By Hugo Rehnberg
LE ADERSHIP IS AB OUT CHANGE JOHAN DENNELIND, CEO OF TELEPHONE OPERATOR TELIA COMPANY, ABOUT SWEDISH LEADERSHIP AND WHAT ROLE TELIA PLAYS IN THE STARTUP COMMUNITY.
Name Johan Dennelind Occupation President & CEO, Telia Company Fun fact Described as an including and non-hierarchical leader, whom employees are encouraged to call by his first name.
Brilliant Minds call Stockholm ”the creative capital of the world.” Do you agree? ”I definitely think we’ve got evidence for it. A lot is happening in this area as a whole, not only in Stockholm but the Nordic and Baltic region. When it comes to the digital race, it seems we’re in the midst of a perfect storm. There’s amazing history and very brightly shining role models that stir up and inspire more of the same.” What part has Telia played in the Swedish tech success? ”We’re the ones that have been with it the longest. With our 163-year history we’re the oldest startup participating in Brilliant Minds. Telia have rebuilt itself many times to not loose track with development and the last 20, 30 years we’ve been a world leader when it comes to mobiles and Internet. Together with Ericsson we’ve created a great basis for IT entrepreneurs. Sweden is one of the most connected countries in the world with one of the fastest and safest networks. And a lot of the entrepreneurs that have worked for Telia have then moved on to other global companies."
Telia also invests in other startups, correct?
“Fika with Johan” sounds very Swedish. Explain what it is.
“Yes, we’ve invested in Spotify, Zound Industries, Springworks and Soundtrack Your Brand. We’ve also got ongoing discussions with hundreds of other startups.”
“It’s a way of bonding with my employees, a relaxed and informal conversation over a cup of coffee. Everyone can ask for a “fika with Johan” and we’ll try to squeeze it into my schedule. Telia have 26,000 employees. It’s a way for me to become more visible to them and an excellent opportunity to listen to their thoughts and ideas."
Aside from financial benefits, what makes you interested in these companies? “Over time investments obviously have to generate profit, but it’s also driven out of pure curiosity, to understand and keep up. I often say this to my colleagues: we can’t invent everything ourselves, but we can become the best at working with other partners and hence open up to new ideas and influences. A positive result of our engagement in the startup community is that we generate interest in working for Telia. That’s a sure sign we’re active and visible.” According to rumors you’re a typically Swedish boss. “I’ve worked abroad for eleven years in three different cultures and I’ve been influenced by many things. To me, leadership is about change, development and surrounding myself with people that are passionate about what they do.
What did you think of Brilliant Minds? “There was an amazing level of expertise among the delegates. This event has got all the right ingredients: founders with a passion, co-workers with amazing networks and great spirit in the talks. My only objection is that even more people should have the opportunity to participate in these intriguing discussions.”