Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 310 – Jonatan Littke – Keys to Success of a Modern Startup

My guest today is Jonatan Littke, co-founder of Lookback. 

Founded in 2013, Lookback is a video capture and sharing application used by User Experience professionals to conduct both moderated and unmoderated user research projects that is used by over 1,600 companies globally. 

Prior to founding Lookback, Jonatan founded several companies including GosuGamers one of the world’s largest eSports websites and Ripple, a UX Consultancy. Additionally, he was one of the original Spotify engineers. 

Find Jonatan Online:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonatanlittke

Twitter: https://twitter.com/littke 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  

Website: www.happymr.com  


“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com 


Jamin: Hi. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Jonatan Littke co-founder of Lookback. Founded in 2013, Lookback is a video capture and sharing application used by user experience professionals to conduct both moderated and unmoderated user research projects. Prior to founding Lookback, Jonatan founded several companies including GosuGamers. This is one of the world’s largest e-sports Web sites and Ripple, a UX consultancy. Additionally, he was one of the original Spotify engineers. Jonatan, thanks for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.


Jonatan: Happy to be here Jamin.


Jamin: I’d like to start out with this contextual question. What did your parents do and how did they impact or inform what you’re doing today?


Jonatan: Sure. That’s a great question. So my dad was an engineer and a jet pilot in the Swedish military. And one of the things that my wife and I always think so much about his impact on me was how he is a man with a theme. And by that we mean that there’s something very central to his life, a particular interest or hobby at a given time and then when you meet him you will get to know about that theme. And I’m sure you have somebody in your life who’s like that. And my wife says that I’m like that and I kind of have that when I get something that feels like this is really what I need to do right now I just can’t let go of it. And I think that’s part of being an entrepreneur. I didn’t really know what I was quote unquote growing up because I liked to do a bunch of different things. But over time I realized that that’s that tenacity of being I need to see this thing built or I need to see this solution coming to the world. I just can’t let it go. Stay up all night thinking about it. So that’s probably the biggest contribution my dad had on me. I feel like that’s from him. Not being sure. But I think so. And then my mom was a doctor or is a doctor and she’s been also an educator in communications and teaching a lot about empathy and how doctors can meet patients with empathy and see it from their side and their situation and all of that. So I grew up with a lot of questions about feelings and a lot of don’t say you did this say when you do that here’s what I feel. So when you say that thing that makes me feel angry. And growing up really learning how to verbalize my emotions and access them from within my body. Identify where in the body the emotions are and all these things. And I like to believe that, that helped impact my decision to run this current company which, Lookback which helps increase empathy. At least we hope so with that company. So that I think is one of the biggest things my mom gave me, that whole emotional feeling side.


Jamin: You think about empathy and then also this grit to see things through. Empathy’s at the core of consumer insights. Did it play an active role when you started your UX consultancy and then later Lookback?


Jonatan: Yes. Exactly. That I think is a big piece of it. And I think user experience is so interesting in that way because it-I’m a designer and engineer as well. But I don’t particularly care for those functions or that role per say, although I enjoy it. But I do care about what is the end state that I’m able to put the person using the product in. And I’m not saying I’m the best at empathy. But I do certainly have built in the reward of identifying when somebody’s able to get to that point where they’re really feeling good or able to achieve their goal and that’s been kind of innate in me in a way that I’ve been building companies to try and create more of that feeling or have that as a reward more so than financial reward or fame and popularity. It’s how can we get more people use this thing in order to feel good or be more successful.


Jamin: It sounds like it’s a lot about enablement. Helping other people attain what is their goal or even full potential.


Jonatan: Yes, absolutely. That’s it.


Jamin: The other thing I think is interesting, your father-fighter pilot?


Jonatan: Yes.


Jamin: Instrumentations a big part of being a pilot and when you think about user experience, actually user experience was founded in the cockpit. So you, pilots needed to get into a cockpit and they needed to have the same experience or similar experience across planes. And that’s where the altimeter and speed and etc. became really important as this unifying force.


Jonatan: That’s a good point because my dad after being a pilot went into the industry of building airplanes and jet fighters and so. And just the other week he was calling me and raving about how terrible Boeing were doing with their instrumentation of the whole nosedive thing where the pilot has to steer in the right way and how they didn’t have enough sensors to accurately measure it. He was saying “when we built these jet fighters we had so and so many sensors and this-” And I think that’s a core piece of it is how do you build that experience that puts the pilot in control, which they weren’t in the Boeing. They weren’t allowed because the computer took over. How do you put the person in control to be able to do what they need to do especially in the time of crisis or challenging situations? That’s where I think technology really has to trust the human that’s in this case driving the engine or controlling the machine. Has to really trust it to know what it’s doing which then mixes them by case.


