๐Ÿ˜ฎ Internet pioneer: IKEA almost decided to become Amazon, before Amazon

๐Ÿ˜ฎ Internet pioneer: IKEA almost decided to become Amazon, before Amazon

In the late 1990s, a Swedish internet pioneer's masterstroke made IKEA into Europe's largest e-commerce business. But he also proposed that IKEA should do the very thing that Jeff Bezos later did with Amazon.

Mathias Sundin
Mathias Sundin

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In the 1990s Jonas Birgersson was of the world's leading internet pioneers. He was mainly focused on Sweden, but also gained 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"

When he talks with 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 that time Framfab was Europe's largest internet consulting company with 3,000 employees and a market capitalization of over $4 billion.

Ingvar Kamprad in Haparanda.

"Ingvar Kamprad was a great 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 then I had to do it too. But we faxed them, that increased the pace a bit," he says and laughs.

Ingvar Kamprad decided to do as Jonas Birgersson wanted and put the URLs ikea.com and ikea.se on the cover of the IKEA catalog. Then the world's largest printed catalog.

"We had this great partnership with IKEA. We took them online."

IKEA-katalogen 2001. Frรฅn IKEA museum.

The masterstroke of putting the URL on the cover of the catalog instantly made IKEA into Europe's largest e-commerce business.

"He decided it was okay to put the 'urlet', 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 with that. They also wanted them to allow other businesses to sell items on IKEA's e-commerce website and use the department stores as third-party logistics centers.

"IKEA had all the big advantages. They were Europe's biggest e-commerce website and they could dominate by being able to communicate with so many people through their catalog."

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

Jeff Bezos in CBS 60 Minutes.

Amazon started by selling books online, but right from the 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.

One can't know what would have happened if they did, but at least Amazon would have been in 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 about 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 others unicorns. But it could have been more and bigger.

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

Read about Jonas Birgerssons new idea:

๐Ÿ”Œ Jonas Birgersson: โ€œAll the electricity you need for a low, fixed feeโ€
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 thing can be done with electricity. โ€œFor a low, fixed price, you have all the electricity you need.โ€