According to some, Danish entrepreneur Stefan Jørgensen and self-styled “Viking” is “sort of a celebrity” in the Berlin startup scene and the company he started in 2011, itembase — spelled intentionally with a lowercase “i” — is one of Berlin’s largest startups. itembase, a Graduate of the Berlin Founder Institute, is a company that makes use of data surrounding e-commerce purchases to better serve customers and retailers. In just a few short years, itembase has raised over $3 million (including an investment from UPS), has opened offices in several cities around the U.S., and has received considerable press. Obviously, Stefan's viking mentality has been an asset to itembase's success.
The true birth of this company came about when Jørgensen, who, like pretty much everyone these days, saw consumer electronics pile up around his apartment.
With old cell phones under his bed, he realized there was an opportunity to better help consumers like him.
I founded itembase because the retail and e-tail post-purchase world is inherently broken and unstructured. This leaves room for great improvements for consumers in the way that they interact with the products they buy.”
Itembase brings order and innovation to this post-purchase world. CFO Niels Boon explains to EntrepreneurCountry Global that for consumers, itembase functions automatically to “track your purchases for you, including a link back to where you bought it, the purchase price, a warranty countdown, manuals, and the current resale value.” Retailers can offer itembase accounts to their consumers, and they can also get tools to help them become more competitive In this way, itembase is able to mobilize small retailers to stand a chance against larger more established sellers like Amazon.
Jørgensen graduated from the Founder Institute Berlin chapter in February of 2011, having founded itembase just a few months earlier. Since then they've launched different features and have connected to tens of thousands of online shops. By the end of 2013, the company had tracked approximately 1.5 billion dollars in gross merchandise. Along the way, the company expanded to the US, opening a headquarters in San Francisco.
Over the years, they’ve received major funding to boast of. In 2013, they announced 3.5 million dollars in funding, coming from German investment groups Gründerfonds, Rheingau Founders and German Startups Group Berlin AG, as well as from seed funds WestTech Ventures, HR Alpha and other angel investors. More recently, the won an investment from the investment arm of UPS.
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While Viking will and determination may have played a role in Jørgensen’s success, he also employed successful strategies.
When Jørgensen came to Berlin in 2011, he started hosting dinner parties immediately, attended every startup event he could find, and enrolled at the Founder Institute. In San Francisco, Jørgensen quickly took in the Bay Area’s unique environment for startups — one in which everyone is interested in talking about their business and talking about other people’s businesses all the time.
Itembase was not Jørgensen’s first business. Having already founded and contributed a number of companies — his first, at age 19, while he was in law school, — Jørgensen has earned serial entrepreneur status. In his work, e-commerce is definitely an important theme. Some of his previous companies include Shopman, an e-commerce intermediary that helped consumers buy electronics abroad, Value Transfer, a money-wiring company for e-commerce purchasing, and Value Shop, a shop selling consumer electronics, primarily in Scandinavia.
Jørgensen was in effect building to the creation of itembase for quite some time, explaining that,
This e-commerce challenge gives me an opportunity to combine and leverage all the experience from my former companies.”
Forming itembase, Jørgensen drew on his knowledge of e-commerce and also his insight to and ongoing interest in good customer service. Jørgensen is so compelled to understand how to serve customers that he hosts a Meetup.com group called “Make Customers Happy," explaining in the groups description that he “started this group to understand how to turn every step of the purchase process around by asking one simple question: ‘Does this make the customer happy?’”
His presence in the internet climate around creating successful businesses is palpable. He writes articles in which he taps into his lawyer skills to deliver short, clear principles of good business practice, and regularly speaks at numerous conferences and events around the world. In fact, his presence in the e-commerce and global startup scene is so strong that he and itembase are often listed on top influencer and expert lists and articles, like Prisnyc’s “Top 61 E-commerce Influencers To Follow” and Mladi Podjetnik’s “Danski viking: kako biti prvi pri spletni prodaji”.
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Image by Shopper's Mind