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”Find people who are better than yourself”

23 december 2013

Klarnalunch

At the end of last week, STING’s FastForward team popped over to Klarna’s headquarters here in Stockholm. Since Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Niklas Adalberth and Victor Jacobsson founded the e-commerce business in 2005, it has been quite a ride. With the recent acquisition of rival Sofort (DE) earlier this week, Klarna is today one of the leading European online payment services with more than 1000 employees.

We sat down with Klarna’s deputy CEO Niklas Adalberth for lunch, and looped through as much of their journey as we could fit into one hour. Niklas is a modest man with – needless to say – ­­tons of advice for young entrepreneurs. Here are five of them:

Young and inexperienced is a great benefit
According to Niklas, being a rookie was definitely not a problem. “Looking back in hindsight, a big advantage was that we were young and inexperienced when first starting out. Partly because that gave us the courage to jump into this industry, and partly because our lack of expertise in certain areas made us find other talented people who represented the missing skills.”

“We hold an incredibly strong focus on sales. It should be every company’s top priority.” – Niklas Adalberth

Take your idea for a test-drive
Klarna is a product success as much as it is a sales success, Niklas revealed. “We hold an incredibly strong focus on sales. It should be every company’s top priority.” He suggests creating a prototype and test-drive your idea in the very early stage. Don’t spend months on just the product before testing the market and collecting inputs, ideas and other valuable insights from your customers.

“Try to find people who are better than yourself”
Since inception, the Klarna founders have been persistent with employing strong and high-performing people. “Try to find people who are better than yourself, who complement you,” said Niklas. At the same time, he does admit this is a difficult task – especially in the beginning. One reason why Klarna managed to attract talented people from start is related to the generosity of offering equity stakes. “If you give your employees a reason to be motivated, it’s much more likely you’ll find the right people,” Niklas clarified.

Consider a logical reasoning test
Business angel and investor Jane Walerud has been an eminent support for Niklas, Sebastian and Victor, not just financially. Early on, she encouraged them to, among other things, introduce a logical reasoning test in the hiring process. Simply put, the test is a good indication to how well a prospective employee would cope with a rapidly expanding business. Niklas said Klarna applies it in the recruiting process still. “It’s a frank and predictable test, and Sebastian and myself are very adamant about this.”

Right person in the right position
To constantly re-evaluate the team and who does what within the company has become a vital activity for Klarna, due to its speedy growth. “What’s most difficult, but also most necessary when building a business is to repeatedly challenge yourself to assess the team and employees’ roles,” Niklas said. He gave a clear example: “We spend a lot of time ensuring we have the right people on our board and there’s been some changes to it almost on an annual basis since the start.”

Thanks Niklas for having us, it was a great pleasure!

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