Mette Lykke’s CEO’s first step to wild success didn’t involve anything as thoughtful as a business plan or a problem she wanted to solve. It was more racist.
“It started with the decision to quit smoking and build something,” Lakey says of the first moment of her journey.
Before becoming the head of a sustainable food app that saves 80 million meals a year from waste, she was the co-founder and CEO of Endomondo, the fitness app she eventually sold. under shield for $85 million in 2015.
But before that, Lykke was just that Mackenzie A consultant who wants nothing more than to be an entrepreneur. The Danish upstart didn’t have a business plan or an outlandish ideaAnd Just knowing that she wants to make an impact on the world and “see something grow from the ground up.”
So I convinced two McKinsey business friends who joined on the same day as a consulting business and teamed up to start a business together – which is exactly what they did in 2007.
“Then we had to come up with something,” she says. luck With a touch of humor.
After quitting their jobs, Lykke and her former colleagues at McKinsey came up with a list of 10 startup ideas before settling on creating a community fitness app based on free, real-time GPS tracking for running, cycling, and other distance-based sports. They named the project Endomondo, and the rest is history.
“A lot of aspiring entrepreneurs are sitting there at their corporate jobs waiting for the lightning moment when they have it The great idea,” she adds. Then she adds a caveat: “It won’t land on your lap, you just have to do it or you don’t. Once you decide to do that, you will come up with something because you have to.”
$100,000 is a cheap price to chase your dreams
Although she and her co-founders took a very “McKinsey approach” to building the business — including scoring every potential idea according to its product-market fit and their existing network in the industry — giving it a better chance of success, no startup is entirely foolproof.
However, Lykke did not have a backup plan. Contrary to popular advice, she puts all her eggs in one basket.
Looking back, even if the venture fails, as many do in the first few years of incorporation, Lykke still believes leaving your career and taking the leap of faith is worth the risk — especially when you’re young, childless and mortgage-free.
She said, “The worst thing that can happen is that it won’t work, you’ll lose any money you’ve invested, and you’ll go two months without any work.” “If you think about it from that perspective, if it’s going to cost you $10,000 or even $100,000 to make your dream come true, I actually think that’s pretty cheap,” she says.
It is a far better fate, in her eyes, than to always ask yourself, what if? “It’s like, OK, but at least you had an actual experience,” she adds.
Lykke’s advice to those dreaming of their passion project from their desks is to be fiercely honest with yourself about the potential repercussions of giving up your day job to chase your aspirations — and failing.
“For me, I had McKinsey on my resume and had good results from university. I was fairly employable so I was pretty sure that if it didn’t work out I’d probably find a job somewhere. But that’s not the case for For everyone.
We couldn’t afford a CEO – so I took the job
For most CEOs, their climb up the ladder to the top job is meticulously planned—often with help Career coach. But for Lykke, her entry into the leadership was completely unexpected – even unwanted.
When co-founder Christian Berk stepped down as CEO five years after launching Endomondo, Lykke, who was then responsible for “all things marketing” as CMO, began the process of finding his successor.
“I was absolutely convinced that I didn’t have the skills I would have needed,” she admits. But after searching for the perfect outside candidate, it wasn’t long before Lykke realized the company couldn’t afford to hire the CEOs she was interviewing.
“The company wasn’t doing very well and all the qualifications were too expensive for us,” she recalls.
Upset about the whole situation, Lykke’s father offers her a reality check: “I’m sorry to say, but it looks like you have to do it yourself,” he tells her matter-of-factly.
So it rolled up its sleeves and reluctantly took the helm in January 2012 — but not without the help of its workforce. “I definitely knew there were some things I personally had to work on, so I also invited our team to give me feedback on what those points were — which they did, painfully,” she says.
Much of the criticism she received was based on the style of work she received in her counseling days, such as expecting people to be “self-motivated and get things done”.
“It wasn’t the most inspiring way to lead people – they told me that in so many words,” she adds. “I also needed to build a greater understanding around the fact that, while that was everything for me, other people actually have lives on the side that they’d like to keep.”
Although leadership did not come naturally to Lykke, by honing her soft skills she became a rounded force to be reckoned with. Not only was she now able to motivate her employees, but she was also able to draw on her marketing background to expand the app’s user base to 20 million and get the company ready to sell.
“Good leadership isn’t something you’re born with, it takes practice and training,” Lakey advises.
You never know where your next paycheck — or CEO suggestion — will come from.
After acquiring Endomondo in 2015, Lykke wasn’t, in true style, planning its next move.
Instead of enlisting the help of a recruiter to find her another lead role, a lead role finds its way to Lykke in the most unlikely of places: While on a bus in Copenhagen, she first catches a whiff of a brand-new food stand, Too Good To Go. “The woman next to me showed me the app on her phone and she turned out to be an angel investor,” says Lykke.
The chance encounter led to an introduction with the five founders of the 8-month-old startup, who were looking for funding and advice from an experienced app builder. “I was offered both,” Lykke says, adding that in a few weeks they asked if she would consider becoming their CEO.
“Putting your ego aside and saying, ‘Maybe someone else might be better able to push this forward’ is hard,” she recalls. “This time, I definitely felt prepared.”
On paper, it was a step down from running Under Armor’s senior Endomondo team as a vice president. “But then again, it comes down to not really having a career plan,” she says.
She adds, “I don’t care much about titles or the size of our team or things like that. I really care about making an impact and I’m happy to give my best when it counts – but I want to know it’s actually making a difference.”
Since taking over, she has grown very well going from the ground up to a team of approximately 1,200 people spread across 17 countries; 145,000 stores now sell their unsold food on the app to more than 80 million customers. Last year, it was the fastest growing sustainable food app in terms of downloads, with 9.8 million new sign-ups on Android devices alone.
And make a difference: The app saves three meals from missing out every second, 24/7. However, Leke says her work is far from over.
“I’m not someone who’s ever going to feel like, now I’m satisfied—mission accomplished. There’s so much to do, 80,000 meals are wasted every second. The issue is huge,” she reflects. “It’s great that we saved three of them. But there are still 80,000 out there.”
This story originally appeared on Fortune.com
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