Niklas Zennström, Cool People: About His Adventures

We all use Skype, right? But why did Niklas succeed with Skype? I was lucky enough to get a chance to have a chat with him about how he succeeded.

Q Have you had a guiding star throughout your career? If yes, can you describe it?

I’ve always been guided by the idea that being an entrepreneur, and doing things for yourself, is a great thing to do, but too many of us allow a fear of failure to stop us trying, even if we don’t realize or admit this. But once you realize, you see there are so many things you can do. Also, I’ve tried to avoid sticking to the beaten path.”

Q What has it meant to you to live your passion?

It’s meant amazing experiences, and huge satisfaction. But this is obvious because the venture I’m best known for, Skype, was a big success. What people are less aware of are all the smaller failures and challenges you have to overcome, and how these are part of the journey, and make you stronger if you’re prepared to endure them and learn from them.

Q What would be your advice to college students trying to figure out what they want to do when they graduate – trying to figure out what their passion is?

Try different things, and discuss ideas with people studying other subjects. Too few science students and business students talk to each other. Great teams involve people with different attributes, and too few students think about this enough. It’s no good having a passion for marketing if you have nothing to market, or a passion for creating something but no customers.

Q Has there been a defining moment(s) in your career? What? How did you live through it?

Yes. It was the moment at Tele2, the Scandinavian telecoms company, in 1996 when I was told to start a new internet service provider (ISP) business in Denmark. Although I was working for a big company, it had an entrepreneurial culture, and I was given a very entrepreneurial task, to start a new business. As well as being a great opportunity, this also made me realize what I loved, which is starting businesses and helping them to get off the ground, and this led me to start my own business.

Q What does it take to become successful? Why?

It takes hard work and focus, but if you really want to reach your full potential then you also need to be willing to take some steps into the unknown. Too many people have an irrational fear of risk, and when you understand that you think about how to aim for exceptional success. It also takes leadership to get people on our side, whether as team members, investors or customers.

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