Founded in the early 1990s prior to the dotcom boom, Qlik remains to this day one of the most successful software companies to emerge from Sweden. Lars Björk has been CEO of Qlik since 2007, after having previously held the role of CFO for seven years. Since Lars was promoted to the role of CEO, Qlik has grown very quickly, but he attributes this to his entire time at the company, not just his leadership at the top.
“Qlik is a company that we have built,” Lars says. “And you will hear me say ‘we’ because it’s my type of management style. I don’t believe that I am necessarily the only guy that has built this company or the smartest guy in the room.
I think Qlik has been built around forming phenomenally strong teams and hiring people that are better than yourself.”
Although Lars is now based in Pennsylvania, as that is where Qlik’s head office is now located, he returns to the company’s Lund office during the summer. He says that it reminds him of when the company began, and how he believes start-ups foster good cultures because everyone helps out.
“We started out 15 years ago from a very small incubator in the science park in Lund. There were 25 people at the time and it wasn’t really decided what specific area we would go after in the industry. And we set out to go after the business intelligence and analytics market because that was certainly the most obvious choice.
“When a company is that small, regardless of your position—I was CFO—then you will have to chip in wherever there is a need. Whether that’s packing manuals or helping out on a campaign, I think I have done most things in this company besides coding. I am not a coder by trade so I can’t say that I have done anything like that. But everyone was much more an operational person than a specialist in a function at the time.
“Operational work and operational team building has always been something that has been close to me and something that I like doing. What happened over time was the company grew, I became the COO, and we moved our head office. When the former CEO didn’t want to move to the US for personal reasons, the board felt very comfortable asking me to take on a bigger role, the CEO role, because I was already leading and managing most of the company at the time.”