Henrik Jönsson has recently come into the public eye as a YouTuber providing commentary on society, politics and cultural phenomena. At 43 000 subscribers currently, this channel is probably the venue where the most people have encountered Jönsson. However, as it turns out, the scope of Jönsson’s entrepreneurial undertaking extends to many other things. Jönsson gives lectures on digital transformation and business in the new digitalized context, and has started a variety of IT companies, among which one is the food delivery company hungrig.se. We decided to interview him for his thoughts on entrepreneurship, digitalization and the new medial landscape.
I believe your exposure to many people consists in your political videos, but apart from that I happen to know you do lecture work. What is that all about?
– I would answer like this: I do not first and foremost see myself as a political person. I see myself at first hand as an entrepreneur, and secondly as an educator. The fact that I give lectures is derived from my entrepreneurial undertaking – having run companies for several years, I am often contacted to talk about my entrepreneurship. And in parity with my own video production having grown, so has the demand for that type of problematizing of societal questions. Those are the two legs I stand on, I would say.
And from my understanding, these lectures mostly deal with digital transformation?
– I am solely active in the IT industry – all my companies work with questions of IT and digitalization, and that is the area where I have become knowledgeable, so it’s natural that those are the questions I raise.
In your opinion, what are the most important pros and cons of living in a digitalized age?
– From my perspective, it’s almost exclusively pros. I mean, I grew up in the Sweden of the late seventies and early eighties – the concrete-socialist Sweden – and it was much, much worse. At the time, everything was characterized by its scarcity. There was medial scarcity, a state monopoly on television, a state monopoly on telecommunication… growing up today, it’s hard to appreciate how scarce things were in many ways. As late as the 90s, one had to go to the library in order to find information; the internet didn’t provide a whole lot in the early days. So the internet and the entire context of a digitalized society is an enormous goldmine, and people growing today have access to a lot more information from an early age, are far more informed, are cosmopolitans to a higher degree, which I view as exclusively positive.
And what thoughts do you have about the new medial landscape?
– I’d say it’s heaven and hell. It’s heaven in the sense that we now have unique opportunities for freedom of speech and democratic communication now that have never previously existed. The old, vertical industry based communication structures going from sender to receiver have been toppled, and we now see a form of communication renaissance in the entire western world with tons of super talented specialists and humorists; engaged people who write blogs, record podcasts, produce YouTube videos. I think it’s wonderful. The flip side of this medallion is the establishment forces having lost their privilege to formulate problems as this lush flowerbed has accrued, and they become more aggravated in the hatred for the competition they view themselves as getting from undue sources.
Your earlier entrepreneurship – before you started providing lectures and such – what did that consist of?
– It’s a relevant question, and I would actually like to problematize why it is relevant. I am a business leader in the middle of my entrepreneurial path, and when faced with for example digital transformation coaches and entrepreneurship lecturers, people are wise to ask them: what are your companies? What have you built? The majority of these people making a living off lectures haven’t built any companies; they do lectures, and that’s it.
– I have built about fifteen IT-businesses over the course of my career. I started my first company in 1996. It was a multi-media company making CD-ROM presentations, back before the internet had blown up. Since then, I’ve had a number of different companies in both England and Sweden, the most famous of which is hungrig.se – a food delivery service existing in Lund, among other places. We have our headquarters here in Lund. Hungrig has almost five hundred employees and serves twenty-eight cities –last month, we delivered over three hundred thousand portions of food, which I take pride in. My other company is called Divine Robot and sits in Malmö, has about twenty employees, and has a turnover of about ten million SEK for the last accounting period. It works with video game production, simulation, and training systems in virtual reality for police, military and hunters.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
– Alright, let’s put it like this: you have to focus on learning to make a little bit of money to begin with. Young entrepreneurship in Sweden today is characterized by bad advice from this innovation- bureaucratic complex that has arisen in cooperation with the municipalities and different support initiatives for staring companies – everything affected by the states and the municipalities turns bad, so do not listen to them. They teach young entrepreneurs that the first thing you do is put together a great PowerPoint-pitch, and then go out and beg for money to realize an idea that isn’t finished. My attitude is: have another job, be an entrepreneur in your spare time, build your business with organic money. Create a product alongside your team, something that you can launch or start selling to get a small cash flow going. Take consulting commissions and similar things to get some capital into the company and work your asses off the first three years. That way you build some value and the product gets to reach some kind of maturity. Selling off forty to fifty percent of your company to some business angel at a prototype stage is the fiscal equivalent of premature ejaculation.
Do you have any advice regarding creating a “buzz” on the internet and generating clicks?
– I turn against this entire influencer economy where people try to – you know, “engineering engagement” and whatnot. Fuck that. Honestly, I think what it’s all about is whether you can provide something, whether you’re engaged in how you communicate about what you know. If you are, there is a group of people willing to listen to you. I do think it helps to have basic technical skills, so that if you record audio for example, it doesn’t sound too bad when people are to listen to you.
– A prime example of how horrible it gets when all these self-titled “search engine optimization”-figures and “social media specialists” suddenly start to sell advice for social media, and they convince all these poor businesses that “you have to put your message in the form of a question in order to engage your audience”, whereupon you get things like “what do you think, are sweet corn fries taking over…” –nobody wants to answer your damn question. I spoke to Alexander Bard earlier this year, and he gives lectures to the management group for Audi. Their social media team had about fifty million euro to spend, and what he told them was: don’t spend the money on advertisement, because nobody wants your ads. They got angry – “what are we to spend the money on, then?” Build a better car, and people will buy your car! It’s how the internet works. So when you ask what to do to be seen on social media: be worthy of being seen!