Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Interview With Swedish Internet Entrepreneur Ted Valentin


We had a chat with one of Sweden's most prominent entrepreneurs, Ted Valentin. In 2007 he sold his first start-up for $1,5 million. Today he runs a number of websites, including Restaurangkartan.se, Auktionsfynda.se, Annonskartan.se and Lookup.to. His next project is called Tripbirds.com which is a website that might change how the Facebook generation books hotels.

What about entrepreneurship excites you?

I started my first business in 2004. The exciting thing was that all you needed to start a business on the web was a laptop and an internet connection. Everything else was either free or really cheap. Coding was something you could learn on your own, using Google. And there where 500 million internet users as potential customers.

Since then, computers, servers and connections have been cheaper and faster each year. At the moment 2 billion people are on the web. So, imagining what the web will be like in 5 or 10 years, all the opportunities for entrepreneurs - that what excites me.


How is the temperature for entrepreneurs Internationally and in Sweden?

If you ask me there's nothing hotter than being a web entrepreneur. But I can only speak for myself. :)


Mash-ups are a big buzz and have been for quite some time. Do you see any particular trends for entrepreneurs now in 2011?

We are seeing a lot of business models built on social. Business models that are being rethought with social as it's new DNA. One of the great engines behind this development is the Facebook API that was released last year. You can build amazing new services based on the data from Facebook.

Most people think that Facebook is a website when really it's potential is as a platform - the foundation that millions of other of websites will be built upon in the next few years. Facebook will be hardwired into most of our web experiences, and it might transform how we think about the web. The starting point will be people, not documents.


What do you think about the future of digitally oriented entrepreneurs. Is it a professional angle worth aiming at?

You're kidding, right? There's no other way make a billion dollars before the age of 30. So I'd say go for it. :)


How can Swedish expertise take digital entrepreneurship to the next level?

I'm not quite sure what Swedish expertise is... But OK, I guess we are quite good at design and user interaction here in Sweden. But we are not good at turning it into business.

We have a lot of talent in Sweden, but not enough entrepreneurs. I think it's a real pity that talented people go work for ad agencies, doing dull work, when they could create their own startups instead.


What's your favorite online business?

I guess in this context I'd have to answer Plentyoffish.com. It's a dating website that is extremely ugly-looking. It was created by a young Canadian, Mark Frind, who allegedly only spends a few hours a day running it.

Plentyoffish.com has over a hundred million visitors per month and is worth a few hundred million dollars. Not bad for a few hours of work per day.


What is required by a person who wants to succeed as an "online" entrepreneur?

I think it's important that you learn how to code. You don't have to become a full-scale coder, but you have to have some sort of interest. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg - they were all great coders initially and then turned into businesspeople. It's hard to move the other way.

I learned to code when I was 27 years old, so it's never too late. I'm not a very good coder, but I can copy, paste, and modify. And you can get far just doing that.

It can also be nice to have a bunch of good role models. I actually just built a website to help you with that. It's called Lookup.to. :)


What's the most innovative online solution?

Hopefully something that people at Hyper Island is going to build. If you need some help to get started, let me know!


Connect with Ted on Twitter to find out more! Did you know that 20% of all Hyper Island students become entrepreneurs after graduation? Check out our eCommerce Manager and Digital Media programs if you're interested in entrepreneurship!

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