WHO AM I
"If you smile big enough, you will get away with anything."
- Erik Bergman
I believe in the power of a smile. I believe that we were meant to laugh, and cry, and that everything in life is about emotions - and emotions are always about people. This is my story.
Let’s start with today and then we will jump back in time. Today my life is great! I’ve spent a last year in somewhat of a soul-searching chaos but I’ve figured out a lot of stuff about myself and about life in general which at the moment feels very good.
A couple of years ago I got crazy rich when our company went public. I lived my entire life with the certainty that money equal happiness and I was expecting that from now on everything would be amazing. The true feeling of happiness might have lasted for a day but after that things felt pretty empty. Without the goals and something to strive for money wasn’t worth much. I was going through a rough patch with the love of my life and when love doesn’t work out money is worth even less. This really got me thinking.
Since then I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and looking within for answers. I found out that if money is not what will make me happy maybe helping others is what will. Maybe giving is worth a lot more than receiving?
Today I live to inspire, I live to help others either directly or indirectly. I’m in a very good place in my life right now and I want to tell the world about my thoughts and my experiences.
But let’s go back in time a bit.
I come from an ordinary but amazing family in Sweden. I grew up in a typical Swedish suburb and my parents had very normal jobs. It was my brother, my parents and I.
They all supported me in whatever endeavour I had and was always there for me.
The first 7 years was problem free. I had a lot of friends and everything was fun. But something happened around the age of 7. I don’t really know what but suddenly I found myself as a lonely and angry child. I was angry with my parents, I was angry at my teachers and I had very few friends. I became a lonely kid. I have no idea how this started and if it was some traumatic event that my mind is trying to protect me from but something were there.
I always felt like a popular kid but in school often kids where mean to me and outside of school I was often lonely. I don’t understand why but still I maintained the image towards my self that I was among the cool ones. Somehow I managed to attract the cool girls, maybe that was why but I don’t know. Long time ago and hard to remember. Either way this lasted until the age of 13 when my family moved.
As a teenager I started a new school and things changed rapidly. I think I became the cool kid I thought I had always been or at least fake it until you make it brought me closer to it. Suddenly I found myself with a lot of friends and I was not at all as lonely anymore.
Most of my new friends came from very wealthy families though and I started to compare myself a lot with them. My family was living in a very small house outside of the city, while my friends lived in the best neighbourhoods. We had an old Opel, they had fancy BMW’s. I was always a part of the group but somehow I always felt a bit left out. It might have been my imagination or it might have been the occasional degrading comments about “being poor”.
I start caring a lot about money. I feel that if I only had money I would be worthy of something. There is an attention-craving monster that starts to grow within my chest and with every comment or every time I feel left out it grows slightly bigger.
As a 17 year old I start playing poker. I have always loved card games and I’ve always been found of math. I get really good and I start playing online. Once I become 18 I start winning significant numbers - €1000, €2000, €4000 and €8000 per moth. Suddenly the poor kid from the countryside was the richest of them all. The monster inside me wanted everyone to know! I spent all my money on things that could be seen – champagne, fancy clothes, a car, an apartment and a luxurious TV. Money became my identity and I was so proud of it!
At age of 19 I stopped winning. I didn’t start loosing but the lifestyle and the identity I had built up was dependent on money coming in. With no steady stream of new money my bank account soon ran dry. I had no money to continue playing, I had no money to keep paying rent so I had to move back to my parents house. It was among the toughest times in my life, without the money, I didn’t know who I was?
I got a job, put my first month’s salary back into the poker account. I started winning again and it lasted for another year before the streak ended. But this time I hadn’t spent all the money, my identity was no longer tied to it. I didn’t love the game anymore and I wanted to do something “real”. I wanted to start a company.
The entrepreneurial journey
There had always been a touch of entrepreneurial journey in my life. When I was five I was gathering empty soda cans and returned to the store for 5 cents each. When I was 10 I sold lottery tickets and made €100-200 per month, which was a fortune at that age. In high school I had rented a nightclub and arranged a couple of parties, and then it was the poker.
But it was just now it became real. It was my childhood friend Emil and I. We had no idea what we wanted to do, just that we wanted to do something. Our first project was to print on the elastics of underwear, the idea lasted for a couple of weeks. Next project was an online lunch guide of our hometown Jönköping. It actually went live at some point but it never made a single euro. We started a small-scale web development consultancy firm but that never got as anywhere either.
It was when we started doing things on our own that it took off. We built guides about bingo online and we aimed to rank them in Google. This became our passion and we had so much fun playing around with this that we could work for day and night. They joy was the goal and the money was the result of that. This was back in 2008 and it would take us another two years to 2010 before it became our full time jobs.
2010-2011 was the most fun years of my life. We were playing around with everything and built all the websites we could imagine. Creativity and joy was what mattered and if something made money, we did more of it, if it didn’t, we threw it away. By 2012 it had reached some significant numbers and we made quite a lot of money but we wanted to build something “real”. A company with lots of employees but we had no idea how to do that.
From a playground to a business
We found the people that could help us become a proper business and we sold half our company to them. Everything changed and they made us realise our full potential. They made us see what we could do and how this could scale. 2013 was a year of chaos with far to much costs and revenues that didn’t reach the levels we had planned. We almost went bankrupt and it was the most stressful time of my life but we managed to turn it around.
2014 and 2015 was just steep upwards trends. We reached goals we had never dreamed of and the company became well known. On the 11th of February 2016, my 28th birthday, our company went public. I made €15 million that day. But what moved me the most, wasn’t the money, it wasn’t the celebrations or even all the attention. It was a small yellow box, full with letters and postcards from my friends and family that my girlfriend had gathered for me in secret. I got that box in the morning and that box what was moved me to tears, it was that box that gave me goose bumps and that box that left me with the most amazing feeling in my stomach.
At that moment I realised that life is not about money, life is about emotions, and emotions, are about people.