After a career as a presenter on Norwegian National TV, a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, Jeanette Dyhre Kvisvik, teamed up with style icon Alexa Chung to start the fashion app Villoid.
WHAT’S HOT: The Annen Etage Bar, a hip place in the centre of Oslo.
Jeanette Dyhre Kvisvik is not your typical Norwegian tech entrepreneur or CEO. Originally a journalist and Norwegian TV-presenter, she then went on to law school. In 2004, she gained admission to the Norwegian Bar and started at McKinsey & Company. “For a lawyer, McKinsey was the best business school, I learned a lot about business and strategy, all the fun stuff”, says Jeanette.
After a few years, she moved to New York and quickly ended up running her first start-up (Interactive Advertising, then Liquid Barcodes), a B2B mobile marketing company. The company was sold to Norwegian telecom giant Telenor and Jeanette joined their innovation department, Telenor Digital.
Jeanette Dyhre Kvisvik: “In Oslo I can take the tram and within 30 minutes I am skiing.”
Jeanette says, “I love New York and its energy but there is just not enough nature for me. In New York you shop, go to restaurants and parks. Which is great fun! I love it! But in Oslo I can take a train and within 30 minutes I am skiing, or I am in the forest with no end, or I go to the beach in the summer. Nothing beats that and to me, Oslo is really the best place to live of all the places I have been”.
Back in the comforts of Oslo, she was ready to embark on her newest and most exciting journey—entering the world of fashion. Fashion was never really her thing, but in 2014 a meeting with one of the Samwer brothers, founders of The Rocket Internet and Zalando, took her to Asia to learn about their shopping sites on the internet. With her background, she quickly saw business opportunities with high margins from e-commerce in the fashion industry.
“It was clear to me that we should create something on the mobile which would benefit from all the digital shopping systems, but something more than just another shopping service. We wanted to create an inspirational safe haven for style lovers with focus on self expression, just like Instagram is a place for self obsession.”
The service gained a double digit market share just months after its launch. From this success, the team was ready to take the concept worldwide, but Jeanette wanted a style icon and fashion influencer to gain credibility and a differentiating factor in the crowded market space. She and her team couldn’t imagine anyone better for the role than Alexa Chung. Alexa is a British style star with over 2 million followers on Instagram and 1.6 million on Twitter. However, tracking someone down with that many followers is no easy task. gained 20% market share just months after its launch.
Jeanette chased Alexa for several months. She messaged numerous agents, some real, some fake, until she finally found the right contact in November 2014. Alexa’s representative offered Jeanette a 20-minute meeting the next afternoon at New York’s Soho Grand Hotel. Not willing to miss the opportunity, Jeanette was on a plane crossing the Atlantic within hours.
The two talked for hours about the project and their similar visions. The meeting ended with Jeanette offering Alexa the position of Creative Director for the fashion app but under one condition: she had to decide by the end of 2015, not a day later. As the New Year’s eve deadline approached, Jeanette never thought Alexa would call. But she did. Alexa was in the Maldives for the holidays and discussed the project with her friends and asked their opinion. The verdict was a clear yes.
From there the new Villoid app was born. Alexa’s partnership with Jeanette earned Villoid publicity all over social media and publications around the world including Vogue, Elle, Sunday Times, Huffington Post and Forbes. Just a few weeks ago, Jeanette got the message she had been hoping for: Villoid got selected by 500 startups to be part of their Silicon Valley based accelerator program. Now the team and her partner Jarle Snertingdalen live in Silicon Valley. Jeanette is based in Oslo, but commutes – thanks to Norwegian direct flight! Alexa Chung is the Creative Director and is involved in all things creative for the project. When Alexa travels the world, she keeps in contact with Oslo headquarters via Skype and posts her adventures for Villoid on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Jeanette runs the company together with her partner, Jarle Snertingdalen, who also runs the tech team.
“Our goal with Villoid is to get millions and millions of users”, Jeanette says and smiles.
Today, Villoid has 300,000 devoted members of the app, mostly from the US and the UK, and they spend an average of 8 minutes a day creating virtual wardrobes, getting and sharing ideas from fellow users and, with a click of a button, they can purchase anything they see. “Our goal is to get millions and millions of users”, Jeanette says and smiles. Her eyes are shining brightly and she exudes energy. At such a moment, you realise that what the world assumes about the cold and reserved Norwegian character is just an old cliché.
WHAT’S HOT: The Annen Etage Bar, an upscale space in the heart of Oslo.
Edited by Joell Serrano
Photos by Dina Johnsen
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