Oscar Eriksson - Sweden’s Most Clear-Sighted Entrepreneur
Updated: 5 days ago
By: Brainz Magazine
“If you evaluate situations, yourself and other people based on what truly drives humanity forward, you lose all traces of doubt, dishonesty, victimhood and inactivity. It sort of becomes binary; either you create and push forward, or you observe and criticize from a far.” - Oscar Eriksson
When we meet Oscar Eriksson, it’s not without any previous knowledge or rumour. We knew about his past achievements and skills. We knew he likes to cover a lot of subjects and almost “surf” between philosophy, strategy and super-specific tactical execution within the same minute. Often with four analogies in parallel, making it a challenge keeping up with his train of thought. When we met him at Diplomat in central Stockholm however, we didn’t know we were going to enter altruistic arguments in such a tight mix with our business-focused discussion. – I’m sorry for that… I wander off sometimes. But discussions become so much more valuable on deep purpose-levels.
We met with the serial super-entrepreneur and what some call “Sweden’s superior digital strategist” to talk a bit about his adventures, his views on building organizations, efficiency, creativity, inspiration and the future.
What are you currently focusing on?
– I’m a bit here and there to be honest. I’ve spent the last year building a portfolio-like setup of cases together with my main partner. We’ve launched a new digital lifestyle solution, transparently solving the brand’s needs for authentic reach and engagement. We’re beta testing a global platform for sports fans, getting them closer to their favourite teams and players through content, challenges and match-like gamification. We’ve also built and launched brands within luxury beds at non-luxury prices. And a few cases in the exciting wine industry, focusing on sustainability and the “secondary market” for wines. The newest addition to the portfolio evolves around the rapidly growing sport of padel. I also run my own growth agency L7G which is a modern data science partner helping CEO’s at large companies to create predictive, cutting-edge algorithms solving complex business problems in new ways. These algorithms and models often create new takes on advanced marketing, hyper-personalization, assortment modelling or end-to-end distribution optimization.
– Apart from that, I’m a board member for a few apps and digital brands. That’s a responsibility that adds another stakeholder perspective than to be the entrepreneur and creator. I really enjoy those opportunities.
That sure sounds like a mouthful. How do you stay above it?
– I guess you mean how I manage time or stress. For me, it’s always been about pushing limits and discovering what we’re capable of. My experience is that you magically get more time as you take on more responsibility, not the other way around. I am also ridiculously structured and systematic when I need to be. Working out daily helps setting the frame and focus for what needs to be done. Practicing and developing real self-awareness also helps recognizing when you experience “good” and “bad” stress, because there are both versions.
How did you get to this point in life - any specific event or have you had a plan all the time?
– Wow, I’ve had so many plans. They change all the time. I think plans are secondary to vision and end-state… The plan will work itself out. “Just get going and adjust course along the way”, has always been my strategy. I can’t stand inactivity or decision paralysis. But I guess one very deciding event was some 10 years ago while having lunch with my first-ever “mentor”. Back then, I was in the finance industry, working my ass of at a large bank when faced with a serious discussion about how I wanted to live my life, what actually means something and the difference between time, money and freedom. I remember he gave me the book “The Four-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss - and I was hooked. Not necessarily by everything that Ferriss talks about, but rather the general attitude of analyzing input/output relationships, efficiency, and most of all the concept of freedom in all levels of life. I’ve been very passionate about what they call “lifestyle design” and creating the “work” life that you really want.
You build several digital businesses and you have helped some of the largest companies in the world with growth strategies. What are the main trends you see?
– Those are many… But to add value here and now, I would say “polarization”. Polarization of customer purchasing patterns, which means we see a clearer gap between “boring buys” such as subscriptions or commodities, and “inspirational buys” which are more value, identity and tribe-driven. Polarization of available platforms is real too. We know that Amazon-like platforms eat the world on all “boring buys”. Why would they not take 99% market share on commodity purchases in a connected society? Then, the other end of the spectra becomes niche, D2C, value-based brands taking market share in the digital transformation. The giants in between this spectrum will die off in a rapid pace, at least with current business models and operations.
“The shallow, "+1" influencers will die out as brands finally start to measure this in a sober way as any other marketing initiative. The polarization is everywhere and will have massive effects on how we work with positioning, strategy and market fit.”
