Niklas Zennstrom (The Skype Guys) was born on 16 February 1966. He is a Swedish entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He is most famous for founding several high-profile online ventures with Janus Friis including Skype and Kazaa, More recently the pair founded the investment group Atomico and have become significant figureheads for entrepreneurs in the tech sector.
Zennstrom started his professional career at the European telecom operator Tele2. He went on to serve in various business development roles including launching and being responsible for European Internet Service Provider business Get2Net and as CEO of the everyday.com portal.
In 2001 Zennstrom and Friis co-founded Kazaa, the peer-to-peer file sharing application. Niklas served as CEO and the programme became the world’s most downloaded Internet software in 2003. After lawsuits were filed by members of the music and motion picture industry in the USA, Kazaa was sold to Sharman Networks.
Zennstrom then founded and served as CEO at Joltid, a software company developing and marketing peer-to-peer solutions and traffic optimisation technologies. Zennstrom also co-founded Altnet, the world’s first secure peer-to-peer network promoting commercial content to consumers integrating promotion, distribution, and payment of digital content.
Zennstrom and Friis’ most notable success to date is Skype, a telephony company based on peer-to-peer principles. On 14 October 2005 Skype was acquired by eBay for €2.1 billion ($2.6 billion) plus the potential to earn further performance-based bonuses up to €1.2bn. Zennstrom was CEO from Skype’s inception until September 2007. During that time, Skype became the global leader in Internet voice communications with more than 309m registered users within five years of launch.
After the sale of Skype, Zennstrom and Friis went on in 2007 to launch Joost, an online video distribution service (where Zennstrom was co-chairman).
In 2009 Zennstrom was part of the investment consortium that bought Skype from eBay and has now re-joined the Skype board. Skype posted Q3 2009 earnings of $185m and 521m registered users.
Currently, Zennstrom runs Atomico. Based in London, the firm primarily invests in fast growing tech companies with the ability to transform their respective industries. Through Atomico they have invested in over 30 companies, including Last.fm, Fon, Xobni, Technorati, Heysan, Rdio and Woome.
Zennstrom has dual degrees in Business Administration (BSc) and Engineering Physics (MSc) from Uppsala University in Sweden. He spent his final year at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.
Atomico is a investment group focused on the technology sector. The firm looks to invest in fast growing technology companies that have innovative business models or new enabling technologies. Through their experience building Skype, Joltid and Kazaa, they understand the dynamics of game-changing business models and have created a worldwide network to help accelerate the growth of their portfolio companies.
Together with his wife Catherine, he founded Zennstrom Philanthropies to direct their charitable giving in the fields of climate change, human rights and social entrepreneurship. Niklas is specifically engaged in combating climate change and improving the state of the Baltic Sea.
Zennstrom is a keen sailor and his racing yacht Ràn 2 competes in most of the calendar’s major offshore races. Zennstrom’s team was overall winner of the prestigious 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.