Welcome to the culture book, the book about us at Thatsup!
Together with Fredrik Jungstedt and Richard Stiller, I founded Thatsup in 2008 because we were missing a site where you could read about what was going on in the city. I will tell you more about that later in the book.
We created this culture book to show who we are at Thatsup and what it's like working here. Maybe it’s your first day? In that case; a warm welcome! We’re glad you’re here and we hope that you’ll be very happy here.
Since day one we’ve gathered the most awesome people in each field at Thatsup. It’s no coincidence that Fredric Engelbrecht and Johanna Lagerkranser, who were the company’s first employees, have worked here since 2013, or that Sam Brandhildh and Fredrik Jungstedt started working with Thatsup on the side at the start of 2008 (and later joined full time). In the same way it’s not a coincidence that you’re now here.
Your priority these first few days is to take in as much of the information that is thrown at you as possible. It will possibly feel overpowering, but relax! Your first days should be totally free of demands (please tell us if it doesn’t feel that way!), and you’ll make it! 👊🏻
The nice thing about the culture book is that you’re not only going to get to know Thatsup, it’s also going to work as a support in the future. The goal is that you should feel that you can return to it to find relevant information or find energy and simply be proud that you’re a part of Thatsup.
Again, we’re happy you’re here, new and old. Enjoy reading!
CEO & Founder
Leave your shoes at the door
Make yourself at home! Leave your shoes by the door. Slippers you’ll get from us. If you’re an employee you get to choose a pair that we’ll pay for, while if you’re a visitor you’ll get some options. Either you borrow a pair of our guest slippers: a pair of luxurious Uggs, maybe a pair of Birkenstock or why not our cozy unicorns? There are a lot to choose from! 😅 But it’s ok to keep your shoes on, as long as you promise not to make a mess of our lovely carpets. 😉
So, just like home.
Your first day
We’ve all been new at work; it’s okay not to know everything at the beginning. Together we make sure that all new employees at Thatsup get a good start. A good start means gadgets, swag, glitter or whatever you choose to call it. It also means that a package is waiting on your desk for the day* with everything that you could need.
Some things that you’ll definitely get on your first days are some hardware, some merchandise, a to-do list, a calendar with a relatively busy first week, some logins and different types of training.
If you haven’t already had your photo taken we’ll probably schedule this. Think about what dish you want for your ”crazy picture” - preferably one that no-one else has. Here you can see what everyone else has.
On your first day we also have a tradition of treating everyone in the team for lunch at some fancy place, like Tranan or Rolfs Kök. 😋
It’s important to us that you quickly understand who you are and how you fit in at the company. We know that you feel the pressure to deliver, but we want you to relax first and let us teach you everything we know, then you get to show off. You’ll sit down with every part of the company on your first week. We don’t demand that you know programming if we hired you for sales, but we want to create an understanding that everyone is equal and that everyone should have some understanding of what colleagues work with. You should have this too after your first week. That’s also the easiest way for you to understand our purpose and our vision. Plus you get to know everyone, which is probably the most important thing.
*We believe in freedom, freedom not to get stuck in old habits or chairs. Rotation is good.
Why do we do what we do? Our purpose is to help our users find the best places to go to in the city. Easy to say, but really hard to achieve. That’s why there are so many doing it, but so few doing it well. We’re filling that empty space.
Grodan Kungliga Operan is like gold, literally.
Everything is possible with OKR
At Thatsup we work with OKR, which stands for Objectives and Key Results. OKR is a popular method for measuring and following up goals in an organization. The advantages are an enhanced focus, increased transparency and clear working processes. Well-known companies such as Google, Tesla and Amazon use the method and since we're also aiming for world dominance so do we. 😁
An OKR normally consists of the following components:
Objectives (O): Where do we want to go? The goal - e.g. “Take us to the Antarctic”.
Key Results (KR): How do we know if we're going the right way? Measurements to measure how far we’ve come towards the goal - e.g “The distance to the Antarctic”
Initiatives/Team OKR: What do we have to do to get there? The actual work we do - e.g. “Build a boat that can withstand the conditions”
Each team has their own working methods to execute their Initiatives and reach their goals and we generally follow them up monthly.
