IKEA almost decided to become Amazon before Amazon

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In the 1990s, Jonas Birgersson was one of the world’s leading Internet pioneers. He was mainly focused on Sweden, but also achieved international recognition. He is, at least according to the Secret Service, the only person who has visited the White House wearing shorts.

He was such an evangelist for the Internet that people started calling him “Broadband Jesus”

Speaking to Warp News about the early days of the Internet, he laments missed opportunities.

“I keep coming back to one thing,” he says.

Jonas Birgersson today.

The founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, was both a mentor to Jonas Birgersson and an investor in his company, Framfab. At the time, Framfab was Europe’s largest internet consultancy with 3,000 employees and a market value of over 4 billion dollars.

Ingvar Kamprad in Haparanda.

“Ingvar Kamprad was a fantastic person, and we had good contact. It was fun to have one of my idols as both a mini-mentor and as an investor in Framfab. We often wrote letters. He was good at writing letters, so I had to that. But we faxed them, it picked up the pace a bit, he says, laughing.

Ingvar Kamprad decided to do as Jonas Birgersson wanted and put the web addresses and on the front page of the IKEA catalog. So the world’s largest printed catalogue.

“We had this amazing partnership with IKEA. We took them online.”

IKEA catalog 2001. From the IKEA museum.

The masterpiece of putting the URL on the front page of the catalog instantly made IKEA Europe’s largest e-commerce company.

“He decided it was okay to put the ‘watch’, as he called it, on the IKEA catalog. Then IKEA became Europe’s largest e-commerce website, which we built for them,” says Jonas Birgersson.

But Birgersson and the Framfab team didn’t think IKEA should settle for that. They also wanted other companies to sell goods on IKEA’s e-commerce site and use the warehouses as third-party logistics centers.

“IKEA had all the big advantages. They were Europe’s biggest e-commerce site and they could dominate by being able to communicate with so many people through their catalogue.”

“This is the same time that Jeff Bezos started Amazon,” says Jonas Birgersson.

Jeff Bezos on CBS 60 Minutes.

Amazon started by selling books online, but from the very beginning the idea was to sell all imaginable categories of products.

Amazon also allowed other companies to sell through its website and distributes their products through its network of fulfillment centers.

The very idea that Jonas Birgersson proposed to IKEA.

But IKEA never went for it.

There’s no telling what would have happened if they did, but at least Amazon would have been in for one hell of a fight. And if IKEA had been successful, we might never have heard of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Instead, he became the world’s richest person, and Amazon today employs over 1.5 million people.

Still preaching. Now approx the energy society.

The lesson is to dare to keep moving forward.

Sweden was early with internet and fiber broadband. It laid the foundation for the Swedish tech miracle with Skype, Spotify, Minecraft, Truecaller and several other unicorns. But it could have been more and bigger.

Jonas Birgersson in his office in Lund, Sweden. Still wearing shorts.

Read about Jonas Birgersson’s new idea:

🔌 Jonas Birgersson: “All the electricity you need for a low, fixed fee”

Jonas Birgersson became an internet pioneer by promising and delivering all the internet you need for $20 a month. Now he believes that the same can be done with electricity. “For a low, fixed price, you have all the power you need.”

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