ARYZE asked Jesper Thomsen, the CEO of SOUNDBOKS, about his life as an entrepreneur. We wanted to find out what it has taught him to run his own business since high school and what he recommends.
Jesper Thomsen started early as an entrepreneur. He is one of the co-founders of SOUNDBOKS, which is hardware for young people. Today the speakers are sold internationally, also from their second office in Los Angeles.
When did you know that you are an entrepreneur?
“I’ve always known that I wanted to be my own boss one day. Then in my final year in high school, I had a subject called Innovation and Entrepreneurship where I saw a lecture by Danish entrepreneur Casper Blom, and he explained how he started his own business when he was 17 years old and reached a million Danish kroner in revenue. My co-founder Hjalte and I were just sitting there thinking; why don’t we get started? A year later, Casper lent us money to launch SOUNDBOKS.”
What is the best experience of being an entrepreneur?
“To work with the people I work with every day. The people I work with are my best friends – I would also spend time with them if I didn’t work with them. Working with friends can obviously cause issues, but I believe that it mostly influences your work life in a positive way.
One of the best things can also be to see the difference our workplace can make in someones life. Two of my colleagues and now close friends met each other through SOUNDBOKS. They started dating around two years ago – and now there’s a SOUNDBOKS baby coming!
In the end, one of the most amazing things of being an entrepreneur is also that you get to work with people who are significantly smarter than you. We constantly bring in new people who are smarter than the rest of us in their specific field, and to be able to learn from them continuously is awesome.
I also believe that the journey that you go through as a leader in a high growth company matures you faster – especially when you’re young. When we started SOUNDBOKS, I was 19 – I’m a different person now, five years later. Fast growth forces you to make decisions around who you are, and what your values are at a faster rate than what would’ve else been.”
What is the most important part of being an entrepreneur?
“The most important job for an entrepreneur is to build the culture of a company – and to build it with people who hold the same values. I believe that often when founders have conflicts, it’s because they have different values; different values inspire different decisions.”
What was your biggest mistake you did as an entrepreneur?
“We did a Kickstarter, and raised 800.000 dollars in 30 days, selling 1.500 speakers. Naive as we were back then, we thought if we could sell 1.500 speakers in one month, we could easily sell 10.000 in six months – despite not knowing really how to sell or manufacture them. We didn’t really know anything, but placed the order for 10.000 units. That crippled us for 18 months as we never had any money; we constantly had to pay for speakers that we couldn’t sell, because we didn’t have any money for marketing, because we had to pay for speakers that we couldn’t sell”
What helped you fix your mistake?
“Transparency about the problem. At first we tried to hide it, but of course people can feel it. In the end, we told the team that we didn’t have any money currently – and that we didn’t expect that to change in the near future. However, we also told the team that if they stay and fight, then we’ll get through it – and everyone stayed.”
What would you recommend Danish startups aiming for the US market?
“Don’t do it too early. Build a business in Denmark beforehand. Be aware of the fact the value proposition that you built your product on in Denmark might not work in the US. If you have the traction and the ambition, I’d also suggest to apply to Y Combinator as it opens a lot of doors.”
What wouldn’t you recommend in general?
“I really wouldn’t recommend people to go to too many networking events or conferences. They can be a waste of time, especially in the early stages. However, it’s a balance, because it’s incredibly important to have access to a network – I would just make sure to not spend too much time being out there at these events unless you have something really specific you want to accomplish.”
What are your top five advices for someone who wants to start their own business?
- You have to start with a problem you have experienced in your everyday life and have a strong urge to solve.
- Culture kills strategy. You can implement tons of strategy frameworks but in the end, it is the values and the culture that makes the difference.
- Say no, especially at the beginning. There will be so many people who want to talk to you when you start a company. Focus!
- Pick the top three metrics which are important for the company’s growth and then just work towards growing them. Measure and monitor on a weekly basis.
- Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you.
If you want to find out more about Jesper Thomsen, follow him on LinkedIn. SOUNDBOKS is an emerging young audio tech company that aims to build the loudest, most durable Bluetooth speaker on the market. For more interesting insights about entrepreneurship stay tuned on our ARYZE blog! To learn more about ARYZE, please visit our website.