Andreas Hassellof

CEO of Ombori

Andreas Hassellof is the Founder and CEO of Ombori, the creators of the Ombori Grid – a platform to power digital experiences in physical spaces. The Ombori Grid brings the power and flexibility of online technologies into the physical world, allowing organizations to create smart stores, smart cities, and smart spaces. Ombori specializes in customer management systems, elevating modern customer experiences.

International in his outlook, entrepreneur Andreas Hassellof is in the vanguard of a new generation of Swedish technology entrepreneurs. Stockholm-based Ombori, with locations in five countries, is servicing Fortune 500 clients around the world. Notably, Andreas Hassellof’s Ombori has partnered with such global enterprises as IKEA, H&M, and Radisson Blu to elevate customer experiences.

Ombori has emerged from nearly 20 years of Hassellof’s intense curiosity and his entrepreneurial desire to build a technology company that allows organizations to easily leverage technology to improve the daily lives of their customers.

At its heart, Ombori has been striving to build a culture based on shared innovation and collaboration. Andreas remains passionate about helping others to realize their potential and enjoys seeing what they can achieve with the right motivation. Ombori is working to build and maintain lasting relationships with its clients, with the objective of delivering exemplary technology solutions that are easy to use and cost-effective for the customer.

Where did the idea for Ombori come from?

Far too many companies have simply been unable to meet customer expectations in a timely and cost-effective manner, unable to keep up with the pace of tech companies. Despite throwing vast resources at many significant and complex challenges, they have struggled to capture the evolving essence of a memorable customer experience in a swift and innovative manner. It has been the bane of the tech industry, leading to massive reputational damage to both tech firms and customers. Ombori was born with a simple mission: to make it easy for organizations to quickly leverage new technology to improve the daily lives of their customers. Focusing on revolutionizing and evolving the customer experience, Ombori aims to add new elements to a traditional retail experience.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I get up early before my family wakes up. This gives me some clear space and quiet time before the day gets going. To start the day, I have a mug of strong-brew Swedish coffee and I plan my tasks to be completed during the day, which includes taking my daughter to school. As an entrepreneur in the fast-paced tech industry, I find it necessary to be aware of changes, trends, and innovations within the space. Thus, I try to find dedicated time to reading industry-relevant news.

The rest of my day is spent in video meetings, coaching our team, meeting with customers and partners, diving into tech sessions with the coders. There is limited ‘decompression time’ to process new ideas or issues between each meeting, which is why a structured to-do list is crucial for me to use my time efficiently. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the daily lives of all people, including my team, but we maintain a commitment to Ombori’s mission statement and work together to remain productive, positive, and always looking forward.

I try not to eat at my screen and aim to get away for some fresh air and family time. That has to be protected when you are very busy.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We’re fortunate enough to have a constant interchange of new ideas – originating from our awesome Ombori team, feedback from our great customers, and from my own experiences. We pride ourselves on how quickly we can turn the best ideas into reality, working closely with our design and tech teams on a daily basis to bring ideas to life.

I’ve usually got some Moonshot ideas itching in the back of my head and I try to find time to test them out to see if they have any merit. If I get a couple of hours to myself over the weekend, you will most likely find me coding to validate one of those ideas. These ideas don’t always work out long-term, but they keep me focusing on what’s possible, what’s next, and keep the spirit of entrepreneurship alive.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The digitalization of physical spaces and the everyday human environment where we interact with others is a particular area of interest for me. Our expectations of super-smooth customer journeys and ease of use from the online world are now defining our expectations of all interactions with brands and businesses – even in the physical world. This synchronicity between digital and physical spaces simply didn’t exist years ago and is moving at a rapid pace, as individuals and businesses leverage the power of technology. I’m personally excited to be a part of such new frontiers and professionally exhilarated to play a role in evolving the customer experience.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

