Jorn started Meltwater in Norway and has scaled the company organically to $200 million. Fascinating journey!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
Jorn Lyseggen: I was actually born in Korea. I came to Norway as a very small child. I was three years old. I actually grew up in a little farm in the middle of a deep, dark forest in Norway. You drive for hours into the deep, dark forest and then suddenly, there’s a small opening. Then, you come to a little village with 168 families. One of those families is mine.
Sramana Mitra: That’s charming.
Jorn Lyseggen: It was a full farm with cows, dogs, and cats. We had lots of animals. That’s where I started. I ended up taking engineering classes and got a Master’s in Electric Engineering primarily from Norway. My first job was as a research scientist at the Norwegian Computer Center, which is a prestigious research institute in Norway. They did research in artificial intelligence and digital thermal processing. I thoroughly loved that and thought I was going to be a research scientist for the rest of my life.
Then, I fell in love with the Internet. It was really down to one specific moment that I remember very vividly. That was when the Netscape 2.0 was published. I read about something about Java applet. That completely blew my mind. Up until that point, I had been very fascinated with the idea that you could publish a text that was instantly available for everyone. But I thought there was still some limit to how far this could go.
With Java applets, you have an opportunity to publish a software. This software can then be executed in people’s browsers all over the world. If you created an exciting software that people want to run, you could execute millions and millions of copies all over the world that would tap into millions and millions of computer resources. Fundamentally, that gave everyone the opportunity to run a super computer. That completely blew my mind. Although I never aspired to become an entrepreneur, I quit my job the next day and set up my business.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking?
Jorn Lyseggen: This was in 1995.
Sramana Mitra: It was the beginning of the Internet, roughly speaking.
Jorn Lyseggen: Very much so. I remember back in the day that if I met people with an email address, I got really excited because suddenly you have something in common. It was very much the early days for sure.
Sramana Mitra: You decided to start this company? What were you going to do with this company?
Jorn Lyseggen: To be completely honest, I didn’t have so much of a business idea. To me, the reason why I started the company was really to immerse myself with this thing called the Internet because I was convinced that this was going to be such an important part in shaping the world moving forward. The significance of the Internet was profound and I was convinced that it was going to be as important and significant as electricity. I just wanted to be a part of it. That’s why I ended up starting a company.
What I ended up doing was evangelizing on the usefulness of the Internet. Then, I became a consultant because lots of companies had interest in the Internet but didn’t really understand it. I don’t know if you remember, but Internet consultants became involved back then. In the US, you had Sapient. I created a similar type of company in Scandinavia. We helped companies take advantage of the Internet. We created e-commerce solutions. We created the first transaction in the Norwegian market in December 1995. We helped Norwegian stock exchange to publish their share prices 15 minutes delayed, which people thought was absolutely amazing at that time. It was expensive to get access to stock prices. Suddenly, it was free. We also did a lot on publishing solutions.