“I didn’t read the small print”
Gustav Holst Stuge thought he was a made man – until he checked the finer points on the deal he’d struck.
Having turned his back on a career as a professional skier to launch himself into the world of business, Gustav Holst Stuge was a fast-thinking risk-taker who preferred to sell first and ask questions later. Here, the CEO of gadget-insurance company InMyBag looks back on the moments that made him the businessperson he is today, including the deal that almost finished his career before it had even begun – and all because he didn’t check the details.
I have quite a strange story, I guess. As a Norwegian who went to school in Switzerland, I was brought up on the slopes. I come from a family of skiers. My father was one of four kids who were all national champions of some sort (I think one of them was a champion water-skier, if we’re going to be picky) and my weekends were spent in the mountains. I came third in the Swiss National Skicross Championships and went all over the world, but when I got to the age of 18, I had to decide whether I wanted to go professional or not.
When it came to it, I chose a business career instead and went to work for a shipping company, handling big oil contracts and, incredibly, I was put in charge of a billion-dollar project in the ocean just off the coast of Boston. I knew nothing! I turned up on my first day in this dirty, oily environment in a suit and leather shoes, and the 60 or so workers there couldn’t believe that this young pup was in charge. They said they were going to give me a ‘baptism of fire’.
I hid. I stayed well out of the way of everyone for a week and asked my boss and called my dad for advice. They said that I should go and show them [the workers] what I could do, so I went and joined in with the night shift and got to know people. I even bought a few rounds of drinks and that went down very well. It seems that sometimes alcohol is the best currency.
Then the oil price crashed and my employers said it would take five years to get back on track, so I came up with an idea to set up a business in Mexico instead. The plan was to get a licence from FIFA to sell travel packages for the South Africa World Cup. I knew someone who had done this before and they had made quite a lot of money, so I thought, why not? As you can imagine, it was quite an interesting learning curve.
I was a fresh-faced guy, dealing with very seasoned negotiators, but we managed to buy half the licence in partnership with a sports-travel agency. I then set to work selling the packages and they flew out the door. It was amazing! I had a red Ferrari in my sights and it was becoming more real by the day. Except for one thing… I hadn’t bothered to check the deal we struck with the agency. Who the hell has time for paperwork? I thought. My strength wasn’t in the details – it was in selling. So, when we tallied up the sales and the costs, and ran it through all the processes detailed in the contract, there wasn’t actually any money there for me at all.
I couldn’t quite believe that I’d fallen at the finish line, but I was pragmatic about it. I had created something great: a business that had been successful and valuable within a couple of months. All I had to do was do it again, but this time I’d be better prepared, so I went off to London to get an MBA.
From there, I got a job with Google, based in Dublin. I worked with start-ups in travel and finance, and it was great and very satisfying to nurture them and help turn them into much bigger operations. At the same time, I helped to start and run a couple of businesses in my spare time and they became quite successful in their own right.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work for myself again, but an investment company offered me the chance to run an insuretech business that could well revolutionise the entire industry, so I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. InMyBag actually has a much bigger potential than I originally thought and now we’re looking at building a £50 million to £100 million company within a very short space of time. As I said at the start, I have quite a strange story!
This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: http://www.ink-live.com/emagazines/easyjet-inflight