The silent time of reflection and planning in the morning is essential for me. It helps me focus throughout the week and be as efficient as possible. I’ve maintained this discipline for the past 13 years and I attribute a lot of my success to this. Being able to devote time to purposeful planning and organization is key to accomplishing the day-to-day tasks that ultimately create success and forward movement. Productivity is equally as important when managing daily tasks as it is when putting out those proverbial fires. Thus, it is important to be able to succinctly manage both on a long-term basis. This would be impossible without purposeful reflection and planning.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself to pay more attention to people and less to technology. My younger self lived with a belief that the best product would always win. However, without people, there will be no great product. Even though having a great product is crucial, it will still be worthless without proper distribution, marketing and sales. To put that into practice, you need people with a diverse range of skills, not simply technical skills.
Every business has a vast human element to it, even if the business centers around technology. This human element cannot be replicated and is at the heart of every successful business. By surrounding yourself, and your business, with talented individuals who are equally as enthused about your product or service, you can breathe life into the business.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The more common a belief is, the less likely it is to be true.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

While I am always open to new ideas, there is always more value in the execution of that idea. While many people may have great ideas, they may not be able to follow through on those ideas, rendering those potential products or services useless without successful execution. What you do matters less than how you do it. So, if you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t worry so much about which idea is the best or most unique. Pick one and make sure you do it really, really well.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Give proper credit and recognition for innovation where it is due. Early in my career, we frequently worked as sub-contractors to larger firms. We were the hidden heroes. The firms did everything they could to promote their own brand and hide their partners. This can be very frustrating when you wish to “make it” as an entrepreneur, and when you want to proudly highlight your product or service.

At Ombori, we are taking a fairer approach, striving to give credit to the right people. It means our partners work in true collaboration with us, from individual contributors to large conglomerates. This also reflects back on us, as they tend to return the favor. This is an example of when one plus one equals three. Together, we can all grow, and create the symbiotic relationships that will propel the industry further than if we act alone.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One of my early start-ups went bust. I made more elementary mistakes than I can count and ended up deeply in debt. At first, I tried to work even harder to resolve the situation, but I was simply going nowhere. The turning point came when I stopped working and spent several months just planning and plotting a path to get back to zero.

Once the plan was created, I went into “sleeves-rolled-up” mode for the next two years and successfully repaid the debts. It was important to me to be able to repay these debts and to wipe the slates clean prior to “starting over”. I learned a lot during those two years, which has held me in good stead for the rest of my career.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Find a reputable company that makes a lot of money, ask yourself why it is so successful, then study it. Then do what they do; just do it better. There is always room for advancement, improvement, and evolution. By recognizing what it is that makes leading entities successful, entrepreneurs can find ways to maximize untapped potential, streamline the status quo, and grow a niche industry. A lot of people avoid starting businesses because they believe they need the world’s best idea before they start, which is false. Thus, “copying” or improving upon an already existing company or idea is a great way to get started – as long as you execute well. If you are going to be able to be better, put in all of the hours required, and really nail the execution. You need to LOVE what you do. Thus, you should pick something you’re really passionate about. It’s really hard to succeed without passion.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Though they were a little more than $100, I recently purchased new noise-canceling headphones. They increase the sense of quietness, allowing me to stay productive in my home office. This has been a great investment and a wonderful way to combat some of the continuously emerging work-day changes created by the pandemic.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Microsoft To-Do is currently my favorite piece of utility software. I love how it brings together my to-do-items with emails marked for follow-up and shared lists with colleagues. As I’ve mentioned previously, organization and time management are crucial factors for success and having modern, streamlined tools that aid in this pursuit is incredibly helpful.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen. Though I’m not sure if this book is still considered “in fashion”, it was transformative for me. I don’t follow it religiously, but my daily routines draw a lot of inspiration from GTD. Clearly separating time spent for reflection, planning, and execution is key for me to stay productive.

What is your favorite quote?

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~ Bruce Lee

Key Learnings:

  • People are more important than technology and the foundation of any business. To achieve great results, an exceptional team, openness, and collaboration are key.
  • Even the best idea is worthless without great execution, so how well you do something is more important than what you do.
  • Planning, reflection, and execution are completely different mind-states. By clearly separating them, I find that it’s easier to be productive.