An ultimate OKR is similar to a vision, but we think that word is a bit unclear. Many people have different definitions of what a vision is but, as a vision is basically impossible to achieve, we’ve chosen to work towards an ultimate OKR.
⭐️ Our ultimate OKR is to make it easy to find the best local experience ⭐️
This clearly defines our goal and our vision, is short and simple, but at the same time deep and comprehensive. Each part refers to something specific:
- The service should be easily accessible and fast
- We guide to the best experiences, whether it's a restaurant or a hair salon, budget or luxury
- Thatsup is for everyone
- We should be available everywhere
Everything we do at Thatsup should be connected to our ultimate OKR.
Your attitude will affect your behaviour. Your behaviour will affect your surroundings and everyone in it. How we choose to see things, and how we behave towards each other and others, makes a huge difference. You have the power and opportunity to create the Thatsup-world you want, for yourself and your colleagues.
We came up with our core values in 2019, defining the values we believe are important to us at Thatsup. We’ve grown significantly since then, welcomed new colleagues to the team and established ourselves in new markets. The process of growth has made it clear that creating and maintaining a strong corporate culture is an ongoing process. We are constantly striving to live up to our Core Values in order to create a positive and motivating work environment. By promoting integrity, openness, personal responsibility, teamwork and passion, we create a culture that encourages personal and professional growth, while at the same time working together to achieve our common goals.
We are proud of the progress we’ve made and we’re looking forward to developing our corporate culture and strengthening our Core Values at Thatsup. With a strong, successful corporate culture we can better serve our users and society and continue to be a reliable, influential player in our industry sector.
Team spirit 🤜🤛
At Thatsup we have a strong team spirit and we know that we’re stronger together. We are passionate, motivated and constantly striving to be better as a team. Having the right person in the right role is key and we work hard to create a culture in which everyone can grow and develop together. Our differences complement each other and by working as a team we can achieve our goals. In order to maintain a strong team spirit, we ensure that we regularly find time and space to hang out together. It could be over lunch, on a night out or through workshops. Working as we do in the restaurant and entertainment business, it’s not hard for us to find opportunities to socialize outside of work. This allows us to get to know each other better, develop our collaborative skills and build a strong team.
Thatsup has an open culture that encompasses acceptance, friendliness and patience. This goes for working within Thatsup, but also towards our customers and partners. We believe in equality and that everyone working here, whatever their position or role, is equally important. We have a flat structure, meaning that all team workers play an essential role in achieving our goals and visions. All of us should feel appreciated and respected for the work we do. That also goes for respect for each other. We don’t always think the same way or believe the same things, but we listen, take in others’ opinions and think before we speak. We have each others’ backs when required, even if it isn’t necessarily part of our job.
You should feel safe, secure and comfortable going to work at Thatsup every day. It’s about much more than avoiding accidents and injuries. We want to create an environment where everyone feels included, respected and welcome. Discrimination, harassment and bullying are never ok in any form and we work actively to prevent and counteract such behavior. At the same time, we want to promote openness and honesty so suggesting new ideas feels safe and welcomed and we are able to admit mistakes without fear of consequences. A strong corporate culture is created by having a safe workplace where everyone feels respected and accepted. That’s where the magic happens: Everyone can perform at their highest level and the organization can achieve its fullest potential.
At Thatsup we’re convinced that things don’t need to be unnecessarily difficult. We believe in simplifying processes as much as possible without sacrificing quality. Simplicity is a fundamental part of our culture and can be applied to everything we do, from the work culture to the tools we use, to our customers’ reports and contracts. We strive to make our website intuitive and user-friendly, and our texts are created to be clear and easy to read. We strive to maintain clear, direct and transparent communication throughout the company. We are specialists in our areas, but we communicate in an accessible way that suits a wide audience. All colleagues should have access to relevant information and be able to express their views and ideas freely.
You’re not at Thatsup by chance, you’re here because we believe in you. Your ambition, and a desire to be the very best at what you do, helps us achieve success. We all have different experiences, skills and perspectives, but it’s these differences that make us strong. Whether we're writing a text, taking a picture, programming a new function, realizing an idea or making a cup of coffee, we do everything to the best of our abilities and always strive to be even better! We have bosses and team leaders to provide support and help, not to dominate or dictate. At Thatsup, the managers’ main task is to support their colleagues by listening and ensuring they have the best possible environment in which to carry out their work. By making the most of each others’ strengths and skills we can create a dynamic workplace where everyone is content and performs to the best of their abilities.
