2013 was my first full year in the US. The longer I stay, the less I understand – and I mean from a positive sense. There is much more here than meets the eye, and a lot of my Swedish pre-justices about this country turned out to be wrong. I also had more of them than I thought. The nuances get lost and those are the ones that are really interesting.
This is the fourth year I have written a summary about what I’ve been doing over the past year. Since my memory is quite bad, it has become a way to reflect and remember what actually happened. To close the books, if you will. If you’re curious you can also read 2010, 2011 and 2012 too. It’s a lot about work of course but I think that accurately portrays this year – I’ve been focused on that (and I left out some personal things too). Enjoy.
Winter in Resteröd.
- Celebrated New Years Eve in Palo Alto with old and new friends, several of which became good ones during the year.
- Went to Las Vegas for the first time to attend CES. Complete chaos for a week. I was on a panel together with LEGO which was a milestone in itself, but more importantly – Toca Boca won the KAPi for Most Pioneering Team in Childrens Technology. A true team effort. Had a dinner with a VC that tried to convinced me to leave my job, but to no effect. I was happy where I was, and I still am. Look how happy!
- Flew to Stockholm and stayed there for weeks. Mainly meetings with the team, and some with Bonnier Growth Media. Went home to see my parents in Resteröd which was covered in snow (the picture above).
- Took a day in London to meet with Apple, and did an interview for a book which just came out – Mad Men of Mobile.
- Wrote a blog post about solving the right problem with your startup.
- Did an initial plan for the Toca Boca organization together with Emil. The plan was to grow! And we did.
Ida bowling in style.
- Started the month by going bowling with my three favorite girls. One of them, Ida, had her birthday (pictured above).
- Finished the final cohort of Bonnier Duke Program, an executive training program that I was a part of. I had hoped that education had gotten further in terms of methodology, but I learned a lot from the others in the group.
- Flew to New York to visit Toy Fair and speak at Digital Kids Conference. Went with Jonas to the Spinmaster party and wondered when Toca Boca would host the equivalent thing.
- Saw my first NBA game! About 20 years too late. Brooklyn Nets vs San Antonio Spurs, in a very impressive Barclay’s Arena.
- Toca Boca was featured in a TV commercial from Apple. Very proud!
- Was interviewed by Alexandra Lange who saw Toca Boca they way we intended it, which is very rare. Her story was published in The New Yorker and is definitely one of the best articles written about us ever.
- Toca Boca was on Fox News under the topic “Nerd Alert”.
- Flew to Toronto and settled the terms for acquiring the Tickle Tap Apps and the whole team from Zinc Roe. Somewhat surreal to sit in a big lawyer’s office going back and forth between meeting rooms while negotiations. My first acquisition ever! And a great team to have as colleagues. We announced the deal officially a few weeks later.
- A discouraging discussion about the future of media led to a blog post about calling it quits sometimes.
- Discovered Hot Cheetos & Takis a long time after everyone else.
- Went snowboarding in Tahoe with Moa and Fredrik as an accelerated friendship test of sorts. It turned out great! But they moved back to Sweden later in the year and I still miss them a lot.
Gangnam Style – the business model, in Seoul.
- Listened more and more to podcasts. A quote from the Värvet interview with Carin Rodebjer really stuck with me – “I don’t want to wait with my dreams”
- Just as I had come back from Sweden, Miriam left for the same place. The beginning of this year was tough on timing.
- Flew to Seoul to meet with Samsung. The office I visited had 35 000 employees in it. A fascinating experience and one that I wished I had shared with someone. Met with Ingela and had tea on a roof top before flying home.
- Wrote about why I thought Foursquare should be asymmetric.
- Invested in trying to make our apartment a little nicer, and we bought a red Knoll Womb Chair which is fantastic to sit and read in. Also bought two lovely interior pieces from Zaha Hadid that I am very fond of.
- I wrote a blog post about how I learned about business people.
- Flew back to Toronto for a new workshop session on strategy and branding. We decided to go with Sago Sago, and as a start – Sago Mini.
- A very proud day when Toca Boca was a part of The Atlantic’s cover story on children and technology. The article changed the conversation in a more positive and constructive manner.
- Finished the month with a long workshop in San Francisco with Emil and Jonas. This was the meeting where the foundation for Toca Boca making apparel was laid down. It took a few months longer to actually get things up and running though.
Västra hamnen in Malmö.
- Flew back to Stockholm and had an amazing moving-in party for the new office! Complete with bouncy castle, ice cream bar and helium balloons. I took the American team to Pubologi for one for the better meals of the year.
- Listened to yet another pitch for a kids concept which had an utterly insane valuation. Passed.
- Wrote a blog post about creating alumni in a company.
- Listened over and over to Retrograde by James Blake.
