“We scream at each other in the office…”

There are plenty of advantages to working with friends, says Carl Waldenkranz, co-founder of burgeoning e-commerce platform Tictail – not least the, ahem, passionate debates

In days gone by, opening a shop was an onerous and expensive task. Today, thanks to Carl Waldenkranz, co-founder of Tictail (tictail.com), it’s as easy to set up an online shop as it is to shop online. Don’t believe us? The Stockholm-based company has seen over 60,000 cyber stores created across 110 countries since its launch less than three years ago. However, the 28-year-old CEO insists it’s not all down to his magic touch…

Work with friends “The old saying is never mix business with pleasure, but I can’t understand that. I started my first company with my best friend, Kaj Drobin, and we’ve now worked together for nine years. I certainly owe the early part of my success to him. I’m the one who tends to get super-excited and wants to walk before I can run, whereas he thinks five steps ahead and slows us down. Quite often, we will debate back and forth and almost scream at each other in the office, but we both know that it comes from a good place – passion for our business.”

Share the responsibility – and the success “There are very few sole visionaries who can drive a successful international company forward. I believe that companies work best when people work together as a team and everyone is able to add their specialist input. I like to hire entrepreneurially minded people who can really get behind the company and take it places without having to be led. But, while I give people tons and tons of responsibility, I also believe in letting them all share in the rewards with stock options.”

Don’t claim all the credit “I’m very much a fan of letting the world know who’s been responsible for bright thinking in my company. It’s partly why we have a blog where anyone can explain what they’ve been building or working on and how they’ve done it. They can publish without approval and it goes straight online. I think this trust is one of the many reasons why people choose to stay with us.”

Don’t tell facts, tell stories “I started my career in advertising and one of the first things we learned is never to sell the features of a product or service – sell it on what impact those features will have on your life. So, if you’re selling toothpaste, say, don’t talk about the scientific ingredients, talk about how a better smile will bring you more friends. Talk about what you want to achieve, rather than how you’re going to achieve it. We did this here when we started the company and we didn’t have any customers or funding, and we’re still doing it now.”

Be good – not original “Back in the days of our advertising agency, we used to measure our ideas by how original they were. We would stay up all night long thinking of really innovative concepts that no one had ever thought of before – we thought that was how it worked. However, we eventually realised that the only way the human race has got to where it is today is by learning from each other and by adopting proven ideas. In other words, don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Aim to be good at what you do and the rest will follow.”

Ignore your competitors “They’re there already and you can’t do anything about it. If we’d been looking over our shoulders the whole time, we wouldn’t have got anywhere by now. We made a conscious decision to build our own platform and it became unique in its own right.”

Better ‘done’ than ‘perfect’ “This is one of the hardest things to learn and it’s something that I’m still learning. The thing is, when you’re working on a project, it’s your baby, and you put your heart and soul into it. You can see the vision of what it will be like a year down the line, so you don’t want to release it into the world until it’s ready. But the public don’t share this vision and anything can happen while you’re perfecting it. Launch much earlier than you thought was possible and refine according to the feedback you get. If you don’t feel slightly ashamed of what you’ve launched, you’ve left it too late.”

Think big… “One of the benefits of daydreaming is that your business can become as big as you want it to be. I think it allows you to set a much, much higher bar. We set ours by saying that we’re going to be where every small business starts; that we’re going to become the home of entrepreneurship. Our vision was to become the world’s most used and loved e-commerce platform. Now, is there any more daunting a task than becoming Stockholm’s most used and loved e-commerce platform? I don’t think so.”

…start small “So, when you’ve defined your vision, find the smallest task that will go some way to making your vision a reality, cut it in half and start there. Then move on to the next task and the next and so on. My vision began by building my mother’s online store and we’ve gone on from there.”

Be ready to fail “For a lot of entrepreneurs, building a business from scratch is a new experience and things are bound to go wrong. The thing is: that’s OK! As long as you create a company where it’s alright to talk about your problems, everything can be turned into an opportunity. At Tictail, we end every month with a ‘retrospective’, an exercise in which we define the things that we can do better and create one actionable improvement for the upcoming month.”

Hire well “Getting the right people to join is crucial to continue growing. My goal for every new hire is to raise the bar for the team. Don’t be afraid of hiring people who are more experienced and better than you are – it’s actually an amazing and very humbling experience to become the least impressive person in the team.”

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