Niklas Zennström

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Niklas Zennström
Niklas Zennström with Loic Le Meur emoting in the background.jpg
Niklas Zennström with Loic Le Meur in the background
Born (1966-02-16) 16 February 1966 (age 53)
Järfälla, Sweden
ResidenceLondon, England
Alma materUppsala University (BSc)
Royal Institute of Technology (MSc)
OccupationEntrepreneur and investor
Net worth~£1 billion (May 2017)[1]
Spouse(s)Catherine Zennström

Niklas Zennström (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈnɪklas ²sɛnːstrœm] (About this soundlisten); born 16 February 1966) is a Swedish billionaire entrepreneur best known for founding several high-profile online ventures with Janus Friis including Skype and Kazaa. More recently he founded the technology investment firm Atomico and has become a significant figurehead for entrepreneurs in the tech sector. Zennström is also the co-founder of the charity organization Zennström Philanthropies.


Zennström has dual degrees in Business Administration (BSc) from Uppsala University and Engineering Physics (MSc) from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, he spent his final year at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, US.


Zennström started his professional career in 1991 at the European telecom operator Tele2, he went on to serve in various business development roles including launching and being responsible for European Internet Service Provider business get2net and as CEO of the portal.

In 2000 Zennström and Janus Friis co-founded Kazaa, the peer-to-peer file sharing application. Niklas served as CEO and the program became the world's most downloaded Internet software in 2003. After lawsuits were filed by members of the music and motion picture industry in the USA, Kazaa was sold to Sharman Networks.

Zennström then founded and served as CEO at Joltid, a software company developing and marketing peer-to-peer solutions and traffic optimization technologies. Zennström also co-founded Altnet, the world's first secure peer-to-peer network promoting commercial content to consumers integrating promotion, distribution, and payment of digital content.

Zennström's most notable success to date is Skype, a telephony company based on peer-to-peer principles. In October 2005 Skype was acquired by eBay for €2.1 billion ($2.6 billion) plus the potential to earn further performance-based bonuses up to €1.2bn. Zennström was CEO from Skype's inception until September 2007. During that time, Skype became the global leader in Internet voice communications with more than 309m registered users within five years of launch. After the sale of Skype, Zennström went on in 2007 to launch Joost, an online video distribution service (where Zennström was co-chairman).

In 2009 Zennström was part of the investment consortium that bought Skype Technologies from eBay and re-joined the Skype board. Currently, Zennström runs Atomico. Based in London, the firm primarily invests in fast growing tech companies with the ability to transform their respective industries. Through Atomico they have invested in over 50 companies on four continents, including Supercell, Rovio,, Fon, Rdio, Fab, Klarna and Skype.

In May 2011 Skype was purchased by Microsoft for $8.5 billion. It is reported that Zennström and Friis made approximately $1bn between them from the sale.[2]

In November 2014 Zennström was inducted into SUP46's Swedish Startup Hall of Fame.[3]

Zennström is president of the European Tech Alliance (EUTA), a group of fast-growing tech companies that have all been built in Europe; the EUTA focusses on Europe's strength as a tech hub, and on its contribution to the European economy both in terms of driving investment and creating highly skilled jobs. The group uses their collective experience to feed into the push to strengthen Europe's digital economy.


Atomico is an international investment firm focused on the technology sector; the firm looks to invest in fast-growing technology companies that have innovative business models or are new enabling technologies. Headquartered in London with offices in Beijing, São Paulo, Tokyo and Istanbul, it has so far invested in more than 50 companies on four continents; some of the team’s current and previous investments include category leaders such as Supercell, Rovio, Jawbone, Fon, Fab, Klarna and Skype.


Together with his wife Catherine, he founded Zennström Philanthropies to direct their charitable giving in the fields of climate change, human rights and social entrepreneurship. Niklas is specifically engaged in combating climate change and improving the state of the Baltic Sea.[4]

Green Mentorship Award is an award created by Zennström Philanthropies to shine spotlight on the work being done by entrepreneurs in Sweden to tackle climate change and create a low carbon future; the winner receives personal mentoring from Niklas Zennström for one year.[4]

Personal interests[edit]

Zennström is a keen yachtsman and he has built and raced yachts in the TP 52 and the 72ft mini-maxi construction classes for inshore and offshore racing with consistently good results, his highly successful Rán II (Judel/Vrolijk 72ft design, 2009) won the Fastnet Race consecutively in 2009 and 2011. She also won in her class in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 2009, and tried again in 2010, she won the 72ft Mini Maxi World Championship in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Zennström's smaller Rán IV (Judel/Vrolijk 52ft design, 2011) won the 2013 TP52 World Championships and also competes regularly in the 52 Super Series on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Both boats were replaced by Rán V (JV72, 2014) and Rán VI (JV52, 2015) to compete in the same circuits. In 2018 Zennström entered the racing circuit for the Fast40 class with Rán VII, a Shaun Carkeek design.

Honors and awards[edit]

Zennström was recognized by Time Magazine as one of its 100 Most Influential People in 2006, and has received numerous other awards for innovation and entrepreneurship.

In 2006, he was voted Entrepreneur of the Year in the European Business Leaders Awards (EBLA).[5]

In October 2009, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, awarded Zennström the KTH Great Prize "for his outstanding entrepreneurial and technological skills".[6]

In September 2011, Zennström received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute.[7]

In February 2013, Zennström was awarded H. M; the King's Medal of 12th size with a bright blue ribbon for significant contributions to Swedish industry and society.[8]

In October 2013, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, IVA, awarded Zennström the Gold Medal for his “highly successful entrepreneurial achievements, creative innovation, high technical competence and outstanding leadership”.[9]


  • The Sunday Times (27 November 2005) [10]
  • Business Week (19 September 2005) [11]
  • The Guardian (14 July 2005) [12]
  • PCTechTalk (10 July 2005) [13]
  • BusinessWeek Online (30 May 2005) [14]
  • IDG News Service (16 March 2005) [15]
  • PC Pro (11 March 2005) [16]
  • TMCnet (2 March 2005) [17]
  • Engadget (8 November 2004) [18]
  • Pocket PC Thoughts (3 September 2004) [19]


  1. ^ "Rich List 2017: #132, £1.005 billion". The Sunday Times Magazine. 7 May 2017. p. 50.
  2. ^ Malik, Om (9 May 2011). "Why Microsoft Is Buying Skype for $8.5 Billion". Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Niklas Zennström inducted into SUP46's Swedish Startup Hall of Fame as the startup hub celebrated its first year - Swedish Startup Space". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Zennström Philanthropies".
  5. ^ Europe, CNBC (10 April 2007). "CNBC Europe Names the Top European Business Leaders for 2006".
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Internet Entrepreneur Niklas Zennström Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oxford Internet Institute — Oxford Internet Institute".
  8. ^ "Kungen delade ut medaljer - se film här - Sveriges Kungahus". Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Sidan kunde inte hittas".
  10. ^ [1] Archived 7 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 21 October 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Interview by Hamish Mackintosh (14 July 2005). "Talk time: Niklas Zennström | Technology | The Guardian". Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 October 2006. Retrieved 21 October 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 August 2006. Retrieved 21 October 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 21 October 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 6 November 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ Rich Tehrani (2 March 2005). "Skype Interview". Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  18. ^ "The Engadget Interview: Niklas Zennström". 8 November 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Windows Phone Thoughts: Talking Free, Wirelessly: Interview with Niklas Zennström, CEO of Skype Ltd". 3 September 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2017.

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