What does gaming, transportation, consumer electronics and real estate have in common?
On the 11th of June, the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2015 will be awarded! This year, our Nordic countries will be represented by the successful entrepreneurs Ilkka Paananen (Supercell), Brynjar Forbergskog (Torghatten), Fabian Bengtsson (Netonnet Group) and Michael Mortensen (CASA).
The 16th EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award and Forum will take place between 7 and 12 June 2016 in Monaco, where 55 entrepreneurs representing 49 countries will compete for the global crown to be announced during a gala awards ceremony on 11 June. All finalists have won national or regional EY Entrepreneur Of The Year programs around the world. Please meet our Nordic finalists in EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year:
Ilkka Paananen is taking the mobile gaming industry by storm. He is the CEO and co-founder of Supercell, the global leading company in mobile games. As a serial entrepreneur Ilkka joined the Finnish gaming industry already in 2000 and since then has been steadily building gaming companies like Sumea and Digital Chocolate. Supercell, the company he cofounded together with six others in 2010, has become the leader in mobile games in just five years with billions of dollars in revenue. The first Supercell games, Hay Day, Clash of Clans and Boom Beach are all top-10 hits globally with millions of players from over 150 counties and have maintained these positions for years after launch, a rarity in the fast-changing mobile games industry. Their newest game, Clash Royale, was launched in March 2016 and quickly became a top-5 global hit.
Supercell’s primary goal has always been to make games that players want to play for years and years. And how has Supercell and Ilkka made their way to success? Behind this phenomenal success is a simple, but innovative strategy: choose your employees just like a sports team. In other words, get the best players, create the best environment for them and get out of their way.
He and his team place a lot of importance on sharing the benefits of their financial success. They have donated millions of dollars to charitable initiatives, ranging from a children’s hospital in Helsinki to a campaign fighting AIDS across Africa. Ilkka and his company’s co-founders have also invested millions of dollars into Finnish start-ups, as his dream is to make Helsinki the Silicon Valley of Europe. “The true heroes of entrepreneurship are the ones who try, fail, try again, fail again, and keep on doing this forever. I hope my award inspires some of these heroes to try one more time,” he said.
CEO, Torghatten ASA
Under the leadership of Brynjar Kristian Forbergskog, Torghatten ASA has significantly increased its profitability and revenues. In 25 years, the company has grown from US$9 million to over US$1 billion in revenues, and now employs close to 7,000 people.
In the 1990s Torghatten was one of the smallest players in their industry, with 130 employees. With Forbergskog at the helm, it is now one of the leading transportation companies in Northern Europe. The main activity is transportation at sea, on land and in the air, distributed between ferries, speedboats, bus, and air travel. It operates internationally through its airline Wideroe, and has major activity in international shipping. All together, the Group covers more than 40 companies.
Brynjar Forbergskog has been a key driving force in the Group’s business growth and strategic acquisitions. He spends a lot of time conducting thorough market analysis and research, and believes that the courage to take necessary action is a key to success. The Group has already met its 2017 target of US$1 billion in turnover, and has seen an impressive growth both in turnover, results and employees during the 25 years under Forbergskog’s influence and leadership.
Torghatten has always been a competitive company, focusing on versatile business in the long term. Through education for its employees, good management and solid local anchoring with its subsidiaries, it has what it takes to succeed in the future.
The ability to see opportunity is what Brynjar considers the most important personality trait for an entrepreneur. “I believe that people who think new thoughts are of inestimable value to the development of our societies. We need people who see opportunities where others see risks,” he says.
Owner and Board Member, Netonnet Group AB
Fabian Bengtsson runs one of the leading Nordic retailers in the consumer electronics industry. His grandfather, Folke Bengtsson, launched SIBA in 1951 when he opened a small shop selling radios and crystal chandeliers in Gothenburg. Fabian’s father, Bengt Bengtsson, took over the business 10 years later and expanded it further, opening several more stores and Sweden’s first radio and TV superstore. In 1996, Fabian became the third generation to join the family business and in 2001, at the age of 28, Fabian was appointed CEO. It was a rough start because it coincided with a number of key management members leaving the company. However, SIBA continued to grow. It had opened its first store in Norway a year earlier, building up its international presence following its previous expansion in Denmark. But this rapid growth brought trouble, too, once external conditions worsened after the 2008 financial crisis. Still, the experience has made him stronger. “I learned to never give up, work hard, be committed and firm on how to the reach the goal,” he said.
Today, Fabian is an owner of Netonnet Group AB and due to Fabian’s talent for harnessing innovation and driving growth, the group is not just one of the leading retailers in the Nordic region, but it is also a multichannel business where online and traditional retail are seamlessly integrated. It had a turnover of US$786.6m in 2014 and 1,000 employees.
Looking toward the future, Fabian is focused on the digitalization and integration of the different sales channels and on innovating to include smart digital structures in the business model, particularly in social media. “Social media is the disruptive change of marketing,” he said. “If you are not integrated with your customers, you will fail in your business.”
Founder and Chairman of the Board, CASA A/S
Michael Mortensen started building his entrepreneurial career at a very young age. After a short stint as a roofer for his father’s firm at age 11, he launched his first company when he was just 13 years old. Today Michael, who is a carpenter by trade, is Founder and Chairman of the Board of property developer CASA. In just over a decade, CASA has risen to be a respected player on the Danish real estate market.
The company develops, builds and rents residential properties, commercial properties and public buildings throughout Denmark. Last year, CASA had a revenues of almost US$150m, representing growth of over 26% year on year. The business now employs 95 people and approx. 1000 people are working for subcontractors on CASA’s development projects. Recently, CASA launched a successful entry into the market for large-scale renovations.
The rapid development is due to Michael’s talent for innovating, improving and optimizing processes, as well as his tenacity and determination to “keep going even when the going gets tough.” CASA’s innovative projects — such as a building that combines a series of apartments ranging from family flats to penthouses and homes for seniors with a green garden in the center of a city — have drawn an increasing number of clients. But Michael is not resting on his laurels. His goal over the next two to three years is to build 200 houses per year from the 50 or so CASA currently develops.
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.
EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.
About EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs. The program makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential, and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global awards program of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.