Entrepreneurs in Denmark
Mark Thorsen is the CEO of AW Media, which is behind numerous sites include the green energy marketplace GreenMatch. Photo: Submitted
'Hire the right people and foster the right culture'
Published on: 12 Nov 2014 15:30 CET
Mark Thorsen founded AWM Network in March 2014 as a way to help users navigate often complicated and non-transparent markets and industries, giving them the information and comparisons they need to make well-informed and high-value buying decisions. Clients that sign up for AWM’s listing services are secured significant, international growth, and are delivered a large volume of high quality leads for a fixed price per potential customer.
There are four businesses under the flagship company: ekspertvalg.dk (serving the B2B segment), greenmatch.dk (serving the renewable energy market), mikonomi.dk (financial services) and surveybee.dk (a market research firm). In total, AWM serves 150 clients in seven markets and its staff speaks eight in-house languages.
How did you come up with your business idea?
Six years ago, I founded AW Media, a consulting business in the online marketing field, which now specializes in high value, complicated and competitive markets. Through this business, I gained in-depth knowledge of almost every high-value service and product that typically requires human contact prior to a sale.
As I am very ambitious, I couldn’t accept some of the growth limitations this business had. For example, as a specialist, even if you see a secure investment for a client, it can take up to two years to convince them to take the final step and if you lose a client, all your work goes down the drain.
I knew that I wanted to mix the knowledge I had accumulated through AW Media with the key competencies and break down such scaling barriers. This sparked the idea to launch an international customer acquisition company.
What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?
Money was the biggest challenge, as we are self-funded and fast growing. It is a very tough combination. We could grow a lot faster but we have to keep an eye on the cash flow and expenses. It has also been, and continues to be, very expensive to build the technology behind our business. I have been injecting capital and using all the profits from AW Media to develop our product so far.
How has the journey been so far?
The most interesting part of our journey has been to build the team and to work with as many bright, positive and motivated people as I can attract. I am in awe of the talent we have here. I have skipped my own salary more than once to take on a new employee that I just had to have on the team. And while it sounds like a cliché, the company's success really belongs to my team. We have, among others, blue chip clients like Saint Gobain, Merrild Coffee, Canon, etc. Our successful launch in Britain - one of the most competitive online markets - has been a milestone.
How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you personally?
I love what I do. I had always been looking for a venture with potential that could help me settle down and focus, and I think this is definitely it. Usually I would bounce around, looking for new opportunities, but this time I am all in. I am in a constant feeling of flow, with the business fitting perfectly into my ambitions and competencies. Also, fortunately, I have many senior people around me whom I can rely on - to run my businesses well.
Any other personal reflections and/ or message to budding entrepreneurs?
My philosophy is to hire the right people, foster the right culture and to invest in continual learning and technology - the rest fixes itself. Once the people and culture parts have been taken care of, you have to allow them the freedom to do things their way.
Sparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in the top Indian media companies, he decided to come to Denmark in the fall of 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local Denmark and blogging about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s