I think both Stockholm and Malmö seem to have a more mixed environment and I think that is really healthy.