Let it Snow
This is Axel Kling
Job: CEO, Snow Software
Lives: Austin, Texas, US. Spends summers in Sweden
Career: Entrepreneur within the software industry. Specialized in Software Asset Management for the past 18 years.
Family: Wife and two young children, girl and boy
Favorite place: Engelberg, Switzerland
With its headquarters in Stockholm and the company name inspired by the winter weather that one of the founders stared out upon from a window in the Norwegian countryside, Snow Software seems like a very Scandinavian company, but with offices in over 20 countries around the world today it’s truly global.
The nationality mix of its management team also adds to the global nature of the company. The nine-member executive team consists of an American, a Canadian, two Brits and five Swedes. And Snow’s CEO, Axel Kling, is a Stockholmer who lives in Austin, Texas.
Snow is the market leader in the field of Software Asset Management (SAM), producing solutions and products that help organizations manage their numerous and increasingly complex software licenses, and ultimately, thereby, reduce costs. Its mission is to “stop organizations paying too much for the software they consume.”
SAM is a fairly new idea – but it is a huge and lucrative field. “We are dealing with a problem that everybody has,” Kling says. “In the same way that Spotify deals with music which everyone is listening to, we deal with software, which everyone uses.”
“Companies spend $400 billion on software every year,” he adds. “That is an enormous amount of money. We help them identify what their staff use on their phones and what they have installed on their devices and we help them manage it.”
When Snow began offering SAM no one else was doing it, Kling says. He first started discussing the idea with associates in the late 1990s when he was working in the Swedish IT industry helping companies prepare for the millennium bug. “We realized that organizations spent so much on software but had no processes to keep track of it, or how it is used. The task of securing the millennium shift was quite easy – it was to make a list of all the systems you have and then check with your vendor whether it is compliant or not – yes or no. The problem was, no one could compile the list.”
Kling set about developing an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certificate for this area, a task that took some seven years. In the meantime, he teamed up with a four-man Norwegian startup that had developed a product to help companies in the oil industry deploy their software. Kling started to drive them to focus on SAM and develop the appropriate technology.
‘Every achievement is just a ton of mistakes from which you move on’
That company was called Snow. Named when one of the founders was preparing a presentation of the project for an initial customer meeting and realized they needed a name. “He looked out of his bedroom window and saw snow falling,” Kling says.
The ISO Standard was released in 2006 and Kling says that until 2007 Snow was small and not very profitable. “We were five men in a basement. A small team with big ambition. We were trying to survive in order to continue the mission.”
But then it emerged from the Nordics. Snow launched in the UK first, where Kling says it took 18 months to get things right. After learning from lots of mistakes, they then launched in other parts of Europe. “Every achievement is just a ton of mistakes from which you move on,” Kling says.
Today, Snow has over 700 employees in more than 20 offices around the world, and over 6,000 organizations use its solutions.
But despite the global nature of the company, Kling attributes much of its success to the innovation culture within Scandinavia. “Innovation is a platform for growth,” he says. “And before we launched globally we had built a strong platform in the Nordics. We needed that in order to get our technology out. We were lucky to be born in a part of the world where there are early adopters of technology and with great people that from end-to-end can build something.”
“And one thing that becomes more and more clear when you think about innovation, is that there needs to be trust in yourself or in your team, that it is okay to try things out, even if they don’t work. Part of that comes from the social economy around you. When I started working on this, for example, I didn’t have another job, but I was able to survive. If I couldn’t, I might have had to find another job and reduce my time for this.”
Although they are the market leaders, Kling says that there is still much to do. “If we talk about the vision, we are just scratching the surface. Analysts estimate that many organizations around the world waste up to 30% of their annual software spending, totaling some $100 billion in 2017.”
Kling relocated to Austin, Texas, last year, where the Snow US regional head office is based. The US is the largest growth market and he moved there for this reason. He comes back home to Sweden every summer, so presumably doesn’t see much real snow himself these days. It’s a name he is very happy with though.
“The name has been fantastic. In our industry, technology is at the heart of it, but technology is not the story. Snow balances all those digital zeros and ones and code lines. And Snow sticks. Everyone has a relation to it.”
Text: Danny Chapman