There are only few, who can go from 10th grade to MBA at Henley Business School, buying and selling companies, and associate your company with Lars Seier Christensen and Casper Christiensen by the age of 27. Mathematically it is a complex equation, which can take the breath away of nearly everybody, but the intermediate result can be found in Mathias Lundø Nielsen. One of the biggest eCommerce talents in Denmark, who has bet everything on one card with his new project.
Start early and learn from it
There are probably only a few people who are familiar with the name Mathias Lundø Nielsen - but they will soon get to know the name. Mathias has for long time been well known in entrepreneurial circles, both nationally and internationally, where he at the age of 17 started his first company. He was still too young to be a founder, therefor Pimpit.dk was founded by his father's Holding company. Already with the first company Mathias were visionary:
» The webshop Pimpit.dk was selling menswear, where I actually went out and did an online system which integrated the webshop with physical stores. In fact, just as Miinto practice today, but I did it three years before them. So I photographed the clothes in physical stores, slammed it online, sold it and sent orders to the stores, who packaged it and sent it out. One year after I sold it to Drop Dead in Copenhagen, which continued this system.
The start-up and the sale of Pimpit.dk was the beginning of a variety of startups for the young Mathias, where he in the beginning focused on the apparel and fashion business, including the start-up of HardCasa followed by the acquisition of Danish Street Fashion. One might think that the clothing industry were the driving force behind all these startsups, but the choice of industry was due to the fact that Mathias here felt he might have more chance of being taken seriously due to his young age than in other industries. The actual driving force was eCommerce.
From 10th grade to MBA at Henley Business School
Parallel with all the startups Mathias decided, at the age of 22, to get a strengthen his CV, in addition to the many experiences he had already acquired through his businesses. He therefor decided to take an MBA, but there were some hurdles and the unofficial refusal probably should be found in his young age.
» I actually applied 2 times, but was refused due the Admission criteria. When I turned 23, I had been CEO for 5 years, I had leadership experience, a proven track record and various recommendations from people higher up than I was. I applied again and due my young age they sent me to an IQ test. The goal was to ensure that all those who took the education had a certain level of knowledge. After all the cost of the education was 500,000 kr. I passed and got into the most accredited MBA education in Scandinavia. Actually, I was the youngest ever in Scandinavia and educationally I only had a 10th grade as experience. It was a big step.
The start of something new - Nustay.com
After several years in the clothing industry with young smart guys as his target group it was time for Mathias to try something else and fulfill his ambitions.
» I simply did not fell that HardCasa could be big enough and it was too dependent on a large stock. I personally also lost a lot of money, which I, however, tied with the sale of the company. I decided that something new should happen and I wanted to find something that could be scaled at a higher level where I could see the potential for growth. In addition, I would like to use the skills I had in eCommerce, strategy, negotiation and networking.
Based on this choice Mathias decided to something else and in 2014 he started the company Nustay.com. Nustay is an online service which is using big data, advanced algorithms and data from social media to match consumers with hotels according to their preferences. In the initial phase of the project he focused on a “get 3 offers” concept á la Autobutler, but this has since changed to that which Nustay is today. A concept which are widely believed to disrupt the hotel industry as we know it today.
» The Nustay concept was carefully chosen because this could be exceptionally big. We have not yet launched a concept, but it is already valued at a high two digit million amount. So far we have already raised DKK 15 million in capital. This could never have happen within the clothing industry. The hotel / travel industry is huge and for example Expedia, which is not really the largest in the industry, have a market capitalization of $ 17.5 billion on the stock market. The same goes for other players as TripAdvisor, Trivago and so on. So there is a huge potential.
Lars Seier and Casper Christensen became the new playmates
Along with two investors in his back and with a brand new concept Mathias begins to create further awareness of his company and himself. Especially his ability to network and think strategically means he earlier this year got himself a few notable new playmates added to Nustay. Previously Saxo Bank CEO, Lars Seier Christensen and comedian Casper Christensen both joined Nustay. Casper Christensen as frontman and Lars Seier as advisor, networker and money man. The fact it was not a coincidence that it was Lars Seier who was entered as an investor in Nustay. Mathias had strategic considerations about the startup of Nustay and had chosen Lars Seier as one of the right people for his business. The additions of the new playmates did not go unnoticed:
» When we announced that Lars and Casper became part of Nustay.com were there many a lot of people who signed up on our website. In fact, 1.1% of the Danish population over 18 years signed up. Then we actually had to switch to a Beta version for a while, the system was not designed to take the enormous interest. It was simply too slow. But we are now ready and in September, we start with online marketing and in December you will see the TV ads.
Mathias is sure that entrepreneurship is a part of his DNA and he has never really been looking for anything else. Since he was a young boy, he had the desire to create something on his own, and why spend energy on someone else's dream, when you can live it yourself?
» I have an exceptional drive and there is nothing in the world that can stop me - and I have actually always been my own master. I would have difficulty in suddenly having to report to other people – that is my nature. My willingness to take risks is probably different than many others, I'm not afraid to gamble. I always try to push it to the very limit of what I can do. My skills lie in that I think strategically, is good at negotiating and I am one of the very best to network at my age, which is one of the reasons why I had so much success in getting all these hotels to join the concept. I'm trying to sell them something that they simply do not dare to miss. It is really about giving them "an offer they can't refuse”.
Networking is the key to success
The key of Mathias' success must be found in the way he is networking. Often things are carefully planned, while in other cases it can be combined with pure luck and seizing the opportunity when it presents itself. Particularly, there was an event in Dubai, which gave him the opportunity to meet some of the greats in the luxury hotel industry.
