Smpl chairman, Bjørn Ivar Knudsen, on the random comment that inspired his market-leading tech firm, the size of fish, and having unresolved issues with Lego
Lego stole my idea*
I’ve had a burning desire to create things for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I would send letters to all manufacturers suggesting how they could make improvements or telling them what new products they should make.
I was really into Lego, so a lot of ideas were sent there. I rarely got a reply, but one of the Lego directors wrote back saying he appreciated my feedback and my idea was good, but they already “had it in their idea bank” Yeah, right!
* They may well not have
Simplicity is a genetic thing for me
It all goes back to an undiagnosed problem with my eyes, which gave me great problems with keeping up at school. Even though I was smart, I struggled to read and learn like the other kids.
This forced me to learn in other ways. I would read a little, listen a lot, look for practical angles, and work out how to simplify issues to make them easier to understand.
Basically, I was smart enough to understand that things could and should be made simple so everyone – even a fool like me – could understand them.
Eventually, taking complex problems and finding simple solutions became a career for me. This is what all innovators should do: make their solutions simple and relatable.
That’s the exact reason why we created Smpl, to help people do that.
My biggest success came from a random comment
I overheard an accountant complaining about how bad their employees were at logging business travel mileage and how much money could be saved if there was a program that could create and keep travel records.
Two months later, I’d created a prototype for something that would determine travel destinations and distances and store them in the cloud.
I tested it on my friends, and – to my great surprise – most were really impressed with how it worked. When we sold the company ten years later, Quicklog (as it became) was the largest company of its kind in the country.
This is what all innovators should do: make their solutions simple and relatable.Bjørn Ivar
I like to help small fish eat the big ones
We live in a world where start ups can kill off established companies, and where small teams in big, legacy organisations can radically change them.
I love it when this happens because that means the passionate, the creative, and the energetic people – the ones who aren’t afraid to ask difficult questions – are winning. If that’s you, let me know, and we can start to work out how you’re going to change the world.
Find fuel and friction
I’ve built several companies, but it wasn’t until I started Quicklog that I did it with people who were unlike myself. This was crucial to our success.
When you are trying to do anything innovative – whether it’s starting a company or designing a new product – you need people around you who will constantly question what you’re doing. That can be business partners or an agency like ours.
You need to challenge each other – to create that friction – or everything happens in a bubble.
But, a warning: this only works if there is mutual respect. That comes from experience, talent, and everyone doing what they are supposed to do. That’s the fuel that will drive you.