Camille tells a wonderful story of capital-efficient entrepreneurship, including scaling a company born in Denmark that now has 40% of its business in the US.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background?
Camilla Ley Valentin: I come from a creative family. My father was a child TV star back in the 70’s and 80’s, which was when I was born in 1973. At that time, you can imagine that there weren’t many TV stations in Denmark where I’m from. We were part of a mini celebrity family and worked a lot in the entertainment industry.
My siblings and I would sometimes participate as performers. Both of my parents were also writers and published books. My father was also a music composer and a pianist. He was a cartoonist and did animated films as well. It was a mix of businesses that I grew up in. We lived in a small town in the northern part of Zealand which was about an hour out of Copenhagen.
Later on, we moved to Copenhagen which is where I spent my teenage years. Following that, I started working within the ocean shipping industry at the early age of 19. I joined the management training program in the biggest company in Denmark, Maersk Line which is a shipping company. I worked for them internationally for about six or seven years before I moved into IT and internet.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do for Maersk?
Camilla Ley Valentin: I worked in ocean shipping. I did that as my training and also did management training. So the way that it worked at that time in the company is that you switch jobs every one or two years completely. I probably had four different jobs in that time frame. Most of them were within container ocean shipping and freight. We’re moving stuff inside of containers in different parts of the world.
It was anything from managing the repair of the containers to positioning the containers around the world. I was managing a small team. One of the times I worked in the US deck porters. That team was handling freighting for ocean shipping going to South America. In the mix of many different things, this is the way that the company operated it.
Sramana Mitra: Interesting. I grew up in a shipping family. My father founded one of the first continent shipping lines in India. When you said you did shipping for a few years, I was curious what you were doing. What happens after that?
Camilla Ley Valentin: At that time, I lived in the US and worked in the office over there. I wanted to go back and settle in Denmark. I made that decision and quit the job. I’ve been there for six or seven years, which is a relatively long time at a young age. It was my first job. I thought I needed a change.
When I worked in the US, in addition to my main job as a team lead, I got engaged in a lot of IT and internet projects. In the late 90’s, a lot of the business was moving online. We were chasing a lot of the services that people and customers would normally access by dialing into the service center. People would generally look it up at work for the company. But now we moved all these services online so that customers of the shipping company could look it up themselves.
I got engaged in a lot of IT projects and I thought it was very interesting. I decided that I wanted to move into IT and then do something that had to do with IT and the internet. I moved back with that objective and worked temporarily for Accenture for a while where I’ did graphic support and a lot of the management presentations.