- Went to Malmö on the way home to San Francisco (the new SAS SFO-CPH route makes a big difference) and stayed with Martin and Emma. Great, as always.
- Back in San Francisco, I had a nine hour negotiation meeting which I will never forget. We pretty much went through the whole rhetoric book.
- Wrote a blog post about iPads not being alchemy for education, on Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s blog.
- Spent a weekend in LA visiting Magnus and Vesna in Hollywood Hills. Magnus told some memorable stories about past girlfriends.
- Toca Boca was named as one of Sweden’s 24 hottest entrepreneurial companies in Veckans Affärer!
- Biggest event of the month was that my new colleague Caroline moved to the US and started working full time. I had waited a while for her to finish her previous job, and having her in place was instantly fantastic. Just what we needed.
- Had my 32nd birthday and went for brunch at Bar Agricole with Megan and Miriam. It became an instant favorite after that.
The view from my office window in San Francisco.
- Overall a pretty intense month with a lot of work. Not a lot to report really.
- Spoke at Mamabear Conference about doing your homework before starting a company. A surprising amount of companies in our adjacent space that I had never heard of.
- Wrote an article for Mindshift with Michael Levine from Joan Ganz Cooney Center
- Rebranded the Tickle Tap Apps to Sago Mini, and relaunched. Increased the downloads from several years in two months, by hundreds of percent.
- Signed up for a new SF office with Toca Boca and started to get to know Midmarket and Tenderloin.
- Went to Dust or Magic Appcamp and presented a few lessons learned from Toca Boca so far.
- Wrote a blog post about how being a CEO and a founder as a halo effect in Silicon Valley, but that it is a pretty bad indicator of who I am as a person.
- Saw Björk play a fantastic concert in Richmond.
- Ended by launching Toca Boca on Google Play. Still not a lot of paying customers there, though.
Mega Man, made by me in Toca Builders
- Got a short mention in the Financial Times, which I think is a first for me.
- WWDC in San Francisco and I was in the audience for the Keynote. A new category for kids was presented which was a big deal to me. Got greedy and hoped that we would win an Apple Design Award too, but unfortunately we didn’t.
- During WWDC I did my first interview with multiple journalists at the same time. Spoke with about eight Korean journalists and tried to be coherent. This was one of the articles.
- Met the Swedish Minister of Trade, Ewa Björling, at Stanford together with Mårten Mickos and Stina Ehrenstråhle. She wanted to know why Swedish companies came to Silicon Valley, so I gave her a short rant.
- Reached 40 million downloads with Toca Boca and The Guardian wrote about it.
- Toca Hair Salon 2 was Free App of the Week and hit #1 on iPad Free US. Toca Builders came out and was Editor’s Choice and #1 on iPad Paid US. Amazing.
- A big milestone when the Wall Street Journal visited the studio in Stockholm and wrote about our digital toys.
- Sorosh visited San Francisco which was both great fun and interesting.
- The Swedish news agency TT picked up Toca Boca’s first official fiscal year results. Revenue around 35MSEK with profit of 8,4MSEK. The figures were widely distributed in news outlets in Sweden. I am exceptionally proud of these results since this it is the only real proof that we could deliver what we said that we would.
- Flew to Seattle over the day to meet with Amazon. Had never been there before.
- The NSA story broke while Miriam and I was in Palo Alto. She covered it from a coffee shop as the first journalist in Sweden, and I felt a bit of the same pulse that I used to have in the newsroom.
- Spent midsummer with Swedish expats at a rented house in Russian River. A beautiful weekend.
- Was quoted in an article about Swedes in Silicon Valley.
- Finished the month by writing a blog post about every curve in a startup not looking like a hockeystick. One of the posts I’m most happy about.
An etching that my dad did of me when I was young.
- Holiday! Went to Mexico for the first time but realized that Cabo is like Gran Canaria for Californians. I’ll have to go back and explore the rest.
- Read a fantastic book about Lego and how they almost innovated themselves into bankruptcy. It came to influence me a lot during the rest of the year. I had seen the author speak at SXSW two years ago and had waited for the book ever since.
- Went to Sweden to visit family and friends. Sunshine, dinners and laughs.
- Spent a lot of time in wine stores photographing the packaging and design. Started to develop an idea for another way of selling wine as a little summer project. I’m still thinking about it! Maybe I’ll get back to that during next year.
- Visited Jonas and Alicia’s summer cottage which made me inspired to get one of my own. But where? And when would I go? Not sure yet.
- Went to one of my favorite and most low-key restaurants in Stockholm, Svinet, with Fredrik and Miriam. One of those long, lovely Stockholm nights.
- Flew straight from Sweden to Japan to do research for a week. By going home to SF I did my first round-the-world trip! Albeit a slow one.
- Ranted about banks being awful, again. Starting a new bank is still on the list.