Jamin: And the, to the earlier point, the important of muscle memory and training kicks in, in those moments of crisis etc. And really kind of the design of what you do. So I did a little bit of getting my private pilot’s license. I haven’t completed the process and I don’t know that I actually will. But as I started that journey the thing that stood out to me was the importance of checklists and maintaining the discipline around the checklists regardless of if it was your first flight or it was your billionth flight. There really is no, it’s open ended. You just maintain that discipline. And the checklists get-they happen before you get into the plane and then there’s a whole other set of checklists that happen when you’re getting ready to take off and then there’s a whole other set of checklists that happen after you’ve taken off. And you kind of reverse those procedures. And then similarly there’s checklists that exist for moments of crisis. And I just-I found that really interesting that really every aspect of the flight has already been decision treed out for you so that you know what to do and a good pilot has functionally memorized those things. But then also has access to those in quick format, those checklists complete format so that they can then execute the right procedure at the right time.


Jonatan: And I think that’s so important to verify that things are going the way they should be even if everything is a green light and not just relying on that. Because I think as we think about scaling technology to millions or billions of people we can’t afford ourselves the luxury of check listing everybody’s experience was exactly the way that we wanted it to be. And yet I think that is our responsibility. And it’s somehow figuring out a way to ensure that vital systems like immigration or healthcare or has all of these rely more on more on technology we can’t allow the systems to fully govern that incredibly important and personal experience. So let’s say that computer or the records state that you had the wrong history because it pulled up the wrong record or whatever. And then we rely on that more so than the word of the person or the experience with the doctor, whatever. And that I think is the challenge going forward that we’re going to have to figure out how do you rely on technology without fully relying on it like the airplane’s a really interesting example of where we don’t really rely on technology fully because we can’t allow ourselves to do that.


Jamin: You’ve got actually a laminated sheet that tells you these are the-physically they’re [CROSSTALK] 


Jonatan: You have to verify it.


Jamin: Exactly. So this is an interesting point really. The black box that technology builds into our lives. The assumption that Google Maps is in fact giving me the shortest distance between A and B. And we don’t really have a way of validating that because it’s impossible for us to be able-well be impossible for us to validate that especially in context in real time. But we do increasingly put our trust in technology that it is operating for our good and the ethical association with that as it relates with the companies is interesting to me because yet is in some ways in conflict because the company’s objective is to make money. And so you do have this juxtaposition of the business has to do good. It’s going to do the best thing that’s in my interest, but at the same time they’ve got to operate in the interest of their shareholders as well.


Jonatan: That’s why I think it’s so interesting with emerging technologies that allow not full control of the system by any one player. So take banking where suddenly I could try to withdraw money and it says you have zero dollars on your bank account by an error and I would have absolutely no way of verifying or proving that actually I have a lot of money in there and they give it back to me. That would be really hard. And I think that the power decision that the owner or controller of a technology has right now is totally imbalanced. And so moving to systems that are more distributed or needs to be verified by more players at the same time or gives control back to consumers I think is absolutely critical if technology’s going to be able to sustain all of the reliance that we have on it and be able to back society to the extent that we want it to do.


Jamin: Give us a little bit, a very brief, the elevator pitch of Lookback.


Jonatan: Sure. So Lookback is a better way to talk to your users, specifically for user researchers we help with moderated and unmoderated research on mobile and on desktop. Remote as well and in person.


Jamin: And full disclosure to our listeners, Lookback and myself have a formal agreement. They have been a sponsor of our 2020 Q1 episodes. Very appreciative of that. This episode is not sponsored by Lookback. And the reason I think that’s really important and if you are a long-time listener or know me personally you know that I really don’t do anything for money. My motivation is to bring my audience the absolute best content at any given point. And the reason that I wanted to have Jonatan on the show today is because he’s birthed or created several very successful companies. Lookback being the last one. And in that process he’s gained a lot of insight in terms of identifying where market is and what the opportunity is and then also being able to bring to life that particular vision or that particular company. So, what I’d like to do is ask you sir what are some tips you would give aspiring technology entrepreneurs.


Jonatan: So, that’s a good question. I would start with making sure that you understand, fundamentally understand when what you build successfully solves the problem. Doesn’t have to solve the entire problem but as long as one key part is solved better than it was before than you’re good. But you have to be able to verify that yourself. If you’re building for somebody else, which you should, you shouldn’t assume that you’re going to be the end user. But you have to be able to verify they’re now able to do it better than they were before. And measure each improvement that you’re making to your product in terms of how much of a benefit is this to end users. Now of course research helps tremendously in this area, but at the same time in the beginning you’re going to need to make decisions so often, so rapidly that you can’t rely on every single micro decision being validated or researched upfront exactly, how well the solution is functioning. And so build, I would say build for yourself or build to the extent that you can validate it yourself. Yet at the same time you want to build for a higher purpose. And sometimes just serving yourself, let’s say that you have far more money than most people in the world or you’re privileged or you’re able to be in, to be in a position where you can start a company, which is fantastic, congratulations. Do remember that there are people out there who are not in that position and so building for yourself while at the same time scratching the itch or solving the need for somebody else or a lot of people out there I think is absolutely critical. So being able to combine those two is very important. I see sometimes people are very mission driven who want to solve problems for somebody else end up not creating really powerful products because they’re not able to get to that level of detail or understanding when the product actually does what it should do, if that makes sense.


Jamin: So flesh that out for me just a little bit more, the last part. I didn’t quite track with you. I get the first part which is you want to solve a real problem. It needs to be quantifiable in terms of the overall benefit to the customer.


