Meet Johnny Warström
Johnny is the founder of Mentimeter, a free-to-use, online platform that allows real-time interaction between presenters and their audiences: making meetings enjoyable, engaging, and more productive. Founded in Stockholm in 2014, it was recognised by The Next Web in 2018 as the fastest-growing startup in Sweden (with over 35 million people in 120 countries having already benefited from its innovations to date).
1. Why did you start Mentimeter and what were you doing before?
With an educational background in Electrical Engineering from Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, my first venture was a management consultancy company, providing cost-effective solutions to small-to-medium sized companies. Following this, I moved over to the telecom industry for a couple of years and then, in 2014, I co-founded Mentimeter with four university friends from KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
The idea behind Mentimeter came from working in large corporations where we would spend a lot of time in meetings, and increasingly, I would find myself questioning how productive these really were. The same thing happened when I myself led the meetings and I felt I was lacking the tools to change it. It was out of this frustration that the idea for Mentimeter emerged, as I started thinking about what we could do to challenge the ways of conducting meetings and the tools needed to make them more collaborative and engaging.
From this, we created an easy-to-use tool for both speakers and audiences. Enabling meetings to be inclusive and collaborative, as well as enabling information to be shared and exchanged in a transparent and effective way.
2. What were the biggest sources of inspiration and support when you were starting out?
The biggest source of inspiration was the idea that we could create something that would challenge, and in the end, change the way we conduct presentations and meetings. Usually, it’s easier to talk than to actually listen, and in ‘our culture’, talking is usually status. When talking is status, it also means that the loudest voices are those (traditionally) heard.
We wanted to create a tool making it easy to listen as well as being heard, both for speakers and for audiences, making meetings collaborative and engaging. From this inspiration, we started building Mentimeter.
3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?
My biggest lesson since founding Mentimeter is how important the company culture is, not only for employee engagement and satisfaction. Creating a good culture at work has enabled us to cope with being a company in hyper-growth. I learnt early on the importance to establish a set of values that everybody adheres to within the organisation – a common set of rules for and ways of working. This together with strategic models to clearly define goals and metrics, have helped us to build an autonomous organisation where people can be leaders of their own work. In the end, this has made it easier to adapt to change whilst keeping the focus on the things that truly matter.
4. What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement so far?
I’m very proud of the value-based, diverse and transparent company we are building together. Currently, we have a 50/50 gender balance both in the company and on the board, the team consists of 18 different nationalities and we make continuous efforts to be transparent and inclusive whilst having fun at work and guarding work-life-balance.
5. What piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out?
Start with taking time to reflect on the fundamentals of the business and company you are setting out to build, you will gain a lot from this if and when your business is taking off. Some questions you might want to answer is how to prove product-market fit – if your go-to-market strategy is scalable, if your product strategy is global (or not) and if you have or can build an organisation to support those strategic choices.
6. What piece of investment did you make in the business that was worth every penny?
Our annual relocation initiative where we relocate the entire office to a new country for a month once a year. It’s “optional-inclusive” which means that people join at their own will and pre-requisites. During this time we work in and explore, a brand new city and culture. We rent somewhere to live, an office to work at, and we organise team activities.
The idea behind relocating the entire team is taken from the findings from the researcher Philip Runsten, PhD at Stockholm School of Economy. He developed a concept called Collective Intelligence (CI) or the “intelligent organization”, which shows that high performing teams work in a more exploratory way 2,300% more than low performing teams, and listen 1,500% more as well. In short, you want your teams to possess higher Collective Intelligence.
One of the most important fundamentals when it comes to creating a high-performing team is to create a positive and secure climate, in which team members have trust and confidence in each other.
Based on this we want to create an environment that would promote Collective Intelligence, and this is where the relocation idea came from.
Whilst it is not the sole factor which determines our success, this initiative has been a key component to create a successful and fast-growing company.
7. Which element of marketing has made the biggest impact on your business?
We’ve rarely seen a lasting impact on growth from one-off and/or time-consuming marketing activities. Instead we try to find marketing initiatives that can be automated, are scalable and in the end, have a lasting impact on our growth rate. We do this by forming hypotheses, usually based on quantitative data, that we can test in small viable experiments. If the experiment proves successful we can put more time and effort into it to making it either a larger initiative, part of our marketing automation, or even our product experience.
8. What do the next 12 months look like for you?
We will continue our work of giving people a useful tool that makes it easy to listen and to be heard and strive to change the meeting culture around the world. Today, we have 35 million users across 120 countries globally, and our vision is to expand even further.
Do you have an interesting story to tell about how your business got started? Tell us about it.