How does a little company with most of its engineering in Denmark compete with Box and Dropbox? Read the story of Soonr.
Sramana Mitra: What is the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey? Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What’s the back story of the entrepreneurship story?
Steven Boye: I’m a US-Danish citizen. I was born in 1962 in Denmark. My mother is American. I always had strong ties with Europe and America. I graduated as an engineer in electronics. I started in entrepreneurship shortly after that.
Sramana Mitra: Where did you do your studies?
Steven Boye: At the Danish Technical University. I graduated in 1986 together with a guy called Lars Gunnersen who is also co-founder of Soonr. The first job I got was with one of the really innovative software companies in the industry called Borland International. They built the first compiler and desktop productivity tools in the early days before Windows. It was one of the biggest companies in the software industry in the late ’80s. I worked there up until 1997 primarily on a personal information management product. Borland was a pretty exciting place to work in.
The last four years I was there, I was working on Quattro Pro for Windows, which was Borland’s spreadsheet. Back in the ’90s, I was Director of Spreadsheets at Borland and was leading the development of that together with a fantastic team. That got sold to Novell in 1995 together with Word Perfect. Novell wanted to compete against Microsoft Office, which was beginning to gain a lot of traction in the ’90s. Microsoft simply had too much muscle power. It became apparent within a few years that it was a losing battle.
Sramana Mitra: You were based in the Borland headquarters down in Sta. Cruz?
Steven Boye: Yes. Borland was originally a Danish company. It was founded in Denmark by some of my old friends. Then they move to Santa Cruz because most of our business was based out of the US because that was where the PC industry was picking up. We moved everybody from the Danish office over to California. You can say that there was a big community in California around Borland. They got wiped out by Microsoft in the mid ’90s. A lot of people went to Microsoft. I moved back to Denmark in 1997.
Around that time, I worked briefly for a Danish company. I missed the entrepreneurship and the excitement of working with US companies. Martin Frid-Nielsen, one of my friends who I worked together with at Borland, asked me to join him in a company that he just started working on called NetObjects. NetObjects was in web content management. The web was just beginning to take off. I started working as an engineer on NetObjects similar to where you have a program that you would use to create a site. You would use NetObjects to create a website.