Innovators: Inge Andre Sandvik, CEO of Soundrop

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Innovators. They come in many forms. They dream big but they aren’t just dreamers. They form raw ideas into cool products with disruptive business models. They shatter entire industries and leave established leviathans running scared with their tails between their legs. The Innovators interview series connects you with the most driven people on the planet. What makes them tick? What advice do they have for tech founders? What tools do they use to get the job done? Read on to find out.

Inge Andre Sandvik is the CEO and co-founder of Soundrop. A serial entrepreneur, Inge creates award-winning products that people love to use. One of his first creations, 1881 Mobilsøk, became one of the most popular mobile services in Norway and was subsequently bought by Telenor. His SMS Preview app was named a top app in the Nokia Ovi Store and received more than four million downloads. More recently, Numo Finder, a mobile directory service, won the GSMA mobile innovation award and was named by Red Herring as one of their 100 promising technology companies.

Inge’s most recent 9-to-5 job was at Opera Software for whom he built the Opera Mobile Store which generates 30 million app downloads every month. When not busy making new things, Inge has worked in a variety of positions for Compaq, Oracle, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Telenor.

What do you enjoy most about your work and why?

I am a big fan of Dan Pink’s book “Drive” where he talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose as the important motivation factors in life. Being able to choose who to work with and be able to together with them decide on witch problems to solve and get the amazing feeling of seeing how this affects people in a positive way is the biggest enjoyment that is possible to get.

Where does your passion come from? What drives you, inspires you, excites you?

The true passion comes from wanting to solve problems and the great enjoyment of seeing that great team work is able to make an impact. Nature shows us every day that the natural way of how things should evolve is through many small changes and iterations. Planning for big changes to happen at once is therefore by nature not sustainable and will not work in the long run. I believe a long term direction is important, but its not a linear path. You have to plan like sailing and expect to cross against the wind many times before you reach your destination.

The most exiting thing I can ever imagine is when you have an idea and you pitch it to the team and they see it from a different direction and suddenly they see the missing parts and the picture becomes clearer and clearer.

Someone reading this wants to start a tech company. What’s your best advice for them?

I have started 3 companies that have gotten VC funding. They say that 2-3 out of 500 companies that goes through this funnel process with a VC get funding. The interesting question is then to ask “why” do the companies that get funding, get funding. If you analyze these companies you will often see that they have a business model or product that is very scalable and that they really solve problems. A company also needs to have a story to tell. This story is what many call the “Vision.” If you do not have a story that you can convince and excite others with, it will eventually become really difficult to keep on the path to the direction that you have.

Other very important advice is to team up with people that are better than you and that really makes 1+1= more than 2. I have met a lot of people that have great ideas. If they had great people that could help them then the innovation in this world will explode. The mystery is then why do the people with great ideas not always find those other people that can help them? The answer is often that many people are afraid to give to get. If you are going to be a successful product or company builder, you must also be a great sharer. You need to think that you need to help others so they can help you. Not the other way around.

Also, when doing agreements. Always make deals and agreements that are long term focused and that you know will make the cake become bigger. No need to own the biggest part of the cake if the cake is worth nothing.

What are a few tech startups that you’re really excited about right now and why?

Startups that have a great story and you can really see that they are not artificially engineered or a result of that they have been out-maneuvered on their own excites me a lot. It does not necessary need to be a start-up, but its when you see a company has made the effort to really think through why they wanted to build the product and that it fits in a story that is bigger than the product itself. Its better to solve one thing really well instead of solving a lot of things half-way. That is why the kitchen contains very specialized utensils and tools that are really good at what they do and not one big machine that does everything 🙂

What tech tools (websites, apps, gadgets, etc.) do you rely on both for work and in your down time?

I have worked for Fortune 500 companies and I learned how important it is to have tools in place to support being able to scale. I have a simple theory of always using tools that enable the team and the process to scale. Nothing beats web-based collaboration tools, but we have to admit that the web standards are simply not good enough yet to support the work style that most people expect when it comes to speed and availability.

I can however share that we are using Basecamp by 37signals, Google Apps, Box, MindJet/MindManager, Visio and the team is packed with all the needed Apple products and Android devices.

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