Swedish Startup Space

Ted Valentin: “People waste their most creative years on campaign websites for vodka and fashion”

Written by on August 23

I caught up with Ted Valentin, the serial-entreprenur behind sites such as SocialaNyheter.se and Tripbirds.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background

I studied marketing at the Stockholm School of Economics about ten years ago. Around that time I also started coding, as a hobby. The idea was to experiment a bit with marketing on the web. At that time there was this new thing called Google and Google Adwords and I wanted to play around with that.

You’ve talked a lot about your ‘nomad-coffeeshop-entrepreneur’ style – tell us more about why you are an entrepreneur?

What I really wanted to do when I was younger was to travel. I has this dream that with he internet I would be able to go places and make some money from anywhere in the world with just a laptop. My goal wasn’t to build a regular company. I just wanted the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. My first business was in marketing magazine subscriptions online, and I built a bunch of websites. At first I was making a few thousand SEK a month, which I thought was cool enough. But improving the numbers turned into an addictive game almost, and 2-3 years later I was selling subscriptions for 20 million SEK per year, sitting at a café in Hornstull with my laptop. The downside was that I kind of lost my freedom along the way. I ended up working 12 hour a day, 7 days a week. So in 2007 I sold that business and regained my freedom, kind of.

You’ve started and worked on a lot of projects, such as 24 HBC, Best of SVT, Sociala Nyheter etc. Which one are you most proud of?

I’m happy that my map sites Restaurangkartan.se, Hotellkartan.se, Campingkartan.se – and a bunch of others – are in such wide use i Sweden. Last month they had more than a million visitors! Also, my latest experiment SocialaNyheter.se was really well recieved and now has a bunch of returning users who visit it daily. That’s cool too!

But many of the most interesting things I’ve built have failed (like Opinionsbildare.se, Inflytande.se and Blogipedia.com). That’s OK though, as long as I learn something.

Tell us about Tripbirds – what that company meant to you and what happened to it. I recently saw a great post from you on Facebook about the entire situation – so I think it would be valuable to share that with our readers.

Tripbirds was my crack at building a real business. A real startup with venture capital, an office and employees. But the timing wasn’t the best for me, as I got my second kid at about the same time as we started the company. And my wife is also an entrepreneur. Sure, I learned a lot, but it was two really tough years. The site is still working, but we are not actively developing it anymore.

What impact do you think 24 HBC has had on the startup scene in Sweden?

Yeah, I also started 24 Hour Business Camp (24HBC) in 2009, and it became Sweden’s biggest hackathon. And maybe the most glamourous hackathon in the world, I like to say. For two days and two nights hackers and entrepreneurs are building around 50 projects, while being treated like royalty at the all-inclusice  japanese spa Hasseludden Yasuragi, outside Stockholm.  24HBC has inspired a lot of other hackathons inside and outside of Sweden. For example Stockholm Startup Hack, which I think has been a worthy successor to 24HBC.

Which one is your favourite success story from 24 HBC?

Well, a few new companies, like SMSGrupp.se and Kundo.se have had their humble beginnings at 24HBC. But for me a hackathon is  about more than just creating new companies. It’s also about meeting great people, trying out new ideas, and learning how to be productive with very little time.  We’ve had some great people attend 24HBC, people who became extremely successful and made millions just a few years later.

How has the startup and developer community evolved in Sweden the last few years?

I think everyone agrees it’s getting better. But we still have too much of an “advertising agency”-culture in Sweden, with too many talented young people kind of wasting their most creative years on doing campaign websites for vodka and fashion brands… But I hope that’s changing.

Thank you so much for your time Ted!

  • jamespember

    Great read, thanks Ted and Anders!

  • shootitlive

    Great inteview, thanks. /Martin

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