World-class Norwegian App Maker

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Rudi Carlsen of Porsgrunn, Norway, was seventeen years old when he joined his military service with the signature from him mom.  The following year he started working as a part time sales representative, before planning to pick up on his studying again.

Instead he started selling memberships at a car rescue company in Oslo. He quickly became one of the company’s best salesmen, selling a still standing record with 69 memberships in four hours. From there he moved forward.

Today, at age thirty seven, Carlsen is among the best mobile application system (DIY platform) creators in the world.

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After his part time telemarketing job, he started his first company as an independent agent selling cell phones on the streets of Trondheim, Norway.  Starting the day with a rucksack and six phones that combined network operation subscriptions and a daily sales goal, he also knocked on doors if sales goal were not reached by 4pm. Soon he learned to put in long hours, often working 12 hours per day. Once again he proved his success, advancing to assistant sales manager.

”It was so cold in the snowy winter sometimes, that you felt as happy coming in as getting the sale’s itself,” says Rudi.

At age twenty one, Carlsen bought his first suit for a negotiating meeting for a distribution position at one of the largest cellular phone companies in Scandinavia (Telia Norge, that later become Enitel ASA in Norway).

“I have always looked a couple of years older than I am, and I remember that I was so afraid that they would get the knowledge about my real age. This was the time before it was accepted to be so young in IT entrepreneurship, the start of what we later have known as the dot.com period,” says Carlsen, at that time drinking coffee just to blend in with the adult business people.

 

010715-Rudi-Carlsen-2He landed the agreement, his first private limited company was established, and his first customer was the Bank of Norway in Trondheim. The management of his company couldn’t believe that he was able to obtain an order for such a big client, but selling came natural for Carlsen!

From then on it seemed as if only the sky was the limit.  Sales went from 10 million NOK to 20, then 40 and then a lot more. Suddenly his small team of 2-3 had grown to 70 commission based agents in Norway alone. It’s estimated that he sold telecom agreements to businesses at an annual value of over 380 million NOK (US$ 50 mill). At that time, the company he worked for was listed on the stock exchange in Oslo (Enitel ASA).

Those were glorious days, but also days of hard work and extremeliy long working hours.

At the tipping point of dot.com he was offered to sell his company to a leading telecom operator, but turned down the request even before the final negotiations started.  “Work was really not work, but pure fun, and who want to sell a good time” says Carlsen.


During a much needed week break at the Delano Hotel in Miami, Carlsen was informed by phone that his only client and partner, Enitel ASA, was unlisted from the stock exchange, and not long after that, they went into bankruptcy. His own company lost a fortune through loss of huge outstanding commission income.

So the Danish telecommunications operator Tele Danmark, a wholesale company, engaged Carlsen’s company to work for them.  Sales turned out to be so great that the company could not cope with the orders, and so the game was over, also for Carlsen’s distribution company.

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“I had put all my money and energy into saving my company, and gambled on a second change that did not work out. But shit happens and you need to move on. The wake-up call was very real when I realized I didn’t even had cash for fuel.”

This was a rough period within telecom and IT, when the dot.com crash caused that most staff moved to other industries. Carlsen, however, stayed in the telecom industry.

But what should he do? He still had a dream and decided to start something new again. As a former wrestler he knew all about wrestling counter moves. That’s what he had to do, in business this time, do some counter moves, not to be lying flat on the mat.

He did some small startups which he sold very fast. Freedom became more important than money, and soon he left for Thailand with no luggage, to be a backpacker.

“I could have saved a lot more money and been in a position not having to work today,” says Rudi Carlsen, “but then I would not have had such a rich life. One old classmate told me that in our first classmate book, my future job dream was to become a tourist. In that respect I am in periods living an interesting life as a digital nomad. In my adult life my long term mission is to become a VC, working with early stage companies. In many ways that may be compared to traveling into the unknown.”

This was the time when the IP-market dawned. ”I started my own IP telecom operatio to sell IP-ISDN converters for PBX’s to businesses,” he says. “Once again I sold more than could be delivered as everything was new. I was five years too early. People questioned if what I was doing was legal.” Today IP-phone technology is highly accepted and you have free call services from apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Apple Facetime etc. My company was later merged into a larger telecom organization in Scandinavia.