It’s important to us that everyone trusts Thatsup, our users, customers, partners and colleagues. Our mission is clear: always to provide honest, relevant tips, with integrity high on our agenda. It’s extremely important to us to create a strong, effective organization in which every team member plays an important role, with a desire to grow and develop. We constantly work to ensure our content maintains a higher standard than other similar platforms, a long-term endeavor that draws users to Thatsup. We manage our relationships with our customers in the same way - we are honest and transparent in our collaboration, which creates a desire to work with us. Everything starts with ourselves. We can trust each other, we take responsibility and we believe in what we do.
Agnes, Ida and Anneli find out which cinnamon bun is the best in town.
Our tonality varies a bit, depending on who it’s for and where it is.
When it comes to our internal communication on, above all Slack (our tool for internal communication), it’s even more laid back. Here you can misspell, say ”omg, that’s so nice!!” and skip capital letters for new sentences. As long as you follow our core values; to be nice, open minded, engaged etc. you can express yourself just as you want to. Always be yourself! ☝️
Our tonality in external communication is normally, as you’ve hopefully noticed, pretty laid back. There should never be sloppy or poor language, but we’re not afraid of using slang or words that a lawyer would avoid. We want to communicate in a pleasant and familiar way and we LOVE using emojis! 🥳🤸♀️🌈🍾
On the site our tonality permeates all text. This can be recognised through it being informative, alternatively slightly positive. From the beginning our mantra has also been ”we only recommend great places, we never warn you off bad places”. We’re a positive company that always tries to see the positive things in places, and people for that matter. If a place has poor service but fantastic burgers, we will focus on the burgers.
This also applies to writing reviews. When you write reviews you do it as a private person, so as long as you follow the general guidelines you can use any tone you like. In addition to the general guidelines, there are some specific policies Thatsup employees need to follow:
- Members of the sales team may not write reviews.
If you know someone who owns or works with the business in question, either in a private or work capacity, you may not review the business.
- The review must be honest.
- The review may not be negative on the whole. Reviews with grades of 1-2 may not be published, and a grade of 3 should only be given if the review is generally positive. This does not mean you should give a grade that's higher than you really think it ought to be, or that you should write something that's not true (see the point above). Simply put, if you have a negative opinion of a place you should not review it.
If you’re an editor you will of course get specific training in our tonality.
Slack is our main communication tool. If you aren’t familiar with it already, you could compare it to WhatsApp or Messenger, but even better and customized for groups and companies. There are channels for everything that could be needed: from where everyone's getting lunch that day and editorial tips, to bug reports and idea discussions. Of course you can also send private messages or have group chats.
Email is actually not used a lot in our internal communication. Slack has pretty much replaced that part.
Now it sounds like we live in a digital reality. Everything doesn’t have to happen digitally, we can talk to each other IRL as well. After all, we basically sit next to each other every day.
General monthly meetings happen once a month. Our CEO, Adam, gives a monthly presentation of all the most important things that have happened since last meeting and a run-through of our most important KPIs. Each team also tells what they have going on and did during the month. The presentation is also sent out to anyone who can't attend in person or digitally. We also eat a yummy breakfast together! 😋
Regular team meetings take place in each team; how often depends on the team. Whether it's daily or fortnightly, we meet to follow up and plan.
Personal development dialogues (PDD) also happen regularly. How often varies a lot individually. We do however have one big evaluation every year, that we call a PDP, personal development plan. You’ll also sit down with our People and Culture Manager once a year for an extra conversation about how things are going for you at Thatsup.
Breakfast with the CEO takes place in small groups of varying constellations of people every month. Adam hosts and we chat about our culture and Thatsup’s development. A great forum for new ideas.
While we're on the topic of meetings. At Thatsup we believe in having meetings for a specific purpose, not meetings for the sake of meetings. There are few things that are as ineffective as having masses of ineffective meetings all the time. It's important to us that all meetings have a clear aim and are effective.
You fit in
Whatever you like to do or who you are, you fit in at Thatsup. We will repeat ourselves: our differences unite us.