– The polarization of market channels is there too…. Let’s just look at the phenomena of “influencers”, or “opinion-leaders” as we called it back in 2008. This field will be polarized such that the authentic, strong power nodes will get even more power and eventually pivot into creating their own brands with a lot of help from Facebook/Instagram’s shopping functionalities and the live video shopping trend finally making it from Asia to the west. Instead of making brand deals, they’ll become the brands. The shallow, “+1” influencers will die out as brands finally start to measure this in a sober way as any other marketing initiative. The polarization is everywhere and will have massive effects on how we work with positioning, strategy and market fit.
Any particular trends within e-commerce or retail?
– I would look out for the diffusion of the storefronts. We’re in many ways past basic “e-commerce” now. We’re living in “social commerce” where there can’t be any differences between a social live video, story, picture and a “shop button”. It’s all intertwined and if your business is not built for letting go of your traditional point of conversion, you’re in a bad place. Let go of trying to control the actual shopping moment, it’s not in your hands anymore. I think voice tech takes some time to really establish in the Scandinavian markets, but it’s a hygiene factor for the future.
Why are viral and organic strategies crucial?
– I’m simply passionate about creating viral or at least organic brands because it’s an absolute necessity. Whenever you have a monopoly or duopoly in society, things become expensive. And that’s what we have with Google and Facebook in the game of paid traffic today. It simply becomes too expensive being addicted to these platforms, and this is why viral loops and strategies are so vital for creating recurring and organic users of your brand.
You’ve said that we don’t live in an age of data; we live in the age of talents. What does that mean?
– Well, that means many things. But mainly it’s so obvious that everyone has all the data one could ask for. But we’re starving for talents and artists that actually can create value from data.
“I think we see too many "experts" simply leveraging the digital- and data anxiety out there and trying to make things really complex. Solid intuition and talent are as important as quant and data.”
We can build algorithms, fancy UX or automate any customer journey to the end of time. But at the end of the day, it’s about being talented and using artistry on top of data streams. I think we see too many “experts” simply leveraging the digital- and data anxiety out there and trying to make things really complex. Solid intuition and talent are as important as quant and data.
How does retail and consumption look in 50 years?
– I don’t think we have that much consumption at all to be honest. Except for fast-consumer and perishable goods of course. But in general, I don’t see ownership as a concept. Not even houses, apartments or cars. Why would you aim to own things in an age where you spend 90% of your time in virtual places and virtual realities? We will be much more fluid as individuals and the concept of owning materialistic stuff will be gone as we know it.
You have built several organizations. How do you motivate your employees?
– Actually, I don’t. I try to recruit solid people, and those people need to be self-motivated. I’d rather focus on being the hardest worker in the room and lead by example in that way instead. If employees or partners aren’t on the same level, we solve it from there. Working actively with motivation feels like covering up for poor talent recruitment or bad overall company culture.
You have mentioned “alpha waves” in a couple of keynotes related to creativity and efficiency. What does that mean?
– That is basically a wavelength frequency at which our brains optimize for creativity and problem solving. The last few years I’ve been working a lot on setting the brain up for those conditions. It completely re-defines what “work” and “free time” means and should mean for most companies. We actually solve most problems in a creative way when we are relaxing or stepping back from intense work or pressure. During a hot shower, a steam sauna, while exercising, playing video games or in certain stages of sleep. In short, it’s like working a muscle. Naturally, you need to put tension and effort for it to adjust, but it’s during recovery or rest you get the benefits. I’ve sort of created techniques and routines for myself and the companies I help to maximize performance by brain waves. Wow, that sounds really weird saying out loud to be honest.
What are you planning for the future? Any dreams or new projects?
– Great question. Short-term, we’re expanding a few projects to new countries focusing on USA, Germany and parts of Asia. Those are always interesting adventures where everything that could possibly go wrong, will go wrong. Generally, it would be fun to start working on projects within a field of passion. Retail or e-commerce is so extremely boring. I just happen to have been working with it, but I have zero passion for this field. I have some vague ideas of projects out in space, but now we’re talking 20-30 years horizons. For now, however, working with fun people and having a global workplace with total freedom will do.
You get to invite 3 people to a dinner. Who would be your dream guests?
– Ricky Gervais has a spot of course. The most brilliant guy alive. Elon Musk needs to come as well. And of course, my girlfriend Fanny. She just makes everything better.
Favourite books or podcasts?
– Anything with Andreessen Horowitz, like the “a16z” podcast. I’m always big on written autobiographies and keynotes by role models, could be athletes or entrepreneurs. I try to come back and re-read the works of Tim Ferriss, Jordan Peterson and stoic philosophers like Seneca every year to refresh perspectives. If I had to recommend a single individual of whom to consume all content, I’d say Naval.