The start of my first company (7 years ago)

(Editor’s Note: this is a pretty selfish post about my early days as self-employed web developer. It is a mix of old notes that I needed to get written down. An exercise in reflection, get perspective on things, carve out time to think. A trip down memory lane in what I did the first few months of self-employment.)

In this post I will tell you about the beginning of my career as an entrepreneur. The date is May/June 2009 and it is one of my first assignments in my first company. The assignment is for a new company in the gaming industry, and with gaming I mean gamling more specifically.

I along with a small team isolates us in a conference room to work out how we will reach out to customers in the noise among other gaming companies. It’s the beginning of a long collaboration and a fantastic journey where the company goes from 30 people to 300 people in a few years.

The assignment

In May/June 2009 I came in contact with a person who was Social Media Manager for a new and young gaming company. An energetic and smart person named Razmus. We had some mutual friends and had previously had some sporadic contact through Skype about tech stuff like servers and web hosting. Fittingly enough Razmus knew that I recently quit my job to start my own business.

Razmus himself had recently started working at the company with a mission to put the company on the map of world wide web.

Things had gone fast for all involved. In two years they had a large number of users and the core of their business was going well. Due to the the rapid success they had fallen a bit behind in their web presence and marketing.

That’s where I came into the picture.

Razmus had gone through a couple of pitches with various ad agencies and varying results. Something was missing, it wasn’t good enough, this must be something good, something really good. It struck him that he could probably do something better on his own, along with the right team. Razmus got quite free hands and great confidence internally. So one day he called me and asked about my plans to come and if I had the possibility to visit them for a few days to see if we could work together.

Without hesitation I said yes.

Full of ideas

Razmus booked a conference room for a few days a few blocks from their head office with the mission to establish a web presence for the gaming company.

Myself, along with Razmus (web genius), Kim (design genius) and Leon (tech genius) we shut ourselves into a conference room for two days. Two long days where a lot of time was devoted to whiteboards, storyboards, wireframes and what was technically possible.

We came up with two ideas, priority #1 was to start a blog where customers and sports fans were able to follow what’s happening within sports and the gambling world. It was a prerequisite for gaining a web presence at all.

Idea #2 was slightly more crazy but a essential if we were to reach out in the noise among gambling companies. They had previously decided that they would promote themselves as the “crazy” game company where you could win on almost anything. Our idea was to let anyone make suggestions on what they would like backing and then would any of these suggestions become real playable odds. We called the campaign for “My Odds Idea”.

After two days in the conference room, we felt satisfied and happy, we had a plan. We had a couple of ideas that Razmus would present internally. I went back to Stockholm again.

The roller coaster ride started.

Project starts

A few days later Razmus called me with positive news. The company’s management liked our proposal and we got the green light to get started. However, the schedule was tight. Really tight. A week later, I was at their office. Kim had started on the design for the blog. The blog was no longer a blog, rather a blog platform with support and content for four languages. WordPress became the choice of platform, the best web software for blogs.

Three weeks later we launched the blog in several languages. But the campaign site for idea #2, “My Odds Idea” was not quite done.

I probably worked 50–60 hours a week in maybe three or four weeks and I still felt that I needed more resources to be able to deliver on time. It was pretty hard to do everything as a solo developer.

The guy I asked, I had only met once before, during my teaching at the University of Kalmar. But my gut feeling was that this guy is smart and has the courage to work hard towards a deadline. So I called Erik and asked if he could help me, and the answer was yes. A few weeks later we launched the campaign “My Odds Idea”.

The response was great, both from the customers, fans and the management. We were starting to get momentum on the web. We began to appear more and more on the web and in social media. Razmus made ​​a fantastic effort who held together the entire project team who had worked hard, and under pressure, for over two months.

The result

Two months later, after Razmus had called me for the first time we launched two relatively large web sites for the company. A blog portal and a campaign site. What I didn’t know then was that this would be the beginning of a fantastic journey in my career as an entrepreneur. Overall, we made about 10 campaign sites and some of them became very very popular and it’s fantastic that we managed so successfully in such a small creative team.

I worked with the company and Razmus for over two intensive years. I’m glad I got involved in the early days when they were 20–25 people and got to experience an incredible journey until they were 250–300 employees and eventually acquired by another gambling company.


To wrap up

I want to thank everyone I worked with at the company*, mainly Razmus, Karl, Kim, Leon and Niclas which I at times worked round the clock with on certain projects. I particularly remember the work with Gumball 3000 and the FIFA World Cup in 2010. I also want to thank Henrik and Pia-Karin for confidence as well as Erik and Jonas who supported me with development when I haven’t had time or enough knowledge.

I am forever grateful to you for giving me such a memorable start to my first company.

*the company is called Betsafe.

PS. You can follow me on Twitter. DS.