Our culture is the result of good people, strong values and those differences.
The intention also is that it should be easy to combine your time at Thatsup with the rest of your life. There is always coffee, at least two sorts of milk, beer (for Friday afternoons 😉), a chance of recovery and plenty of flexibility for how and when you work. If it’s unclear what that means in practice just ask us for examples.
Freedom comes with responsibility
Dolly topped the Billboard list with Working 9 to 5 in 1981. A couple of decades have passed and many companies have, thankfully, started to abandon this mantra. Thatsup’s founder wasn’t even around in 1981 and so it’s always made sense to us to adapt our work times around what suits us. Obviously, we still have to take care of our jobs and work at least the amount of time that we get paid for. That goes without saying.
At Thatsup we believe in freedom and flexibility. For us, results are always the most important thing. Some of us are at the office at 8am and leave at 5pm. Others come in at 11am and leave at 7.30pm. Some go to the gym in their lunch hour, others enjoy an extra long lunch. Most people are based at the office but sometimes they work from home. Or from a café. Or by a pool on the other side of the world. You get it - it’s very individual. Obviously not everyone can be based in Bali, but if it works for you and your work responsibilities, we can usually make it work.
Even if you, like many of us, generally work pretty standard office hours, flexible working hours are still a great advantage. Take micro-stress for example. If you start at 9 AM sharp every morning and someone tells you off if you arrive at 9:08 AM; what happens then if you miss the bus, oversleep an hour or are just a bit slow to start? You’ll have a terrible start of the day. Stress is the devil’s invention. In addition someone has to tell you off – which is almost as horrible as actually being told off. Lose-lose. Another example could be if you have to run an errand; maybe go to the dentist or just buy a birthday present for someone. Should you have to be nervous about it and go to someone and ask for permission, or even worse, not be allowed to do it? There are lots of advantages with flexible working hours. We probably don’t have to list them for you.
So that’s a bit about the freedom part. The responsibility part is of course all about honouring your commitments, working the hours you’re paid for etc. The most common mistake we see here is that it’s easy to get a little too comfortable, work normal working hours (say 9am-5.30pm), but then go and work out for 2,5 hrs in your lunch hour, leave at 3pm on a Friday, take care of some private errand once a week etc. All of that is of course fine, but because 5-10 hours can quickly disappear from your weekly working hours it means you also need to work more at other times. You don’t report your hours and naturally there’s no one clocking you in or out, but we’re a high performing, ambitious team and your colleagues will quickly notice if you don’t have a good work ethic.We have to show personal responsibility as well when it comes to our daily workload. No-one will hold your hand and tell you what to do all the time. We do that the first weeks, but then you are mainly responsible for how your days look. You’ll always have strong support from your colleagues, and there is always someone to ask if you’re unsure how to proceed, but on the whole we work very independently.
Perks we like
To us perks are a given but maybe it’s good to remind ourselves. Especially when you need a barrel of coffee to wake up in the morning - go for it! Of course there is tea and fruit if you’d rather skip the caffeine. Sometimes there’s a spontaneous break for cookies or whatever, and the beer fridge is always full. If you want to wear the Thatsup logo with pride, we have really nice hoodies and wooly hats that are perfect when it gets colder outside.
Six weeks holiday is a perk that many of us appreciate, even if it means that we must be a little bit more available on Slack outside of work than we normally would be. Do you want even more holiday? We often have the opportunity to take an extra week of unpaid leave.
If there are any days that fall between a public holiday and a weekend we take these as a holiday but we don’t take a half-day off the day before a public holiday. We always get the day off on our birthday - no way should you be working on your birthday! :partying_face:
To ensure everyone’s as healthy as can be, we get an annual fitness reimbursement of 5000 SEK (the maximum allowed by the Swedish Tax Authorities).
Very few people who start working at Thatsup have demands or thoughts about pension. Everyone should! Your occupational pension is for most people the difference between having a poor or a rich life when you get old, if you’re not really good at saving yourself. The average public pension (that everyone gets that works and pays tax) was SEK 11 791 before(!) tax in 2016. So that’s what you’re supposed to survive on if you don’t have any private savings or occupational pension.
