Karl-Christian Agerup was elected the new head of the Schibsted board for the annual general meeting on May 4th, 2022.

Looking back, his career was all about being a first mover in the digitalization of media. Looking forward, it is mostly a question of securing firm strategic development.

Twenty years ago, Tinius Nagell-Erichsen asked Karl-Christian Agerup to become his deputy to the Schibsted board. Digital competence was urgently needed around the table and Schibsted had already been the investor in Agerup’s first digital bet, Hugin AS. Agerup himself was impressed by how far-sighted Schibsted had been in the formative years of the internet in Norway and knew Schibsted well from his time as a consultant in McKinsey & Co.

Agerup enthusiastically joined in and took part in several determining decisions for Schibsted in the years to come; the acquisition of Blocket being probably the most important. Both his experience and outsight made him a strong advocate for an international investment in classified, even though it was not obvious at that time that Schibsted would become an international media player.

– I was convinced that there was enormous value in an international rollout of our classified business, which eventually also happened, Agerup says.

Since 2003 — the exception of the years 2013-2019 — he has been a part of the Schibsted Board. He has also been the substitute to chairman Ole Jacob Sunde of the board of Tinius Trust, Schibsted’s largest owner,  since 2010.

Karl-Christian Agerup was literally brought up into the news media business, being both a dedicated newspaper delivery boy of the local paper Demokraten in the hometown Fredrikstad, as well as a notorious founder and editor of school newspapers all the way from elementary school to high school, steadily increasing the ambitions with relevant reporting, local advertising and solid sales revenue.

But then there was the internet.

– I was coming out of McKinsey just as Internet was happening.  I was interested in the Internet as a medium and how it could be used to publish and sell content. Unfortunately, the willingness to pay was low and the reach was limited in the beginning. In our search for profitable business models, we concluded that financial information was an area where the internet could make a big difference, Agerup says.

He founded Hugin AS together with a former colleague – and Schibsted became their first investor. Schibsted was already in Scandinavia Online and thus considering other internet business models as well.

– With Schibsted as an investor, we became a more serious company. It made it easier to acquire customers. When we finally sold Hugin to Euronext S.A., I think the return to Schibsted was ten times the investment.

In 1997, Agerup co-founded the leading European venture capital firm Northzone Ventures. Among their most renowned seed investments during that tenure are Spotify — the global music service to consumers, Stepstone — the leading European job portal, lastminute.com – a leading European travel site, Mas Movil – a leading Spanish Mobile Telecom player, and more than 50 other tech and software companies.

Stepstone was later fatally challenged in Norway by the establishment of Finn.no — a newcomer we were not able to compete with, he says.

– When we first launched Northzone Ventures we were almost exclusively looking at Internet-based companies. The online classifieds market looked like a market that was ripe for innovation providing unique value to both buyers and sellers. Our first fund invested in almost all the online vertical sites like jobs, travel, real estate and cars and was a great success. It is a testament to Schibsted that they were able to counter all of these new entrants with their own new integrated classified offering, Finn.no. If they had not been so quick to react I am sure that the company would look differently today.

– I have great respect for Schibsted and what has been achieved in terms of value creation since Schibsted’s listing in 1992, he says. Schibsted was a first mover in the Internet space and dared cannibalize its own advertising revenues for the sake of building up leading digital online properties that went on to become leaders in their markets. The early investments that were made in building up Classified properties across Europe were groundbreaking, he continues.

– At the same time, Schibsted has shown that it is possible to produce and deliver quality journalistic products profitably to the market in a digital age. The transition our news media outlets have made over the last 15 years has been remarkable and the opportunities ahead seem brighter than in a long time, he continues.

In 2010 Agerup went all in to develop Oslotech. As CEO he turned around and revitalized a 60.000 m2 science park into an innovation engine next to the campus of University of Oslo. He contributed to the launch of the angel fund Founders Fund as well as the spearhead of startup accelerators in Norway, the StartupLab (tech), and Aleap (medtech and health) — in addition to several other initiatives catered towards innovation among students and the research community. As an icing to it, he established a political agenda for Innovation Policy to constantly nudge politicians and policymakers through conferences, blogs, articles and speeches.

He currently lives in Singapore, being a partner and chief of investment strategy and operations of Antler, the global early-stage venture capital firm looking for defining technology companies of tomorrow.

– There is a strong focus on entrepreneurship these days. More and more people choose to take the chance to start something on their own and try to succeed with new business ideas. For established companies, this can become a threat, but it is also a great opportunity. Schibsted wants to be a strong and attractive partner for entrepreneurs in the Nordic region.

On the road ahead, Schibsted needs to utilize this entrepreneurial trend also in the light of their own employees, Agerup thinks:

– Looking at Schibsted today, I see a strong value-driven company with a solid moral compass. Millions of people use our products every day. They trust the information and services we provide. We aim to make them sufficiently informed to make up their minds and to make good decisions on purchasing goods and other services. Our history, our reach and depth into the everyday life of so many people in the Nordic region, grant us a unique position, Agerup says.

– In many ways, I feel that Schibsted is one of the most important companies in the Nordics. Not only secure and safeguard our products and the societies we live in through high-quality independent journalism, but we are also a “counterbalance” to the large global tech players with a different attitude towards the protection of digital identities and personal space. If we can continue to play on our strengths towards the Nordic consumers this is a real opportunity for long-term value creation.

– A company’s success is created by its employees. We see that more and more young people are emphasizing the values of the company they work for. They want to improve the society they live in.  I think Schibsted’s values make us attractive to talents in the labor market because they appreciate and believe in what we do. This is the foundation for creating the company for the future, Karl-Christian Agerup concludes.