» I moved to Dubai because I could see the potential there. I knew no one, but met a guy who had an extra room that I could rent and so I got a solid base. From there I began to network, where I on one occasion was invited to a cocktail party at a hotel called The Address. After the event we went to an after party on a yacht, where I talked to a banker for Jumeirah Hotels. I told him about the Nustay concept and he thought it to be so exciting, that he introduced me to the Management in Jumeirah Hotels. Out of nothing, I suddenly had a conversation with some of the largest in the industry. It's crazy what you can achieve such places through networking.
Mathias thinks that networking is an essential part of running a business, and in many ways he does not think that Denmark gives the same opportunities to succeed within high tech.
» In Denmark we do not have the environment and we have not really seen things happen before. We have had a few startups as Vivino, Skype and TrustPilot, but are they still in Denmark? No, they are not, because they found out that it is simply not possible. We cannot raise the necessary capital or work under that mindset here. Here are skilled investors, which has network to other countries, but besides that, Denmark has nothing to offer.
Besides the mentioned investors, a Georgian businessman, hotel owners etc., which are a part of the Nustay ownership group, they also have utilized a network including Magnus Kjøller. A man who has a slightly tarnished reputation in Denmark, but is known to be an expert and one of Scandinavia's best within affiliate marketing, which is a very important part of running an online business.
» If you have a great affiliate strategy it can be a total game changer. There are very few who can make this successful, but Magnus can do it and that's why he is very interesting for our business and network.
Your clothes reflects what you want to achieve
When you work in an industry with luxury hotels it requires a lot, not only expertise, but in particular also the way you are dressed. This is also something that Mathias is very aware of every day.
» Fashion means a lot to me - and when I'm out, you will see me in a cool suit, an expensive watch and some fine shoes. I 100 % believe that the clothes you are wearing reflect what you want to achieve in life. After I started working with luxury hotels, I quickly found out that every time I walked into a meeting, they looked at my watch as the first. It was the only one where they just could validate if you had control of your life. That meant that I had to go out to buy a rather pricey watch, because they looked every time. Therefor I have a Daytona Rose Gold to DKK 250,000, but it was also quite an investment when I bought it. I actually still think that it has helped to open some doors.
Besides the watch, there are other ways to stand out and Mathias also noticed some of the unique design and product features by Carlo A.
» I think it's great to see ties that does not look like everyone else. What separates Carlo A from others are the logo, but the reason why I chose the silk tie THOMAS, was because the logo was faded and it has a fresh color which I think is important. Eg. I hate young people who dress like they're 56 years old, I cannot handle it. Buy something that fits your age and here I think your tie is cool to the younger segment.
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More than just business
For Mathias life is not always about revenue and profit, but there are also other values like charity, volunteering and nonprofit organizations that have his interest. In general, he believes it is important to be able to put yourselves in the place of others and at the same time be able to listen to people, in order to adapt to their needs. An approach he use in Nustay, but these values are not something that comes from a strange place.
» My father owns Phoenix Design Aid A/S, which is one of Denmark's most ISO & CSR certified creative agencies. His company is specialized in providing work for UN organizations worldwide. I grew up in a family where social responsibility is part of our core values, and has proudly watched my father build PDA with these values and that is why I try to incorporate the same values.
THE SHARP 6
What are the ambitions for the future – where is Nustay in 5 years?
» In 5 years Nustay is either really big or it is closed, Mathias is laughing. No, in 5 years Nustay is a major global player in the industry, with minimum 10,000 hotels.
What is the next big project for you?
» It's to close a venture funding agreement in the end of Q1 2017 and move to the United States. Dubai is a temporary hub where I can build my network. Generally, I am where the need is. My personal life does not really matter. I do what is best for the company. I am almost 27 years old, but I still see myself as being young. If I do this right, I can at the age of 30 be in a situation that only a few have been in. Just think of the investors we already have and the projects have not even opened yet – there are a lot of opportunities here. That is also the reason why we have so many investors, they all contribute a lot to the project. It is far from random whom I take in. I generally, there have been many investors I refused, but I have chosen certain people, who either have some skills or network I want to add the company.
What is your best career advice?
» You have to work a lot with yourself. There are many who underestimate self-development.
Which limitation can there be in creating your own career?
» For an entrepreneur you can lose everything you own and have. I've tried it and it's certainly not funny.
Do you have a motto?
» “Is it nice to have or need to have?” Particularly as an entrepreneur, it is extremely important to ask yourself the question, and I can promise that your entire decision-making is changing completely.
What book is on your bedside table?
» The last book I read was "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. I actually read it because I had promised Lars (ed. Seier Christensen) to do so, smiles Mathias. Otherwise, I started to learn Spanish through an app which should teach me Spanish fluent in 3 months.
Blue book - Mathias Lundø Nielsen
Age: 27 years old
Civil status: Single
Education: MBA, Henley Business School
2014-2016: Founder & CEO - Nustay
2014-2015: Co-Organizer & Board Member – TEDx KEA
2014-2014: Business Development Director (Consultant) - SmartOSC
2013-2014: Managing Director & Partner – Danish Street Fashion
2009-2014: Managing Director & Partner - HardCasa
2011-2012: Managing Director & Partner - Skycity
2008-2009: Digital Project Manager (Consultant) – Phoenix Design Aid
2007-2008: Founder - Pimpit.dk, now dropdead.dk
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