An occupational pension of SEK 1500/month from an age of 28 to 70 (most of us will probably work this long) with an average return of 7%/year results in approx. SEK 5 million.
So an occupational pension from relatively young age normally means that you could take out a few millions when you retire. In other words a lot better than if we had received a slightly higher salary today, which would have cost the company about as much. The occupational pension at Thatsup is 4,5% based on our basic salary and applies for everyone that’s 28 or above and works full time (not temp). If we want to we also have the possibility to swap salary for pension. The company will then pay 5% extra (because that's roughly how much cheaper it is to pay out a pension versus a salary). Our pensions have no or very low fees (you decide yourself depending on how you want your money to be managed), as fees can have a significant impact on your pension in the long term.
Flexible working hours are a huge advantage and for certain roles there is even the possibility of working from another part of the world.
We’re also a restaurant and city guide, so of course there are a lot of fun side activities. More about that later.
Welcome home to Thatsup
We’ve worked in a number of offices over the years, but it wasn’t until March 2019 that we moved into the amazing space we now inhabit. We really love our office. Not just because it’s a stone’s throw from Lilla Ego, a short walk from Flippin’ Burgers and a short crawl from Grus Grus wine bar. But because it’s exactly the kind of office we’ve always dreamed of working in. Soft, stylish carpets in the conference and chill rooms, adjustable desks and various working stations depending on whether you feel like working at a desk, a communal table or on the sofa.
If it’s cold, we turn on the heating, if we’re sweating we put the AC on, and everyone can control both the music and lighting with mobile apps. The large screen in the conference room can be connected for remote meetings when, for example, half the tech team are in Bali escaping the winter or Carro in Gothenburg rings in for a sales meeting. All wireless, of course.
Maybe you’re an espresso addict, love fizzy water or perhaps you prefer tea. Fear not, we have a Moccamaster, espresso machine, posh tea from NK and a sparkling water machine. If you prefer your hot drinks pimped, we have both lactose-free and oat milk. Come three o’clock, it’s fika (coffee break) time and if you’re lucky someone will have brought in a homemade chocolate cake, buns or perhaps a juicy orange. Apparently, people who fikar (take a coffee break) together stay together, so we make sure we fikar.
We have fun!
Since our job is to guide people to find things to do, then it’s natural that we do a lot of it ourselves as well. We often do things together, from activities to dinners.
Everyday is a party at Thatsup, we could say a little cockily, but sometimes there’s a little more party than an everyday party. We usually have at least two big parties a year that easily become legendary and popping out for a drink after work can become an all night affair.
If we reach our goals we usually go on an epic conference trip!
We spoke about this being your first day, right? Take a few deep breaths and look around. Try to take in as much as possible of your surroundings. Do you like the welcome, the people and the feeling? Great, then you’ll like Thatsup too. If you like us and stick around there’ll always be a place for you if you do your job. We’ve been around for more than ten years and have no plans to slow down and stop striving forward. There is rarely an obvious career ladder, and we dislike hierarchy, but the role you have today doesn’t have to be the one you have in thee years. We’re growing fast and hopefully you’ll grow with us. Focus on what you can do now, tomorrow and in ten years at same time as you develop the culture with us.
Change, refine and develop. We all need development, even if it can differ from person to person. All full time employees have the possibility to come with suggestions of conferences, courses and classes that they would like to go on. Obviously we have a process for doing this:
1. Tell us about it in good time so both job and training can be planned.
2. Send a link about the training to your closest boss.
3. Say why this is relevant for you.
4. Attach a suggested schedule to make job and training balance.
5. What the cost is and what do you need from Thatsup?
6. When you’re back from the training we want you to share your knowledge; both in writing and in a presentation.
If you find a training that doesn’t seem to be relevant, but that you want to go on anyway, just do it and catch up on the lost time.
You may not learn that much lying on our airbeds, but it sure feels nice.
Never be afraid of making mistakes. No one will tell you off. Making mistakes is much better than not daring to take your own initiatives or be creative. Nothing teaches you more effectively than mistakes. However, avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
Also never be afraid of asking! A question is never stupid, and we promise that you’ll get a friendly answer from whoever you ask among your colleagues.
Albert fucking Einstein, did you hear that?!
