Mads started working on Sefaira while an MBA student at INSEAD Business School. He went on to launch a sustainable architectural design software product, raised $18 million in funding, and recently exited the company. Read on for more.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Mads Jensen: I was born and raised in Denmark. I’m from a family with several generations of entrepreneurs. I grew up with business in my blood. I was fortunate enough that my grandfather, in the early 80s, thought this computer thing might have some potential. He bought me a computer when I was quite young. All kids these days grow up with computers.
Sramana Mitra: Where were you growing up?
Mads Jensen: Denmark.
Sramana Mitra: In the early 80s in Denmark, computers were not very common?
Mads Jensen: Not at all. Today, every kid has some sort of a computer. One look at the computer and that got me excited and I’ve just been very excited about computers ever since.
Sramana Mitra: Did you study engineering for college?
Mads Jensen: That’s the thing. That was always the difficult part for me. On one hand, I really loved computers and software. On the other hand, I really loved business. I knew I wanted to build a technology business so I ended up studying business. I thought that it was important to learn to build a successful technology business but it could as well have been engineering.
Sramana Mitra: That was in Denmark still?
Mads Jensen: Yes, it was in Copenhagen.
Sramana Mitra: What happened after college?
Mads Jensen: In 2001, I was close to launching a software business but I felt I needed practical experience in building and running a technology company. Rather than launching straight ahead, I ended up joining IBM and thought I would spend a couple of years there. I ended up spending seven years there before I finally decided that I could not wait any longer. I took a bit of time.
I went to INSEAD. They have a one-year program there. I spent about half of that time working on the business plan for Sefaira. I met Peter Krebs there who was my co-founder and we spent a good part of that year developing the business plan.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do in IBM for seven years?
Mads Jensen: I did consulting and systems integration work. From there, I got amazing training in management and business leadership. I was allowed, at a fairly young age, to run some meaningful businesses. I was in my mid-20s and I was running businesses of $20 million to $40 million in size. Big teams were reporting to me and had a lot of commercial responsibility, which was an amazing training ground and amazing opportunity.
Sramana Mitra: This was all happening in Denmark?
Mads Jensen: This was all happening in UK.
Sramana Mitra: So you moved to UK for IBM.
Mads Jensen: I was in Paris for a couple of years and then moved to London.
Sramana Mitra: INSEAD was 2007 to 2008 timeframe?
Mads Jensen: 2008 to 2009.
Sramana Mitra: You were one of the first batches of the Building Businesses in Silicon Valley course.