Gelato Group has enabled to send over three million parcels filled with prints made via their system – But they do not own even a single printer, tells the CEO and co-founder Henrik Müller-Hansen.

Gelato Group has enabled to send over three million parcels filled with prints made via their system – But they don’t actually own even a single printer. This global company hailing from Norway has somehow avoided our radar in the past but after them winning the Oslo Innovation Award 2015, we sat down with Henrik Müller-Hansen, Founder and CEO of Gelato Group.

What Does Democratizing Printing Mean?

We have been hearing a lot about Gelato just very recently – And what I wanted to ask first from Müller-Hansen was about their slogan: “We’re here to democratize the world of printing”. What does it mean to the company and how do they actually do it?

“Printing is one of the world’s largest industries. When you look at the industry the fast growing digital printing was about $140B last year but expected to grow to $290B by 2024. That makes the digital printing one of the world´s fastest growing industries. We’re all about digital printing – Think about how do you print today. If you are a global company and you need to organize printing something for the whole company, it’s complicated and time consuming. Many times you end up printing in one city and then ship it all across the world,” ponders Müller-Hansen and compares the company in being the iTunes of printing industry:

“We built a marketplace for printers which connects them with the end-users all over the world. It results in local printing and local distribution, which is great for the environment, good for your brand and also good for the creativity. It also saves your time.”

From Corporate World To Entrepreneurship – The Classic Story?

J: So why did you found Gelato?

H: If you have a big problem, and you believe that you have a solution to it, and you are able to attract some really good people to join you on the journey, potentially you could have a lot of fun. And for me the last eight years has been a lot of fun. I come from a big corporate background where I was CEO for a $500M company, and when you work as part of a big group, you have certain limitations. And if you want to go after something, you need a great team and a lot of freedom. I had a great team at Tele2 but now I have the idea and the freedom to execute upon it, and a great team too.

J: What led you to make the decision to found it?

H: After I left Tele2 I had a bunch of potential jobs I could land, but I wanted to be able to build something with no politics, where the best ideas win, and where hierarchy doesn’t exist. I actually went to Portugal and bought all the business magazines in the world. I went through every single page on them, and I happened to read an article about the printing industry. I realized that it’s massive in size and that it’s only focusing on hardware, it’s global, it’s not customer oriented, and it has bad user interfaces. So it was a good case. I thought that I can crack it.

J: So you started alone at that moment?

H: Yes, I was alone. And then we sold our apartment and took all our savings and started it.

Entrepreneurship is about balancing risks. It goes hand in hand with establishing your own company and building that from scratch. You take a lot more risk, but also get the reward, whether you succeed or not, the reward is still there.


Gleato Group believes that “collaborative consumption” can be the positive consequence of a “sharing economy”. Photo: Gelato Group

J: Why haven’t we heard about Gelato before? I mean you have operations in multiple countries and the streets of Oslo rumor that with Kahoot! and Unacast you are one of the most exciting startups in Norway today.

H: Let’s look at what we’ve done. We’ve built a team of people all around the world. This year we have had 1700 people applying for jobs and we hired just 13 out of them. We’ve built business that is heading towards 300M NOK (32,6M €) this year and our last capital injection was made at 1,5B NOK (163M €) valuation and we have taken on board 130M NOK (14M €) and we have spent only 20M of that. So we see a huge opportunity.

We have just launched in the US. We’re going to take Gelato platform into the B2B market, to allow global companies to manage global workforces in an eco-friendly fashion. This is a global problem and we have a global solution. So to be able to come this far, you have to be all about the solution. And we like to work with solving the problem, which doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with spending a lot of time speaking to everyone outside the company. Now we actually feel we have a story to tell, so we’re sitting here today 🙂

J: You say on your website that you have built the company with your own cash flow. But you have brought in outside investors. You already mentioned how much, so could you tell us from where, from who?

H: I’m extremely proud of our investor list. We have some of the world’s most prominent investors on board. The names include Harald Mix (Founder of Altor Equity Partners), Marcus Wallenberg (Chairman of SEB and Saab) who is a globally famous business leader. And we have Dawn Capital, who provides you with a wealth of experience but being still super agile and supportive on the way you build your business, a very complimentary investor outside of pure money. And then we have John Hepburn, who joined recently. John is a very well known investment banker and he’s been with Morgan Stanley for 40 years and brings in his extensive global network and experience on when you go from our scale to a big global company.

J: Are you looking into taking more venture money in?

H: No, not at the moment. We have spent only a fraction of the 130M NOK we took in. Our challenge lies in finding the people to build the global company that changes a global industry. So we’re about scaling, we’re not about turning a positive cash flow, even though with our business model, which allows us to get all the revenues pre-paid and we don’t have the printer assets costs etc. it’s difficult not to be cash flow positive.

J: So it’s more about talent acquiring at the moment?

H: Yes, talent acquiring and global expansion. And then of course, at some stage, we want to come to a beautiful point where we want to build a global brand. And if you want to do that, you might have to want to go to the Economist or New York Times and buy advertisement space, and that’s where we see ourselves belonging. And that might consume part of our capital.

“Don’t Do Anything Half-Hearted”

J: Where do you see Gelato in 3-5 years? How about in 10 years?

H: I think as an entrepreneur, you want to avoid answering those type of questions. What you want to say is that you want to stay focused on accelerating the growth.

J: Tell us little bit about your strategy?

H: Well, nothing goes exactly as planned. Our original strategy is to never invest in assets, but connect via software – software that we have developed – to hardware all across the world. To reduce the distribution distance and take advantage of idle capacity in the professional printing industry. And we’re still on that journey. The segment and the services, the products you offer, those evolve over time in a strange and sometimes very difficult to predict manner. But the core of the company, the root
, remains the same since we founded the company.

J: Do you cooperate with other Norwegian startups?

H: As I mentioned, we have not viewed this company as Norwegian company, even from day one. We have the view of our company as a global company, tackling
a real global problem in a real industry. So from day one, we’ve been very outward looking, connecting people from all over the world. So the answer is: We think globally. We’re in 40 countries and we can ship to more than one billion people over one single print. We just launched in the US and we have 10+ countries in our list for expansion.

J: What have been the biggest obstacles so far building your business?

H: Always hiring the best and the brightest people. Always. Always. It’s getting the right people at the right time with the right challenges. Getting a team that can rally behind our mission and execute on it, that is always the key, no matter what industry you are in.

J: How have you solved that problem?

H: I think in the end it comes down to who do you want to be and why are you working so hard, what’s your mission. And our mission is to build world’s most intelligent print cloud, and we feel that many people we engage with, see why we’re solving this problem and they want to be part of the journey.

J: If you were to give an entrepreneur one inspiring advice – what would it be?

H: Go full in! Embrace the idea. Don’t do anything half-hearted.