Usually everything is great, but sometimes we have crises. These could be someone close passing away, a bad relationship or we just need some time to heal ourselves. That’s going to affect work and then it’s good to know: Thatsup have your back. How we support you depends on what’s happened and how you want it to be handled including possible doctor contact. Speak to your closest manager if this happens.
Code of conduct
We could write reams and reams of rules, regulations and good advice here but at Thatsup our behaviour really comes down to three words: use common sense.
We are all adults*, and our behaviour reflects this. Here are a few points we are committed to following:
If I’m a salesperson I don’t write reviews but am free to post pictures and create lists.
We never take advantage of our position at Thatsup to get free meals, trips or anything else that could be regarded as breaking the law. That said, working at Thatsup does mean you’ll be offered the odd free meal, particularly if you’re a salesperson. Again: use your judgement.
If we suspect that one of our colleagues has a problem with drugs or alcohol we raise our concerns with our line manager.
Conflicts of interest. We take care to avoid taking decisions which create conflicts of interest or could be seen as basing our decisions on our own individual interests rather than what’s best for Thatsup. We are transparent about the decisions we take.
We never read, write or talk about confidential matters in public places such as cafés, airports or elevators. We know where our sensitive information is and we use secure routines to manage it. This is still the case even if you’re no longer employed by Thatsup. If you’re unsure about whether something is confidential or not, ask someone in management.
We don’t represent Thatsup on social media or in a PR capacity unless we have direct responsibility for this. That means, for example, that we don’t respond to conflicts that may arise in which our first instinct is to “protect our workplace”.
We commit to following all our set policies.
* Well, most of the time anyway.
We want all our colleagues to know how Thatsup was founded and the huge amounts of hard work that have gone into its creation. It’s a unique, interesting and in many ways humorous story. Our founder Adam Linders tells the long version here (tl;dr? Read the short version):
The foundations of Thatsup were laid as early as 2007, about a half year after I graduated, when Richard Stillar and I were discussing if we could come up with something to do on the side of our retail jobs at NK. We came up with the idea of producing a site where you could read about events and entertainment in Stockholm. We reached out to Fredrik Jungstedt (who has worked full time at Thatsup since 2016), a friend from school, who had just started working as a developer. Together we started ”WhatsupSthlm”, which consisted of four event and entertainment blogs: Nightlife, Music, Fashion and Culture. The first site design was created for free by one of Richard’s best friends, Sam Brandhildh (who has worked full time at Thatsup since 2018).
Richard and Jungstedt, 10 years later.
The process of coming up with the name WhatsupSthlm consisted of a dialogue that looked something like this: ”We’re going to have a site of what’s happening”…”Helrör.se” (which could be translated to something like ”Booze.com”)…”Haha, maybe a bit unprofessional. How about Whatsup?”…”That’ll be perfect”…”Hmm, whatsup.se is already taken by someone”…”Let’s go with WhatsupStockholm then?”…”That’s good, but quite long, we go with WhatsupSthlm”. Do you realize Whatsup is Thatsup with a T? 🧐 I’ll get back to that.
The plan was that Jungstedt was going to get 10 000 kr to build WhatsupSthlm. The job however was much bigger than expected. The site took more than double the time to build as planned. At the beginning we managed to keep a float by letting Jungstedt come home to Richard and just take home almost anything he fancied. 😬 I think what he most appreciated was an old Playstation Portable, and Richard was most put out by losing his slippers without warning. 🤣
When we were finally finished we wanted to add a big function (an early version of our present search tool, you could describe it) that was going to double the working time again. In addition we realized that we were going to want ongoing development of the site, so it became very clear to us that Jungstedt was going to be needed permanently. Therefore we let him in as a shareholder and co-founder instead of consultant. A decision I can confirm now, 10 years later, as being the right one.
Just in time for the launch in May 2008, about a half year after we started the company, I quit my job at NK to fully focus on WhatsupSthlm. Because I still had a roof over my head and food on the table at home at my parents I thought that I would be fine with my savings of about SEK 30 000 until I was getting a salary from WhatsupSthlm, which I estimated was going to take about a half year (🤣).