He had moved to Cyprus and was working a lot from London when he was head-hunted by a band width supplier to set up a distribution company for them. He asked himself if he wanted to do this again and decided that he would, one final time, while cooperating with three of his former top sales people. They were totaling 40 people within one year and had once again a leading role in distribution.
After two years his agents were merged into the telecom provider. Carlsen had had enough of PowerPoint meetings and staff calls 24/7.

“When one of my youngest son’s first words was ADSL, you know you have reached this point,” he says.

When I asked Rudi what his recipe for success has been, he emphasized tree issues: “Sell to the business market, and have an optimal sales system in place – that’s the engine.  I have used more or less the same sales system all my life.” Also the ability to improvise, things rarely turns out the way you planned in a start-up, so stay calm, focus on your goals and push forward”.

Now the calendar tells us it’s 2010, and we enter the time of “applications”.  Rudi sensed the new market and started to google possibilities.

“We wanted computers to do the sales this time,” Carlsen says. After some googling he found that Ukraine was the leading offshore tech nation in the world, and contacted a systems developing company. After two week’s negotiations, almost drowning in vodka and champagne, a contract was signed.

020715-appsmakerstore-logoSo what is Appsmakerstore? As the cost of building mobile applications is way too high for most businesses, Appsmakerstore has built a do it yourself system, so that non-coders easily can build their own app from their website with drag and drop.

Their new website and platform, the first one, was launched on November 28, 2010 and soon after he established his own office in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Facebook was then released, and the application was positively reviewed by both the mainstream media as well as in something new, called “social media”. Their target was 5,000 users, but soon they had more than 30,000.

Not long after they had several partners in Asia.  Rudi felt he now was independent and as long as he had his MAC with internet, he could work from anywhere in the world. He could do some jogging in the morning sun at Limassol before office hours started in Oslo, have a break and continue working again when the market opened in the US. When the market in Asia developed so quickly, he decided to move to Singapore to be closer to the action, alone with his second and youngest son from mom number two, Julian, who at that time was three plus.

“The first two months we were living with friends and stayed at hotels. The toughest part was to build the Appsmakerstore and at the same time being a good father. My son had to adapt to the local language and stay at a kindergarten on the other side of the world.” says Carlsen.

The Daily Herald wrote about the application, “The new product will help revolutionize the mobile application market by simplifying the creation and approval process and allowing all individual and business access to creating mobile apps. This is a technology that allows users create and publish their application in a matter of a few clicks online.”

At Reuters, analysts reached out to over 35 app development software companies with an identifiable track record of successfully meeting clients’ app development needs. The research findings were based on an algorithm of factors that include the breadth of software features, client reviews, and market presence. Appmakerstore was listed with seven other market players.

“These software tools vary in customer and industry focus with certain tools fitting specific purposes better than others. However, these products and the support teams behind them have all demonstrated a commitment to meeting their client’s’ development objectives,” explained Ryan Stevens, Lead App Development Software Analyst at Clutch. “The biggest hurdle an app development software faces is striking the balance between ease of use and ensuring that the tool will meet the customer’s functional needs.”

Today Rudi Carlsen’s company, AppsMakerStore, is one of the top five application makers in the world.

“It is all about having a good product and volume,” says Rudi Carlsen. “This is the new information age, adapted to the mobile market; good for tourists as well as people on the move and business purposes. I have a lot of ideas for future applications and build outs. Our system is user friendly, and we now have about 550,000 users all over the world, six franchise partners and many white labels using our technology. The cool thing with Appsmakerstore is that you always need to develop and pay close attention, making the job very interesting.”

Carlsen adds, “But then again, people buy from people. So building Appsmakerstore for the fifth year now, I realize that I need to put on my sales hat more often again, attracting hungry sales people inside our company to push our revenue goals up as the product is ready and developed. So in a way, I guess, I am back to what lead me here in the first place – building great sales numbers!”

World-class Norwegian App Maker, text and photos (except b/w) Tor Kjolberg