It's not often that you hear evangelist and entrepreneur in the same sentence. Entrepreneurs are generally seen as free spirits and rule breakers who bring an idea to bear and to market, often in the face of adversity.
But this experience isn’t that different from the evangelist, called such for their mission to preach a religious message and convert individuals to its following. The path of the evangelist is one filled with adversity thanks to their minority position; and rejection, as they often knock on the very doors that remain closed to them.
That’s where Andreas Hassellöf comes in. Andreas now runs an international tech company based in Sweden, but his roots are in spreading his religious faith. I asked Andreas to share more about that connection, along with what made him decide to pursue a different path--this time, one of entrepreneurship in one of Europe’s most stable economies.
Steve Mariotti: How do you feel your religious upbringing has shaped you as an entrepreneur?
Andreas Hassellöf: Preaching door to door taught me that to get people to listen you need to be passionate about your beliefs. It also helped me to get over my fear of rejection since most people would, understandably so, not be very appreciative of our visits.
Later, when I lost faith in their teachings, I learned that you cannot fake passion. You need to stand for the things you believe in, and to reach your full potential you need to let go of the things and people that are holding you back -- even if that is painful and comes at a high price.
SM: As an entrepreneur, you have to hear a lot of no’s. How do you overcome that?
AH: When we were preaching door to door, we truly believed that we were trying to save lives. Hearing one person saying no saddened us, but it did not discourage us from trying to save the next person. Similarly, when building a company or selling a product you need to truly believe in what you are selling and know what value it would bring to your customers. If you are truly convinced, getting one no will not discourage you from pitching again and again, and it will also increase your chances of success since your passion and beliefs will be contagious.
SM: What is your current company, Ombori, trying to do?
AH: At Ombori, we are building a platform called Gridapp with the mission to empower independent retailers to fight back against Amazon. Our users access shopping apps from the App Store and Google Play with a great user experience--in record time and without any up-front investment. Shopping via voice and messaging is next on our roadmap.
We are a small but global company with 38 people spread across seven countries. The team in our Stockholm HQ consists of 16 people, representing 11 nationalities. For me, it’s super inspiring to work with these talented individuals with different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives assembled as one strong team.
SM: You're based in Sweden currently. Does that represent challenges when trying to secure global customers?
AH: I consider myself really lucky to be based in Sweden. In general it’s very beneficial for international business and entrepreneurship. A while ago I read that the Financial Times called Stockholm “The Unicorn Factory”, and just look at the companies that have originated here. Spotify, Skype, Mojang (of Minecraft fame), King (Candy Crush) and Truecaller just to name a few.
I think one major contributing factor for Sweden’s international success is that we have a fairly limited possibility to expand domestically with only 10m people living in the country. To grow we are simply forced to think international from a very early stage: just look at H&M and IKEA!
SM: What advice would you give yourself if you could wind the clock back?
AH: “Trust your gut.” For many years I was carrying a feeling that something was wrong with the organization I was born into, without taking any action. I wish I had taken the courage to examine the facts and follow my own path earlier.