Early version of WhatsupSthlm
By then I was about 20 years old, and as you can imagine, most things were at a low level. You could say we had to invent the wheel again, because we didn’t have any experience at all. We didn’t have a single penny and raising capital was not an option; actually I didn’t even know about that. And even if I learnt about it on the way, it still wouldn’t have been an option, since the company wasn’t worth anything at all. We had to invest with our own time, and the editors who wrote the posts on the blogs worked for free.
We launched the site for the public 18 May 2008 and the response was actually better than expected. That month we had 7 000 unique visitors and the rest of the year we averaged around 10 000. That’s a lot less than nowadays, but it felt a lot then.
That summer I met Fredrik Fernström by coincidence at an event at restaurant Bryggan in Gåshaga on Lidingö. I was there with a friend who introduced us and after I told him about WhatsupSthlm he asked if we could have a meeting. In the end he became a partner in the company to help us get started with sales. Again, there was no money involved, we had to bargain with shares and Fernström had to invest his time. Which should not be underestimated! ☝️
Fernström, 10 years later.
I remember that after the first meeting with Fernström I was a bit blown away about how sales worked. For me a salesman had always been this annoying git who tries to force you into buying something from him over the phone. All other sales I thought that the customers bought what they wanted, and the companies sold what the customers wanted. I actually thought that the customers would come to us to buy banner advertisement. Banners! 🤣 In addition I thought that customers paid the prices that were offered on the websites advertisement pages. Luckily I learnt things quite fast at least.
Terrified of selling, I let Fernström and Richard head out to town and try it out. After about 10 hours of canvas selling we understood that this was going to be quite difficult.
2008 we had revenues of about SEK 15 000, tops. As you probably understand the salary I was hoping for this autumn was a long way of becoming a reality. All editors and other people working for free were also going to be paid before me of course. I remember that the first editor that got paid anything at all got about SEK 20 per post. 😳 Of course the posts were really short, but it was still hard to reach any kind of sensible compensation at all.
But we kept on working with the site and besides publishing a lot of blog posts about what was going on in the city we also started to fill up our search with profiles about local businesses, including restaurants. About this time we actually didn’t even write about restaurants at all besides this.
Then I came up with an idea to start selling premium profiles, where clients get pictures and an enhanced presentation. Before sales start this was packaged as an ”Advanced profile” for SEK 199/month with a 12 month fixed contract. Included was photo shoot, text presentations and in addition we would publish information about events that they were having. Half of the income would go to the sales person. Do I have to tell you that this was hard to juggle economically? I don’t know exactly how I was thinking then, but I remember that I was so excited.
Towards Christmas we started looking for sales people. I remember at least three old friends who tried out. Only commission, of course. We managed to get a client or two. Diplomat, Soap Bar, Fem Små Hus and Pet Sounds Bar are some of the first I remember. Many of these I photographed myself - Fredrik Rollman didn’t join until about a year later. Not strange that the clients were not always happy with the pictures… 😬
However, it was not until Fernström got Camilla Agardh to try out selling at the beginning of 2009 that it really took off. Our turnover reached SEK 600 000 that year which enabled us to start paying the editors, which simplified things a lot. One year later than expected I could get about a subsistence wage, which isn’t much, but it was actually fantastic considering how I had lived the last 18 months. It took another year before I got a ”real” salary, and by then, you could say that we had managed to built a company that was standing on it’s own feet. That year, 2010, our turnover was about SEK 1,5 million.
Camilla Agardh, 10 years later.
The following two years, everything moved on very slowly, but steadily. 2011 we reached a turnover of around SEK 2 million, but 2012 we lost clients at about the same rate as we got new ones. At the same time, the company, besides sales, was developing slowly. But for many reasons, not only economic, we couldn’t move faster.
A late version of WhatsupSthlm
The summer of 2012 I specified what was going to be our new site. Everything would be new: functionality, design and even the name!
As you may remember, we choose the name WhatsupSthlm quite fast. There were so many problems with the name, I don’t even have enough space to write about it here, but you can imagine to try growing with a name where all the domains and trademarks in the whole world are already taken. Since a change of name is really hard, I didn’t want to realize the magnitude of the problem, so we went on trying to build a brand as good as we could.
One day we got an email with a threat of legal action because we were infringing on a trademark. I got really upset and redirected the threat to Camilla, along with a picture of our logotype where I had changed the W to a T, and joked about that we were going to have to change our name to ”Thatsup”, which felt like a joke at the time but turned out to be a brilliant decision.
