Stefan Krook, co-founder of Kivra, bases his business idea on responsible investment and climate-friendly values
A simple idea that no-one had been able to make happen before attracted entrepreneur Stefan Krook. As a result, a digital mailbox service Kivra has reached major success in Sweden. Now Krook seeks to help the environment beyond Sweden with digitalization.
As a sixth-grader, Stefan Krook went from door to door selling sweets for their class excursion. Since no-one bought the all too large package of 30 pieces, Krook changed tactics. After dividing the packages into smaller portions, the whole stock was sold in a jiffy.
Almost 30 years later, similar actions led to the birth of the digital mailbox and invoicing service Kivra.
“When selling the coconut balls, I listened to what people actually needed, and adapted to it. The same happened with Kivra – its core idea is simple. The service genuinely takes everyone’s diverse situations into account in a way that nobody happened to think of before”, Stefan Krook says.
With Kivra, companies can send their customers diverse documents and invoices digitally, and users can pay and archive their invoices safely and with ease. Kivra is the epitome of Krook’s wish to do good for both people and the environment. However, it took years to get from an idea into the execution.
A CEO in a student apartment
In 2000, Stefan Krook was both a 27-year-old student and a CEO. Internet was all the rage, and Glocalnet, an IT and telecommunication company founded by Krook, was stock listed. After five years of hustle and bustle, Krook left his position to finish up his Master’s Thesis.
The successful businessman was still living in a student apartment and riding a lousy bike to prevent anyone from wanting to steal it. For Krook, money clearly wasn’t the ultimate goal of life. An entrepreneur under 30 years of age, he wanted some time to ponder on his experiences and figure out what he wanted for the future.
“A Master’s Thesis long overdue, half a glass of wine, and a book about Dalai Lama’s thoughts led to an enlightenment: if one harnesses their skills to doing good, an individual can make a difference. I’m talented in only one thing: entrepreneurship. But businesses only aim for making money, and that feels empty to me”, Krook says.
“To me, NGO’s and humanitarian organizations like ‘Doctors Without Borders’ represent the do-gooders of the world. However, I’m not practical enough for field work. So how could I use entrepreneurship for doing good?”
From this, the GoodCause foundation was born. All the dividends accumulated by the companies of the foundation is donated to charities all over the world. To this day, the foundation has given over 7 million euros in donations.
From a funny idea to taking over Sweden
In the beginning, digital post was just a remark brought casually up in conversations. As e-mail already existed, Stefan Krook didn’t think much of it. Then he realized how much letter mail with plastic windows was still sent every day, despite having e-mail as an option.
“Such a waste of natural resources! We waste wood on envelopes, when it could be used for more important needs. Then we transport letters all around, when transferring the same content digitally serves better the sender, the receiver, and the environment. Snail mail isn’t the biggest problem existing, but we are ants in a big world. If everyone puts in their two cents, we can make a difference.”
Could a digital mailbox work? Believing in the idea required bravery. In other industries, it was possible to benchmark and follow a set example. Not with Kivra: there were no such companies at the time. Working meant constant innovation, and gaining momentum required trust in the unknown from companies and individual users alike. It took four years to get the first 11 sender companies onboard.
In 2005, service of the Swedish authorities was attached to Kivra. Authorities such as the Swedish Tax Agency, Swedish Companies Registration Office, and the Swedish Pension Agency sent all their documents and messages with the service. Three years later Kivra made a new record when 37 000 new users registered for the service in a day. Nowadays the service gains approximately 60 000 new users per month.
“Over 20 000 organizations send their invoices through Kivra, and the service is used by 3,5 million people. That’s 40 per cent of Sweden’s population.”
Happy-happy- model for better service
Sweden and Finland are alike in many ways, and several big companies operate in both countries. That’s why Kivra is now coming to Finland. Stefan Krook underlines that the Finnish Kivra is completely tailored to Finnish needs – the service isn’t a copy of its Swedish counterpart. In Finland, the main owners of the service are Telia Finland Oyj, Resurs Bank, and Kivra AB.
“Any Finnish company can become a sender, no matter the industry or market position. Kivra is all about making daily life easier, not amassing new customers or stealing them from other companies. We’re building a digital environment based on equality, with transparency, openness, and cooperation at its core.”
In an ecosystem like Kivra, there are many stakeholder groups with fairly diverse needs. The user can be a teenager or elderly, one swearing in the name of iOS and the other not owning a smartphone at all. In Krook’s opinion, one of the reasons behind Kivra’s success is an understanding of what matters most to each customer respectively. What’s more, teamwork is an answer to problems one cannot solve alone.
“With so many different customer groups, equal shares aren’t always the best option for service. Listening and adapting are at the core. Let’s imagine sharing a pumpkin: one needs the insides for a pumpkin soup, the other wants a jack-o-lantern. Halving the pumpkin would give both an equal share, but neither would get what they really want and need. We call the mutual satisfaction of parties the happy-happy -model”, Krook says.
Impact investing as the foundation
Even after eight years, Kivra isn’t generating profit. That doesn’t bother Krook, who measures success with another indicator: impact investing strives especially for creating measurable social or environmental impact. Where GoodCause foundation has an impact through donating its profits, Kivra’s way of impacting is its business model.
“When we get a new company to work with us, it also means more individual Kivra users. The more paper invoices we can replace with a digital one, the less we use valuable natural resources.”
Krook’s background as an entrepreneur and benefactor is well known in Sweden. Alongside Krook, Kivra AB is owned by Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M, and the Wallenberg foundations.
“It’s common knowledge that we’re doing this to build a better foundation for the society, not only to make money. Each step Kivra takes as a company is a step towards a better world.”
In the beginning, Kivra was just a funny idea. However, it developed into a functional and necessary service. Serial entrepreneur Krook’s fancy is already tickled by new opportunities. For companies and consumers, Kivra already is one of the easiest environmental acts. However, the founder hopes that Kivra will become a neutral and trustworthy communication platform used by whole nations – a complete infrastructure.
“In addition to increasing their financial return, more companies should strive for looking for opportunities to do good. It does not have to be either profits or doing good. In that sense, I hope Kivra will be able to serve as a frontrunner.”
- Year of birth: 1972
- Lives: In Sweden with spouse and four daughters
- Career: Graduated from Stockholm School of Economics. First enterprise, stock listed telecommunication company Glocalnet, founded at the age of 24. Founder and a chairman of GoodCause foundation which donates its revenues to charity. Founder of Kivra, digital mailbox and service for paperless interaction.