Niklas Zennström, a billionaire serial entrepreneur and investor, is recognized for founding and co-founding several technological ventures including the highly popular Skype and KaZaA BV. His investment firm Atomico, using which he developed several tech companies, was a guardian to many software industries that couldn’t make a name in the competitive market. Zennström has a vision to make the internet affordable and accessible to the hands of the general population.
A philanthropist and significant figurehead, Niklas Zennström knew that traditional speculative business firms weren’t positive in providing identification, evaluation, worth, or advancement to digital electronic and software companies. Probably because marketers had little to no knowledge about the internet sector and were afraid to risk fortunes in startups that begin in a garage.
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Niklas Zennström: Founder of Skype
Mini Bio of Niklas Zennström
Name: Niklas Zennström
Source of wealth: Skype, Atomico
Net worth: $1.23 billion
Residence: London, England
Education: Uppsala University (Business Administration) KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Engineering Physics)
Spouse: Catherine Zennström (wife)
Born in February 1966 to a humble family and parents who were teachers, Niklas had a dream to be an entrepreneur from childhood. His childhood passed through sailing, fishing and swimming in the Baltic Sea, although the sea is now polluted heavily with filth due to human activities.
He was incredibly educated with a degree from Uppsala University in Business Administration as well as a degree in Engineering Physics from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, with his last year in University of Michigan.
He believed in giving back to his humble beginnings and his contributions are humble and admired. After his businesses took off, he established Zennström Philanthropies with his wife Catherine Zennström and even established a group fund for the conservation and beautification of his beloved Baltic Sea.
Zennström also imparts lectures in college seminars about the importance and farsightedness of entrepreneurship. Often called the Zen-Master, Zennström has been rumored to push finance students towards pursuing engineering degrees.
The Swedish entrepreneur co-founded tech ventures such as Skype, Kazaa, STS Media, Joltid, Altnet and Joost. His investment firm Atomico manages over 50 companies across 4 continents and showcases successful tech industries such as Skype, Klarna, Fab, Rdio, Last.fm, Rovio, Climate Corporation and Supercell. An environment protector at heart, Zennström is also spending billions in tackling climate change.
Niklas Zennström’s career started as a telecom operator for Europe in 1991. He worked in different roles in business development roles and his first launch was a European Internet Service Provider firm. After becoming the CEO of a business portal everyday.com, along with Danish internet entrepreneur Janus Friis co-founded KaZaA BV in 2000.
Kazaa was a peer-to-peer application involving sharing of files. The popularity of the software however led to devaluation of the music and even the motion picture industry, thus had to be sold to Sharman Networks.
Joltid is a software company by Zennström that develops and markets different peer-to-peer internet businesses. And Altnet is also a peer-to-peer network which is known to securely promote, distribute and monetize digital content. And then came Skype, Zennström and Friis’s most popular success. Skype is most commonly known as a telecom industry that brings free voice communication to individuals.
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Skype was the brainchild of Zennström and has 432 million users globally as a free telephone service. The success however wasn’t a walk in the park. The venture was quite new and firms feared the same lawsuits as KaZaA had faced. Zennström and co-founder Friis had approached 26 firms to convince each of them to invest in their VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol application, which resulted in a total capital of 1.5 million Euros to start Skype.
You’d be surprised to know that this wasn’t the original name. The previous name was quite long and bland: Sky Peer to Peer. Zennström later realized how boring it was and changed it to Skyper, which was unfortunately taken, and thus arose Skype.
The idea of free calling among millions of users was still appalling to investors until the duo released a few monetizing theories. They levied fees for services such as call waiting, voice calls and downloading funky ringtones. We all know about the 99cent broadband to phone calls. And thus, Skype Technology has had 50 million downloads till now.
Skype became increasingly popular and was sold to eBay for $2.6 billion in 2005. Zennström then joined the association that bought it and successfully re-entered the Skype board. Later in 2011, Microsoft came on to purchase Skype for $8.5 billion. Wall Street Journal reported that the co-founders, Zennström and Friis earned nearly $1 billion each from this sale for their 14% stake.
With rumors fishing off to Google, Skype is on its path expanding like wildfire being compatible to all operating systems which we are already observing.
Zennström was intrigued to make online content accessible. He launched and funded many more companies after the millennium including Joost and Ravio. Joost is an internet TV service that provides peer-to-peer online video distribution. Ravio is actually the venture behind your favourite online game, Angry Birds!
Currently, this mastermind is working as a CEO or director of 13 different companies:
- H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB (publ)
- Skype Technologies SA
- Atomico (UK) Partners LLP
- European Commission
- Climate Group
- H&M Hennes & Mauritz A/S H&M
- Lilium AB
- Zennström Philanthropies
- Orbital Systems AB
- Farmdrop Ltd.
- Oden Technologies Ltd.
- Sci-Buy Ltd.
Niklas Zennström has also done his fair share of contribution towards human rights and the environment. Along with his and his wife’s foundation, Zennström, also grants funds and scholarships to scientific researchers and students who directly work in impacting a carbon-free future. Every year, he offers one individual who has shown success in achieving sustainable innovation.
Zennström targets digital development all over Europe and currently leads the European Tech Ecosystem of the EUTA or European Tech Alliance. It is clear that the tycoon, who has won several accolades and rankings, is a believer of entrepreneurship and innovation.
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