In October last year, our Founder and CEO Therése Gedda was interviewed by Karl-Johan Byttner for leading Swedish business magazine Veckans Affärer (VA). We received several requests for an English translation of the interview, which we’re excited to share below:
Started her first company at 17-year-old – Now her app gives you an MBA in 30 minutes
Therése Gedda started her first business at just 17 years old, she has won the Nobel “Future Innovation” award, earned the highest grades in school, and as a speaker earns $2,200 per minute. Now her app transforms two years training into half-hour sessions.
Management literature can often seem as impenetrable as the fog must have been for Gustav II Adolf when he was killed during the Battle of Lützen 1632. The sea of books each with the “answer” on how to become a better leader and a better person seems never ending.
However, it’s about to become much easier to access the essentials of management. That is when 31-year-old serial entrepreneur Therése Gedda launches the edtech app 30minMBA.
It goes without saying that’s impossible to obtain an entire MBA in 30 minutes. The company’s mission is, however, to ‘bridge the gap between what science knows and what business does.’
“Many people are enthusiastic and build up their own libraries at home or work with business and management books, but it’s often hard to make time to read them all.”
The average business book takes about 8 hours to read, but there are so many things that demand our attention, and we only have an average of 30 minutes per day to dedicate ourselves to personal and professional development.
30minMBA’s business model is similar to that of Storytel founder Jonas Tellander, who has gotten Swedish people listening to audiobooks in traffic jams, when traveling on public transport, or while out jogging – basically, whenever we have time.
The idea of the 30minMBA app is also to give bite-sized, actionable knowledge “on the go” – for example before going off to an important business meeting – and to make lifelong learning possible. The “courses” can be anything from how you develop a product to how one can develop charisma.
Users who listen to or read the content are given actionable advice and tips on how they can use the knowledge and are encouraged to reflect upon it and to see how it relates to their work. It’s also possible to get a certificate when the user has completed a course (called a “collection”).
Therése Gedda has assembled a passionate, and dynamic team of experts, writers, and voice actors to make management literature and theories as easy to digest as possible. She is exploring Sweden as a test market but expects the greatest demand from countries like Canada, Australia, and the USA.
“Australia and Canada are at the forefront especially when it comes to prioritizing wellbeing and engagement in the workplace.”
30minMBA has eight people in the core team spread over three continents, with 30 active advisors, and a couple of hundred supporters. The company is self-funded and bootstrapped (which basically means they focus on revenue while keeping the cost low).
The app has already been tested by 500 professionals and, several times in the process, Therése Gedda has proven that it doesn’t need to cost thousands of dollars to develop a film or campaign. “Time after time we have succeeded in getting costs down to 10 dollars for a campaign.”
It’s no coincidence that she speaks in dollars and not Swedish kronor or that she sometimes has trouble finding Swedish words. Therése Gedda travels abroad several times a month. This Sunday she will be off to New York for a speaking engagement – where she only speaks English. Later in the week, she will be in Toronto.
Growing up in Helsingborg also marked a strive for the “American dream.” Her parents were entrepreneurs, and at the same time her parents were pouring milk into her breakfast cereal she quickly learned “the sky is the limit.”
Those entrepreneurial genes gave Therése an edge much like Lisbeth Salander (one of the main characters in Stieg Larsson hit novel series Millennium) whose strengths included photographic memory. It contributed to her ability to achieve straight A’s at school (she went to a private school) and participate in fitness on a professional level – she started in elite fitness when she was just 15 years old.
As an entrepreneur, Therése – despite her being a mere 31 years old – has experience that defies her age. She’s never had a “real job” and started her first company at 17 years old – a period in life when many are struggling to find their identity. The first assignment for the management consulting firm, which was never given a formal name, was to create a mentoring program for a private school.
The project went so well that 95 percent of the mentors came from high-level positions – often called C-level in management speak.
As a 19-year-old Therése commenced her studies at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) and at the age 20, she launched a career as a professional speaker. Only a year later, she guest-lectured at SSE, and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH).
To crown it all, last year (2015) she received the prestigious SKAPA (Create) “Future Innovation” award for 30minMBA – which is an award in the memory of the king of dynamite, Alfred Nobel.
It’s not just that she’s been active as an entrepreneur for many years, but she has also done research at SSE on how entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs work. One of the control questions Therése asked the serial entrepreneur and Sendit-founder, Hjalmar Winbladh, among others was how much of their time they spend on things that are important to them.
“The entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs thought the question was strange because they would never spend time on something that’s not important. The people in the control group, however, often answered that they would gladly lay on the sofa to switch off their brain after the workday is over. “
It was concluded, among other things, that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are happier because of the perceived sense of control over their lives which also paves the way for a more fortunate one.
“You can say that you would have a balanced or unbalanced chaos, ha, ha.”
At first glance it may seem that Therése Gedda lives a life of fun and ease; in addition to running her own company and lecturing, she also works as a fitness instructor. She has also trained a number of sports over the years – from Thai boxing and kickboxing to tennis and basketball.
However, there is a common thread in Theresé’s life: Combining an entrepreneurial mindset with the desire to help others reach their full potential. There is no doubt she’s worked hard to reach her own full potential. As an example, Therése earned 20,000 SEK (approx $2,200) per minute for a 3-minute talk during the conference “TEDx Made in Europe.”
She also learned early on to stand out from the crowd including managing to maneuver her way through the crowd when super-entrepreneur Richard Branson came to Sweden for the first time. She had prepared the “meeting” meticulously and had a target that would take her to her end goal – to initiate an e-mail conversation with her idol. And yes, she achieved it.
“I really like that Richard Branson encourages people to reach their potential and that he’s a fearless person.”
Another idol is the co-founder of Southwest Airlines – Herb Kelleher who made himself known for the easy-to-digest message “Just Plane Smart.”
“He does exactly what I want to accomplish with 30minMBA. Speak so people understand.”
Like the now deceased Apple founder Steve Jobs, Theresé likes to take long walks to think, together with her speaker-colleague and creator of the sharkonomics theory – Stefan Engeseth.
As I sit there and speak with her at the startup co-working space Epicenter in Malmskillnadsgatan Stockholm, I am struck by how prevalent management talk is within the community. Therése Gedda likes to talk about “empowering people,” that knowledge is “power,” and about creating a culture where “people thrive.” This can, of course, be put down to her early “Americanization,” and in a way the app is designed to do just that – make management talk more digestible and accessible.