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Photo: Mattias Bardå

Scholarship article

Reeling in the big catches

One of the first things that strike you upon meeting serial entrepreneur and investor Johan Attby, is that he seems like such a genuinely nice guy. So it comes as a bit of a jolt when he lists off some of his key attributes for becoming a successful entrepreneur as paranoid, competitive and hating to lose.

“A lot of entrepreneurs are paranoid,” says Attby, smiling. “I don’t think it’s very healthy, but for running a company it’s good, because that keeps you on your toes and makes you faster.”

Attby is currently the founder and CEO of Fishbrain, the world’s largest social network for anglers, which he started in 2013. Fishbrain offers fishing enthusiasts a way to share their passion and exchange information and users have already logged four million catches. The social network currently has more than six million members in over 200 countries.Photo: Shutterstock

Although he grew up on a farm in Sweden and has been fishing since he was a kid, he admits that Fishbrain didn’t stem from a passion for fish, but rather from his strong analytical background and a desire to create something that gives users value.

“My take was, if you have an interest, hobby and passion for something, you want to share your experience with like-minded people and have a deeper discussion and you will actually exchange information that has lasting value.”

Prior to Fishbrain, Attby’s passion was the startup Tific, a company he founded in Sweden in 1999 that offers solutions that facilitate the problem-solving process by gathering and presenting data information to helpdesk staff. He moved to Silicon Valley to grow the business, which was acquired by Massachusetts-based PlumChoice, Inc. in 2011.

Attby travels frequently for work. “To get business done you have to meet in person. I think you’re always missing something when you are on conference calls and it’s really hard to close deals and get partnerships and stuff like that over the phone.

It was a phone call from SAS however, that put the wheels in motion for his latest role as mentor to the Map Project.

“The Map Project solves a big global need, and when I saw the kinds of opportunities it created, I was hooked. They really have a passion for this and first-hand experience, which I believe is important to be successful.”

In addition to helping the Map Project team with advice on building a solution that’s easy to use and scale rapidly into many countries, Attby will give advice on how to run an organization and build a data-driven company culture.

“I think being data-driven is one of the keys to many successful companies these days, because they learn how to make the service better by measuring what’s working and what is not working,” says Attby. “At Fishbrain, we launch a lot of stuff that is not working but then we learn from it. There isn’t a recipe for building a successful company and this is new territory. Keep testing. Throw a dart, measure, optimize or throw in a completely different direction.”

As a mentor, Attby says he gains satisfaction by learning new things, adding that before he met the Map Project team, he had no idea the lack of addresses was such a problem. “Also, I’m at a stage in life when I want to work with companies that do good – and they [Map Project] do good.”

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