Niklas Zennström

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Niklas Zennström
Niklas Zennström with Loic Le Meur emoting in the background.jpg
Zennström with Loic Le Meur in the background
Born (1966-02-16) 16 February 1966 (age 55)
Järfälla, Sweden
Alma materUppsala University (BSc)
Royal Institute of Technology (MSc)
OccupationEntrepreneur and investor
Spouse(s)Catherine Zennström

Niklas Zennström (Swedish: [ˈnɪ̌kːlas ˈsɛ̂nːstrœm] (About this soundlisten); born 16 February 1966) is a Swedish entrepreneur known for founding several high-profile online ventures with Janus Friis including Skype and Kazaa. He also 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[2] 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 US, 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 309 million 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.[3]

In November 2014, Zennström was inducted into SUP46's Swedish Startup Hall of Fame.[4]

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.[5]


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.[6]

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.[7]

In 2006, he was voted Entrepreneur of the Year in the European Business Leaders Awards (EBLA).[8]

In October 2009, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, awarded Zennström the KTH Great Prize "for his outstanding entrepreneurial and technological skills".[9]

In September 2011, Zennström received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute.[10]

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.[11]

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".[12]

Personal life[edit]

Zennström is a keen yachtsman and he has built and raced yachts in the TP 52 and the 22 m (72 ft) mini-maxi construction classes for inshore and offshore racing.[13][14]


  1. ^ "Rich List 2017: #132, £1.005 billion". The Sunday Times Magazine. 7 May 2017. p. 50.
  2. ^ "On donations: Niklas Zennström". Uppsala University. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  3. ^ Malik, Om (9 May 2011). "Why Microsoft Is Buying Skype for $8.5 Billion". Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ Kennedy, John (28 October 2015). "Skype founder Niklas Zennström to lead Europe's scale-ups". Silicon Republic. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  6. ^ O'Hear, Steve (28 September 2018). "The Zennström manifesto". TechCrunch. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  7. ^ Gosling, James (8 May 2006). "The Skype Guys". Time. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  8. ^ Europe, CNBC (10 April 2007). "CNBC Europe Names the Top European Business Leaders for 2006".
  9. ^ Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Internet Entrepreneur Niklas Zennström Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oxford Internet Institute – Oxford Internet Institute".
  11. ^ "Kungen delade ut medaljer – se film här – Sveriges Kungahus". Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  12. ^ "Sidan kunde inte hittas". Archived from the original on 22 January 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  13. ^ Fretter, Helen (17 September 2019). "Ràn VII: On board the Stealth Bomber of the Fast 40+ class". Yachting World. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  14. ^ Korotaeva, Maria (9 May 2018). "Ran VII, the electric racing yacht from Skype billionaire Niklas Zennstrom". Charter World. Retrieved 20 July 2020.

External links[edit]