“For tech startups and innovation, Stockholm is one of Europe’s hottest places”

We continue our series of interviews with opinion leaders, influencers and well-connected bloggers and social media personalities from our home country Sweden. This time we had a chat with a guy who hardly needs an introduction to anybody following the local blogosphere and twittersphere: Joakim Jardenberg (aka “Jocke”). He set up the first server for Sweden’s formerly biggest media site back in 1994, is a so called “short sleeper” and currently trains CEOs of leading companies to get ready for the digital age. Read on to get to know him more.

Hi Jocke. Who are you?
I’m a senior advisor in most things related to Internet and media and I’ve been working in this field since 1994 when I set up the first server for Aftonbladet.se, Sweden’s biggest media site until Facebook appeared. Back then the newspaper published news on text TV, and I created a solution to translate that content into HTML. For a short while Aftonbladet.se was the only real news site in the world having updated real time news content.

And today?
Currently I work with 5 CEOs of Sweden’s top 25 largest corperations to help them get ready for the digital age. They call me a “CEO whisperer”. The project involves everything from big strategy weekends to them calling me from the toilet asking questions about social media.

That sounds like a rather unusual project…
It is. I once held a presentation at a conference in Denmark and one of the CEOs was there. We hooked up and started to work on a deal that is now running in its third year. The other 4 CEOs are part of his network, which I could tap into. That’s how everything started.

Is that a full time job?
It could be, but I try to spend not more than 40 or 50 percent of my time for this project. My goal is to make myself unnecessary for them.

But then you are unemployed?
Not really. I have some other projects going on with big Swedish corporations. I also work a lot with the Swedish Foreign Ministry and as a business angel – I have invested into 11 tech startups. Furthermore I do some lecturing, public speaking and moderation.

That sounds as if you don’t have the time to sleep a lot…
That’s true. Fortunately, I belong to the one percent of people that are so called “short sleepers”. I sleep approximately 2 to 2 ½ hours a night, and I have been doing that since I was 20.

Many people are probably jealous of the capability.
It’s indeed an amazing feature – not a bug. One can easily handle the work load of two regular work days in one day and still take care of the family, social life and hobbies.

Could that advantage be the reason for why most people in the inner social media circles of Sweden know you?
Absolutely, it has nothing to do with intelligence or creativity, it’s just a lot of working hours ; )

Good to know : ) But seriously, how did you achieve that kind of prominence on the Swedish web?
I think a big part of it is that I try to live by my own motto: to be honest and do good shit. I hope I have been doing that. I want to be around for people, help them out without sending a bill afterwards, answer questions, try to take part in the public debate in a very open and straight-forward way. I would say I have spend a lot of hours trying to support and advocate my peers, listening to them, learning from them, and pushing things forward for them. That might be an explanation for my visibility in that specific niche.

When did you launch your own blog?
I think it was as early as it was possible to do that. If I remember correctly, I ran one of the early versions of WordPress, maybe in 2005 or 2006.

So you were one of the first in Sweden to active on social media?
Yes but I wasn’t that active in the very distinctive blogosphere in the beginning. Not living in Stockholm and not being in the Stockholm social context made it harder to catch the train. I was more looking outwards, out of Sweden.

What’s the status of the Swedish blogosphere in 2012?
For the blog as a social culture phenomenon I think it has peaked because we don’t have the obvious clusters anymore. Many Swedish hubs that connected the blogosphere and differentiated it from traditional publishing and all other media haven’t that big of an impact anymore. There are still political bloggers, tech bloggers, fashion bloggers and so forth. But it’s not that much of a closed community anymore, it’s part of all the other social media and traditional media.

What reputation do bloggers have in Sweden today?
Since the Swedish fashion blog scene is pretty big it has made an impression in the minds of the ordinary Swedes. When they hear the word “blog” they might think of a teenage girl taking photos of herself and writing about her daily outfit. That’s something we have to fight back on.

Would you say that social media in Sweden has an impact on politics and society?
Social Media definitely has an impact on the agenda of civil society. “Bloggbävning” (“blogquake”) is the Swedish word for it, when a topic explodes and is being picked up by the mainstream. Although that covers not only blogs but social media in general, where blogs are only a part of.

How much importance has Twitter for social media in Sweden?
It’s still a niche phenomenon. In some groups it has a lot of users, like among politicians or people working in technology, public relations and marketing. But it hasn’t found its way into my mother’s life. It lags behind the development in the states. In Sweden Twitter simply didn’t have the “Oprah effect”.

That means, an A-celebrity embracing Twitter in a big way could move it into the mainstream even in Sweden?
Yeah, and that might eventually happen. We also have to have respect for the ability and/or resistance of people to manage multiple platforms. Facebook is huge in Sweden in what I would call the Oprah target group. It might not be as easy today as it was in the US when Twitter exploded. But I think we see something happening with the push from younger people, they are embracing Twitter more and more.

Since you are also a tech investor you probably have thoughts about the current wave of Sweden-based startups making headlines on a global scale…
Of course. We had Skype, Rebtel and a few more disruptive companies from Sweden. Now we see the “Björn Borg effect”. You had the shining stars who showed the community that it’s possible to do what Spotify or Skype did in their respective markets. That motivates other entrepreneurs, investors and founders. It’s cyclic and now we are in a very upbeat spiral of tech innovation. Stockholm is definitely one of the hottest places in Europe when it comes to tech startups and web innovation. Daniel Ek is our hero!

Speaking about tech innovation: What are the 3 most exciting tech trends right now?
To start with the most obvious: location. It’s maturing but it hasn’t found its way into the mainstream audience yet. Nevertheless, it will go there, since there are so many benefits for location being tightly integrated into any service.

Another trend I expect to become huge is frictionless sharing, which means, that we don’t have to manually update everything we do and want to share anymore. It’s kind of a mesh between the Internet of things and the Internet of people. I love my twittering scale for instance. Of course, good and understandable privacy settings are a requirement.

Last but not least, my guess is that tactile techniques will become hot. We have learned to interact with our devices by touching or moving them, but it’s always about us interacting with the device. I want o see more devices that interact back to us. It’s pretty abstract but as devices come into every part of our life it becomes necessary for them to have more ways to communicate with us.