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Charlotte Ekelund

Starting a company that offers a virtual office platform 4 months before the pandemic hit was a blessing and a curse. MSc alum and Co-Founder & CEO of Teemyco Charlotte Ekelund explains how although it is a luxury problem when the entire world becomes your potential audience overnight, it is important to stay focused and resist the urge to be all things to all people.

Describe your role and what it is that you do overall and on a day-to-day basis.

I am one of 2 Co-Founders and the CEO of a tech startup called Teemyco – your office, online. I run a team of 19 people with 12 nationalities working from 11 countries together on a daily basis. I am involved in different areas during a given day. Today, to give an example, I reviewed last year’s annual report, had 1-2-1s with 2 of my leadership team members, approved marketing material, coached our sales team on how to handle a few customer requests and tonight I will prepare for a product and UX workshop we will have tomorrow. I keep myself busy!


What inspired you to start Teemyco?

Teemyco is the result of multiple puzzle pieces. Firstly, in my early career days in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), I had a negative remote working experience. Being the only one working from Sweden in my team took its toll on my motivation and mental health. Add to that the insights I gained from my time working as a recruitment consultant, what made people like/dislike their jobs, and my positive physical office experiences from my former strategy roles at Coca-Cola. Although it helped to shape my future, this alone did not give birth to Teemyco. To come up with the idea of building a brandable virtual office platform for distributed teams prior to the pandemic, two other key ingredients were needed. Firstly, a seed was planted for me personally when I spoke to a good SSE friend Alok Alström, the CEO of a tech scale-up, about the difficulties he was facing managing a remote team. He told me about how painful it was to keep the culture and communication of his team spread out across various locations together. Also, how distributed tech teams tended to struggle through Slack and Zoom, tools which just did not fix the issues. The second part, my co-founder Oleg brought to the mix!


How did the pandemic affect your company/work?

We were a 4-month-old company with a first alpha version of the office live and our first 4 test customers when the pandemic hit. My phone went bananas. Thousands of people wanted to get early access to our product. For us, being a 2-person company with a powerpoint and a plan, it meant accelerating and running faster. So, we took in more investment and built the team faster than planned - all so that we could develop the product faster. From a market perspective, the increased demand was on the one hand positive. But it also brought its own set of problems. Although it is a luxury problem when the entire world becomes your potential audience overnight, when you have not found your “product market fit” yet, it is important to stay focused and resist the urge to be all things to all people. The pandemic itself also attracted more competitive players into the category.


What is the most exciting part of your work? What do you think digital work is going to look like in the next 5-10 years?

I love that I am working with creating everyday work happiness for people around the globe. In December, 94% of the respondents across 120 countries in a user survey stated that they are happier at work since they started using Teemyco. This shows me that I am working with a real purpose. Listening to users about how we enable people on the Albanian countryside access jobs and feel super included in their international teams is completely heartwarming to me. The fact that there is so much we have yet to do to drive more positive change in the world is obvious.

I believe that in the future, most companies will have a branded space online for their teams to meet, where virtual presence has been re-defined; no longer just a coloured dot to signify activity on a computer screen. Making everyone in a team feel truly included no matter the circumstances or location of their physical presence is the direction to go. Hiring will be based more around time-zones than physical locations which will open up a lot of growth for companies and individuals alike. I also believe that gym-like co-working space memberships with facilities also outside of the city centres will be more common.


What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur and starting something new?

Gosh, where to start!

First and foremost, being a SSE marketing and CEMS alum, you can imagine how technical I am (read: not at all). So, heading up a software company is not what I learnt in university. The best you can do is to be humble, curious, learn, adjust, admit which parts you should not have an opionon about, and get a strong Co-Founder who complements you.

Instead of listing the standard responses most entrepreneurs give such as fundraising, hiring, prioritizing, meeting investor expectations before running out of money, the feeling of not knowing how the heck to solve this new problem you’ve never encountered before, I will highlight a less predictable point: the impact on the rest of my life! Since I became a founder of a hybrid work software in pandemic times, free time has been reduced. I am however, still extraordinarily grateful for what our team has been able to achieve in 2 short years.   


How did your time/education at SSE help guide you in your career so far?

SSE has a special place in my heart and always will, I had fantastic years there. Most SSE alumni usually highlight a mix of the skills and courses with the people and “network” gained. Of course, both are true for me too. However, I’d like to add two more areas. One is the student association. SASSE enabled me to for real project lead, initiate and drive projects. I remain convinced that putting together and leading project teams for singles Valentine’s Dinners, heading the Handelsdagarna fair and building the cult-like culture of der Verein have helped me greatly in preparing myself for my days as an entrepreneur.

Secondly, kudos to CEMS. Running a diverse team consisting of 12 nationalities adds a cultural complexity, which was built into the CEMS program in a natural way. Having worked and studied abroad also prepared me for my current role in a way that would have been difficult to achieve without that opportunity.


Following your time studying, do you have any words of wisdom or advice you would like to share with our current/prospective students?

I would encourage students to try their wings out as a project leader, or to try out a leadership role in the student association. I think life experience can be just worth just as much as a leadership and management course: I say learn by doing!


What are three words that sum up your time at SSE?

Friendship, studying, partying.