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Building a Mission-Driven Company from Sweden: Anders Ankarlid, CEO of A Good Company (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Oct 17th 2019

Anders is passionate about climate change. His fifth venture is one that explores his passion for sustainability.

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?

Anders Ankarlid: I was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. My father was an entrepreneur. My grandfather was an entrepreneur. I was quite tired of school and decided to travel the world. From that, one thing led to another.

I started my first company by accident. That failed completely and went bankrupt. The second one got a little bit better. It didn’t get bankrupt, but we had to liquidate it. Then in 2007, I did e-commerce companies. All of them did quite well. We were an early version of Rocket Internet.

Sramana Mitra: What did you study in college?

Anders Ankarlid: I just studied one semester. 

Sramana Mitra: Then you dropped out?

Anders Ankarlid: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: When you dropped out, what did you do?

Anders Ankarlid: I took all of my belongings and decided to travel the world. I went in a van all over Europe for almost a year. You have loads of time to think about what type of person you’d like to be, what type of business you’d like to be involved in. When I came back, I was so confident that I can do something for myself.

Sramana Mitra: What were you trying to do with the first company?

Anders Ankarlid: We were basically trying to do everything. We didn’t have a good business plan. We tried to do some consultancy which was stupid since we had nothing to give to anyone. We didn’t have any type of experience. It was a good lesson. We ensured to pay the debts we had with the bank, so we were still in good standing with them. But to sum up, it was a complete failure.

Sramana Mitra: How long did it take to fail?

Anders Ankarlid: We did that for a little over a year. What took us down in the end was, we relied too much on one big client. We did loads of events in Scandinavia with them. We produced some of the largest events for the B2B market. They cancelled their payments to us.

When you’re in the events industry, you have loads of costs. You have to pay upfront for artists, lights, and the venue. The first one, we could cover. The second one, we could almost cover. But not the third one. Looking back, you should not be depending on just one or two customers.

Sramana Mitra: What year was this?

Anders Ankarlid: We closed shop in 2008. I’ve had four different companies. Those were all affected during this time. 

Sramana Mitra: In 2008, you failed with this company. What did you do right after you got out of that?

Anders Ankarlid: I started an e-commerce company. I saw that the e-commerce industry was budding. I thought that this area might be good to get involved in. It was not very well taken care of in Scandinavia. There were four of them that we sold to a venture capital firm.

None of them had a soul. They were basically copy-pasted. We were focusing on operations that were quite successful. It was low-margins. It was quite boring honestly. Most of it was sitting on Excel. It was not brand-building; it was more of a shop.

Sramana Mitra: Commercially, did that work?

Anders Ankarlid: Those four companies worked quite well. We sold them as a group in 2012. I was so tired of Excel. I was tired of e-commerce, basically.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building a Mission-Driven Company from Sweden: Anders Ankarlid, CEO of A Good Company
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