What Founding CEO & Cofounder of Skype, Niklas Zennström, Says About Business

Picture of Skype cofounder

Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis founded Skype in 2003.

The Background of Skype Cofounder, Niklas Zennström

Born on 16th February, 1966, Niklas Zennström (from Sweden) is well known for his phenomenal achievements on the Internet including Skype and KaZaA.

Possibly, his business acumen in the technology industry can be traced to his dual degrees: B. Sc Business Administration & M Sc Engineering Physics from Uppsala University, Sweden. He did his finals at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.


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Basic Facts about Skype

  • Skype is largely used to make voice and video calls and chats through the Internet.
  • It is one of the world’s largest communication services.
  • On 14th October, 2005, Skype was acquired by eBay for $2.6 billion.
  • Niklas Zennström was CEO from Skype’s inception until September 2007.
  • 2010 statistics revealed that Skype had 663 million registered users.
  • Tony Bates was named Skype CEO in October 2010.
  • On 10th May, 2011, Microsoft Corporation acquired Skype for $8.5 billion.

Career Progression of Skype Cofounder, Niklas ZennströmPicture of Skype cofounder

Early in Niklas Zennström’s career, he was involved in business development. He began his professional life at the European telecom operator, Tele2 and later served as the CEO of everyday.com.

Niklas Zennström founded and cofounded several companies using peer-to-peer principles as he ventured into entrepreneurship.

Together with his business partner, Janus Friis, he founded KaZaA in 2001(file sharing application), and by 2003, KaZaA was named the World’s Most Downloaded Internet Software. Others companies he founded are Joltid (marketing software company), Altnet (content promotion company), and Joost (Online video distribution service).

Skype is arguably the most significant success of Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis.

Today, Niklas Zennström focuses more on investing in technology startups through his Venture Capital company, Atomico .

Niklas Zennström’s Mind Exposed

In March 2011, while addressing about 300 Stanford Business students, Niklas Zennström revealed the fundamental principle of entrepreneurship success,

“Many times I’ve seen that you hire someone who’s an MBA and has gone to the right companies, and it’s almost too perfect sometimes. This person is very bright, but also someone who’s afraid of taking risks … the trick here is to try to figure out the thing that’s unexpected. When we started Skype, if you look at analyst reports, no one forecasted it as a big business. Also when Google started, it was not fashionable to be in search.”

To get a huge market share, Niklas Zennström advises that,

“You have to travel around to find the right partnerships and people, so we spent time in China, Brazil, Japan, the U.S. and Europe.”

Years ago in an interview with Businessweek (in September, 2005), Niklas Zennström exposed the real secret that has constantly brought him success – passion to create a sustainable business.

He said,

“When we started Skype, our vision was to create a business that could fundamentally transform the telecommunications industry and have a big impact, by letting the whole world talk for free. We wanted to create a great, sustainable communication business …”

In an interview with CNBC in March 2011, Niklas Zennström listed some congent reasons for Skype’s huge success,

  • Teamwork
  • Focus on global standard and good user experience
  • Perfect timing
  • Quest for a large market

If you are still contemplating starting a business, hear what Niklas Zennström has to say to you,

“I try not to dwell on big mistakes but to move on when I make a mistake. I make mistakes most of the times and that’s part of the risk profile being an entrepreneur. I guess one big mistake I did was not to start my own company earlier. I spent nine years working for others before starting KaZaA in 2000.”

Further Reading on Business Leaders

  1. Meet Forbes’ 24th World Billionaire: The Founding CEO of Google, Larry Page
  2. Internet Entrepreneurs: Meet the Millionaire Dropout that Founded WordPress, Matt Mullenweg
  3. 3 Priceless Internet Business Secrets You Should Learn from Jimmy Wales, Co-founder of Wikipedia
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