We managed to stay away from the legal actions, even sidestepping WhatsApp’s American lawyers, who contacted us at a later stage.
But even if the name worked, we had higher ambitions for our new site. We wanted to build a strong brand. I trawled for new names for a long time and held a couple of brainstorming workshops with everyone involved. But as soon as we found anything decent, domains and trademarks had already been taken - most often internationally, but even sometimes in Sweden.
So what about ”Thatsup” then? It started out as a joke, and therefore we saw it as a joke for a long time. But one day it all became clear to me: ”Thatsup” is perfect. It describes what we do, but at the same time it’s not a word/expression; it will be our own. It was almost too good that most of the domains and all trademarks were available. Nobody but us uses Thatsup, in the whole world. ✌️
Early draft of Thatsup
Enough about the name. Progress was slow but I kept on fighting and at the end of autumn 2013, we reached a level when we were ready for the next step:
The traffic had grown to more than 100 000 unique visitors/month. In addition it was the right type of traffic, that we could make money off.
Our advanced profiles were sold more rationally with focus on what actually gave a return for our clients, rather than ”this seems nice and is cheap, but we have no idea what we actually get”, which made the clients stick with us longer and at the same time we could charge more.
We had built up a buffer of about SEK 300 000 that we could use to hire a sales person and an editor on full time.
We had a clear plan for how WhatsupSthlm would become Thatsup.
Said and done. We hired Johanna Lagerkranser and Fredric Engelbrecht. On that day we entered the second phase of the company’s history. We became a real company. With a real office where people sat every day. If you can call it a real office when it lacks light, oxygen and is an old apartment that hasn't been renovated in at least 40 years.
Something that still progressed slowly was the development of our new site, or of Thatsup as we had started calling it then. From the day I started to specify the site summer 2012 it took 3 years(!) before we actually could launch it 2 June 2015.
The year after we could hire Jungstedt full time and since then the development has progressed fast. In the same year, we were named Sweden’s best lifestyle site on IDG/InternetWorld’s Top100 list which they’ve compiled each year since the late Nineties. This was a long-held dream which came true when we made it onto their list and we’ve remained on that list every year since then.
Thatsup by launch in June 2015.
With the launch of Thatsup our very unpolished user content and community was also launched. At the same time it was hard to develop it faster, because we didn’t have either a designer or a community manager in house.
In 2018 we entered the third phase of the company development, which we also find ourselves in now. We hired Sam Brandhildh as the company’s first designer, the same person that designed our first version for free, so it felt good to “pay him back” with a job ten years later. At the same time we hired Ida Berzén, who became our first Community Manager (and even Marketing Director). Both of them still work for us today. It felt like the last two pieces of the puzzle were laid with these two roles. Now we only had to grow the puzzle. The same year we increased the editorial and tech teams. In 2018 we hired the same number of people as we had done in total up until then. We also began to develop Thatsup Web the same year.
In 2019 we began to scale up, particularly in sales. At the end of the summer, we launched Thatsup Web and got our first clients. We also started to prepare the company for international expansion in autumn 2020. In the autumn we began to see the results of our hard work. We entered a new period of momentum stronger than any we'd experienced before.
The momentum was maintained until the first week of March 2020, when we ran straight into the corona wall. In just a few weeks we lost half our income and sales became completely impossible. The whole organisation was furloughed and the business ran at half speed until restrictions were lifted in September 2021.
As soon as corona restrictions were lifted we regained our momentum. We hit sales record after sales record and our dreams of international expansion were reignited.
I have done this for more than 15 years and I have never had more fun than now. We are in an extremely exciting phase where ideas are born and realized constantly.
As I write this, we're entering the fourth phase of the company and are in the middle of the recruitment process for English content editors in London.
It's incredibly cool that we've managed to create something that so many people use and appreciate, but that's so hard to get to succeed. There are numerous websites trying to do what Thatsup does, both in Sweden and abroad, but only very few survive, and even fewer have growth. But of all the fantastic things we've built, I'm most proud of Thatsup's team and culture. It's close-knit, incredibly competent and we have fun together both at work and outside the office.
Adam Linders, March 2022
Adam, 10 years later.