"Almost from one month to another, we changed from being a profitable business to closing our investments in the UK and USA"
Henrik Akselbo has always had ambition running through his veins. Although he defines himself as a “pessimistic entrepreneur”, he’s the CEO and Co-founder of the Nordic’s leading influencer network, Represented by Bloggers Delight.
But success is not a journey from A to B, and Henrik learned that early in his career.
Back in 2004, when he was 18 years old and still studying High School, he applied for a job as a photographer at DKBN (Denmark By Night) - one of the first successful social media channels in Denmark. Like Facebook, before Facebook.
He ended up being the company’s first employee as an Administrative Student Assistant - “I was basically the founder’s right hand”, he said.
Inspired by his boss, Henrik decided to start a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Language and Culture, at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). By that time, DKBN was the second largest website in Denmark, which determined the Board to launch it in London and in the USA.
His entrepreneur’s thrills calling, he made a deal with DKBN’s Board: to be responsible for the American subsidiary. Shortly after finishing his studies, at the age of 22, and with 25% shares of the American subsidiary, Henrik packed his suitcase and flew over to Miami Beach. Back in 2008, this was the first time he got a share in a company.
However, there are no highs without downs - and Henrik was soon to discover…
“About one year later, Facebook came to the scene, which meant that our users started to switch there instead. Basically, from one month to another, we were not profitable anymore. In the end, I came back to Denmark in 2009”.
Not long after he returned to the motherland, he came across an old acquaintance, Patrick, who had an inspiring vision Hernik certainly wanted to be part of. That same year, 2009, they launched Billetto. “Back then, the ticketing companies were kind of old-school, some of them were still even using fax correspondence - Instead, we came up with a smart self-service solution: you create an event online, sell tickets, and receive the money”.
Billetto was founded by 10 male entrepreneurs, inspired to grow a successful company. Early in this journey, however, they got some valuable learnings about business strategy. As Henrik told us, “we had this portfolio strategy that consisted of creating various companies that would add to one another. So we had different competencies in the founder team, and we tried to spread them across all companies”.
After the first hundred metres, they realized it was better to divide forces and establish more defined roles for each of them.
"It took us some time to get it, but we all learned from that experience"
And it was in that period where Akselbo had his first contact with what was soon to be a turning point in his life: influencer marketing.
It all started when they were looking for innovative ways to promote one of his partner’s companies. They got suggested by a friend to get a fashion blogger to promote it, who she was following at the time.
As Henrik mentioned, “We were 10 guys who founded the company; of course we knew what a blog was, but we didn’t really have an idea of what a fashion blogger did back then. But we did it anyway, and it ended up being the marketing that performed the best!”.
This eye-opening experience awakened, once again, his entrepreneur’s spirit, leading him to create Bloggers Delight in 2011 together with his business partners. The idea was to create a network for the bloggers, so that they could promote and send traffic from one blog to another.
Fun fact, Henrik confessed that he was sceptical about this idea in the beginning, even doubting whether to be part of the project or not. “From my years in DKBN, I knew that online advertising was barely giving us any revenue. So why would it work now? Anyway, I ended up being part, and now we make 95% of our revenue from digital advertising”.
"We’ve been doing influencer marketing before there was even a term for it"
Life or work
Fast forwarding to the present, Henrik will soon celebrate his 10th year as the CEO at Bloggers Delight.
When asked about the best thing of being the CEO of his own company, he doesn’t have a doubt: having your destiny in your own hands. “There’s no one you can blame when things don’t go as planned other than yourself, but it also goes for when things actually turn out great”.
However, he also agrees that it has its downside: “It involves huge pressure, and big responsibility, because you also kind of have your employees’ destiny in your hands”.
To those expecting him, as an entrepreneur, to always come up with new and innovative solutions, he has one thing to say: “I’m the opposite, I don’t have good ideas”. He thinks of himself as a “traditional CEO”, running processes and thinking strategically. And one thing is clear: the first hundred meters are not for him; he’s better for the marathon.
Is it possible to switch off in an entrepreneur’s mind? We asked Henrik about the professional-personal balance, and where’s the line between entrepreneur and father: “it gets difficult sometimes, but I don't think it's stressful as long as I do it because I genuinely want to”.
"The key is whether someone expects you to do something, or you do it on your own free will"
His trick to stay focused on the present comes from the old saying “don’t cry over spilled milk”, which he learned along the way. As he explains, we all need to mentally move on from what’s in the past - because it will never change the fact that it already happened.
In this narrative of learnings gathered through an entire journey, both professionally and personally, Henrik has one advice he would have wished to hear: “don’t stress out, this is only a work problem - is never life or death”.
Once an entrepreneur…
When asked about the next decade, Henrik is positive about staying at Bloggers Delight: “It would be difficult for me to suddenly be a full-time employee in someone else’s company - so there’s only one more option to make a living: having my own company”.
However, despite his passion for his current role, Akselbo doesn’t discard starting his own company in the future: “but this time, I would do it alone”. Although he doesn’t regret the decisions made during his entrepreneurial career, he now feels ready to take full responsibility for his actions.
What will the future hold for Henrik Akselbo?