The Formula that Lead to Gelato’s Success

In 2006, Henrik Müller-Hansen left his job as CEO of Tele2 Norway. A few weeks later a magazine captured his interest, and became the foundation for his startup-success, Gelato.

Thirteen years ago, Müller-Hansen had a multi-million kroner salary and was the CEO at Tele2 Norway. But the company became too big and too political so he chose to leave. At that point, he didn’t know what to do.

“I brought the family and a bunch of magazines to Portugal where I read for two weeks,” he said.

It was during his family holiday in Portugal when he read a magazine headline that changed his life, “Printing for peanuts: making the world's highest profit margins.” Shortly after, the Norwegian startup success known as Gelato was born.

"I started reading more about printing and it turned out to be very interesting. The printing industry is gigantic, and actually 50 times bigger than the music industry.”

The print magazine became the starting point for Müller-Hansen’s startup success.

By using a cloud-based software, Gelato started out by building a solution that enable dfamilies to order greeting cards in a fast and easy way. Next, Müller-Hansen’s and the team transformed the company into a platform company, and built a solution to help global companies manage their brand in a more efficient and sustainable way.

This transition was much more complex than you can imagine. Everything from setting up legal entities in countries as China, Brazil, India, to rebuilding the platform to cater for local data storage in China and Russia through partnerships with companies such as Aliyun, the Alibaba cloud, preparing for GDRP, and most importantly, building a completely new management team and organizational structure.

In 2017,  Gelato had a turnover of 354 million NOK without owning a single printing machine. 

“Everyone thinks printers are no longer needed, but that's a big collective lie. To stop printing is like no longer using toilet paper.”

On April 4th, 2019, Henrik Müller-Hansen will be one of the speakers for Oslo Business Forum's conference, Digital Leadership. 

Looking for investors? Here is what you should do...

Shortly after returning from his family holiday, he and his wife put all they had into the company. They sold everything they owned and used spared funds to form Gelato. He was under a lot of pressure. “It went so far that when my wife bought a coffee latte, I accused her of being financially irresponsible.”

That's when he realized he needed investors to keep Gelato going. In 2010, he found the right investors who ended up contributing with much more than just money. He believes that many entrepreneurs find it difficult to ask for help from investors.

“You want complementary resources to join you on the journey. What I mean by this, is when you gain capital from investors, you also get intellectual capital in the company. When you get on an investor, it's important to ensure that they complement you in the areas you lack knowledge.”

Reducing transportation needs by 90%

After investors came to Gelato, many issues were solved. This gave him room to work with the startup company and focus on building what he set out to create.

"We built a software that connects to printers, that we do not own, all over the world. For example, Lufthansa Cargo can use our global network when they roll out a new international campaign. That way, they can print and distribute locally.”

According to Müller-Hansen, the transport sector represents more than 20% of all carbon emissions globally. When Gelato is cooperating with other companies, for example, Hydro Extruded Solutions, which has implemented the software in their value chain, they communicate a common ambition.

“It's about reducing the overall print volume by 50 percent and the need of transportation by 90 percent on a two-year perspective.”


Why Norway is a good place for startups

What was it like to establish business in Norway? According to Müller-Hansen, the infrastructure in Norway is superior to many other countries that Gelato operates in.

“The infrastructure you have access to as a startup in Norway is completely unique: Technology, transportation, taxes and laws. I know what I’m talking about since we operate in 30 countries and deliver to more than 100 countries. When we compare how long it takes to establish a company in Norway with any other market, I believe the infrastructure in Norway represents a great platform for creating a global company.” 

Four tips for scaling your business

Creating a successful international company from the ground up does not come without some lessons learned. Here are his four tips for those who want to go global:

1. You must be passionate about your customers

You exist because there is a customer at the other end who will benefit from what you deliver, and will live a better and more efficient life because of your existence.”

2. Create revenue

Send your products out into the world and to the customers. It's as they say, "Perfect is the enemy of good."

3. Think long-term

People will misunderstand you but you must have stamina and believe in what you create. You may fail, but you have a passion and a belief in what you are building and the energy needed to create it. 

4. Think big

If you do not dream of something, you can not build it.