- Tokyo was exceptionally humid and hot, and I was running around in a suit sweating. Apart from that it was amazing and I got to interview loads of really interesting people. I was there to learn more about how Japanese parents view apps for kids. Super interesting and my favorite kind of project. I think I did 12 interviews in three days.
- Loved the new Lady Gaga song “Applause".
- Starting a recruitment process which… is unfortunately still going. Hiring is tricky and I’ve learned that I should be doing it all the time.
- Naspers, my favorite media company, got a nice article in Bloomberg that said that their stock price had increased 30x since 2003.
- Thought I had an epiphany about work, but then changed my mind.
- Sweden again, and I went to the annual Bonnier GRID conference which was great. My colleague Molly was a star when she presented LunchBeat. Kees Moeliker did the strangest talk I have ever seen.
- Another busy month with loads of meetings and long days. Budgets, forecasts and things. Many calls back and forth to Stockholm to try to manage a growing company. I’ve said it before, but this is the most difficult job I’ve ever had.
- Had reason to revisit my old UGL course about group development. Wrote my first (and only) blog post on Svbtle, about how scaling is a matter of trust.
From our booth at Sweden Kids Week in Tokyo.
- San Francisco’s high salaries (and rent) was the talk of the town to an increasing degree. Bubbly.
- We applied for a Green Card somewhere around here too. Or did the final part of the application anyway. Biometrics!
- Went to Berlin for a few days to meet with the Bonnier Management Team. Spent the evening with Olof which I was happy to see again.
- Supercell sold half their company for $1,5bn which blew my mind.
- Saw First Aid Kit in Big Sur with Miriam, Caroline and Gustav. Magical setting.
- We became Startup of the Week in Wired UK.
- Went to the Apple event at Yerba Buena and got a little scared and excited when their PR person said that she would “let me know if they needed me”. Nothing came of it other then me being late for my flight to Tokyo. Made it with one (1!) minute to spare before it closed.
- Flew back to Japan to attend Swedish Kids Week in Tokyo with Jonas – an event at the Swedish Embassy. This was the first real event we had ever done with Toca Boca, and it was quite an experience. The Japanese kids got it straight away, but the parents needed some explanation. We realized that our booth was a little empty so we bought some vegetables and put Toca Mini-stickers on them (see above).
- Ate pig colon with Jonas without knowing it. Chewy.
- Was proud of my friend Tina who asked clever questions to Obama while he visited Sweden.
6th street, seen from our office.
- Martin and Emma came to San Francisco and were the best possible house guests. The kind where you don’t want them to leave.
- My colleague JP rapped the 10 Kids App Commandments!
- Wrote another blog post for Joan Ganz Cooney Center about the thinking behind Toca Builders.
- The Toca Boca Brand Team came over to visit which meant a lot of fun dinners and drinks.
- Spoke at the Warm Gun conference about design choices that we have made. Emphasized our take on making unisex toys and avoiding gender stereotypes, and got my first spontaneous applause in the middle of a talk. Heartwarming. Also got a compliment from Eric, the creator of I can haz Cheezburger!
- Continued to develop the future and vision for Toca Boca. Clarified our values and where we are going. This is going to be fun to work with during next year.
- Went to witness SF Batkid and was astounded by how these sorts of things bring out both the best and the worst of America.
- Met with Misha from Cut the Rope and he gave me a lot to think about. I love people that are clear in what they think.
- Interviewed in the Swedish IT24 about Toca Boca and reaching 50 million downloads.
- Sang karaoke and realized that I have seen almost no musicals what so ever. I have no intention of changing that fact.
- Had my first American Thanksgiving with a lovely dinner at Malin and Henric. Ate turkey.
- Released a pair of Toca Boca socks with Happy Socks.
- Started liking Grenache.
Caroline and me, at an app event.
- Had our first event in an Apple Store in San Francisco. Building with Toca Builders!
- Wrote about noticing a great manager, and how difficult it can be.
- Bought a lot of Christmas cards since this is one of the few traditions that I want to honor. Bad send-to-receive ratio.
- I was named Sweden’s 7th super talent on a new list. These lists are what they are, but it was flattering of course.
- Went to New York which was cold, but great. Met loads of great people as always. Followed up my going to Toronto to have Christmas lunch with Sago Mini (and give them some Christmas presents too).
- Met with Eric from All Things D who interviewed me just before they closed down the site and moved on.
- Went to Frances with Jacob and Maria, for one of the best meals in a long time.
- Had a moment with Miriam that I will always remember.
- Released the Toca Boca Block Party Collection – our first real apparel line.
- Remembered that it was four years since we posted the Mag+ video. Pre-iPad. And since then everything has changed.
- Ended the year in Argentina where I spent Christmas visiting Miriam’s family. New Years Eve will be in Buenos Aires.
Thank you to everyone that made this year great. See you next year!