Jonatan: But then you want to make sure that you’re not the only one having that problem because I see some real-the really great engineers especially on the mobile development side or they’re building these fantastic tools for themselves. They’re the best code editors in the world and they know exactly what they want. It’s so tailored for them and then you see the farther away you get from engineering you’re using crappier and crappier tools. You’re sitting in finance you’re, or maybe finance is a bad example. But you’re sitting in a function that’s far away and you’re just using so clunky tools that are not specifically built for you because nobody fully understands what a great solution for you would look like.


Jamin: So that’s a really-that’s-I love that. I’ve never heard that before which is, I don’t know if that’s important or not but, and I think that’s very true. The farther a technology is away from actual coders than the worst fundamentally the worst the experience is for the user or the worst it does at solving that particular problem.


Jonatan: I think power is shifting too. Product managers and business leaders are able to say we’re going to go in and solve this problem. But that’s where I’m saying. If you want to be that kind of entrepreneur who’s able to solve a problem that’s not necessarily your own you have to be able to find a way to know whether you’ve actually solved the problem in each micro interaction. You’ve got to know each button. Is this better than it was? This flow. Is this the way that we’re thinking about it? The whole mental model is this fundamentally stronger than what was instead of just saying we’re going to build a better support tool or we’re going to build a better micro loan system. But knowing it intimately is so critical.


Jamin: So you’d need to understand fully the problem and then you also need to understand the implementation or the user experience of your particular solution.


Jonatan: Yes. It’s almost like I would say if you don’t have a cofounder or yourself who personally has experienced this problem you’re not going to succeed. It’s going to be really hard. You have to surround yourself with people who want this problem solved and who have an intimate understanding of it because it’s not enough to just listen to people every now and then. It has to be very close to your heart.


Jamin: We start with founder market fit and then we move into product market fit. What do you see as one of the largest challenges for a startup or a set of entrepreneurs in today’s framework?


Jonatan: In the product market fit space specifically?


Jamin: It could be if you were just starting a company.


Jonatan: So I think a lot of-in the beginning you’re very focused on building things and on doing things. And I think a lot of people stop measuring the increased progress that you’ve done in your understanding of the problem solution that we just talked about. And so finding a way to quantify how much have we learned and how much better is that going to make us is really important because what I see, most people at least in tech entrepreneurs they sit down and the first thing they deal with, they start to write some code. Or now these days more people use, they use Figma and they create prototypes and they do some testing and all that is great. But at the same time it’s very focused around let’s start building something or least start creating something or doing a lot of things. So getting to the state where you can appreciate all of the conversations that you had and all the insights you’re getting. Basically, collect the insights. Pounding your insights is something I would definitely do more of. And then I would go back to the mission thing which is it’s going to be easier for you to succeed from a customer perspective if you build something that people want but also from a pure human perspective I do believe it’s going to be more and more important that your mission really resonates with where we want the world to go. And so that the mission is something that a lot of people can get behind. Now you’re going to hear BCs who say that they’ll invest whether, as long as it makes money. And I do believe that that’s true. But at the same time, everyone you’re interacting with is human being and if you can have a mission that resonates with people that’s going to help you tremendously when you’re hiring, when you’re getting advisors, when you’re getting press because if you’re doing something great people appreciate that and they like you more and they want to talk to you more and so on and so forth. So increasingly thinking about the mission that’s good for the world, not just disguised as good for the world I think is incredibly important too.


Jamin: It’s-I keep going back to that Steve Jobs quote which is, “Make a ding in the universe.” His overall driving mission of Apple. And sort of just massive aspirational goals. It wasn’t about at least the vision that we heard from the outside is that the company wasn’t built around making a billion-dollar company. And I’m sure that many people would have different points of view on that. But from an outsider perspective it was very clearly communicated. The need to create something and then communicate the actual vision or connect the vision to the thing that you’re creating, I think is one of the biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs because most people just create something and then expect people to use it like a set of features, as opposed to build something that is actually creating a better world or making a difference in individuals lives or what have you. It’s almost like are they using the tool or are they creating a better world. I know that’s such a crazy thing to say, but I really think that the overarching communication one, is a movement and the other is more of a transaction.


Jonatan: And one way to frame it is pretending to be a historical documentary that’s says in 2030 the world finally was able to achieve what because Jonatan Littke did what. And then you know both what is what you fill in and if you can honestly say that now the world can chat faster using mobile and that’s because Jonatan Littke built this great app of whatever. And if I believe in that and I think that’s great then sure, great. But if it starts sounding hollow then you’re like maybe this isn’t really contributing all that much.


Jamin: What is something-so you were part of the original Spotify engineering team. What was something that you learned as that particular engine was getting spun up?


Jonatan: Well, so I joined the engineering team and there were lots of brilliant engineers there for sure and particular grade designer called Russ Anderson [ph] who went on ultimately to move to the valley and joined a lot of companies. He’s at Figma now I believe. And he would always seem-forgive me, but he would seem like the guy who didn’t really care what people thought because he just wanted to build this great product. And that was always a little bit hard. And it was weird for me coming in. Sweden is so much about concepts and it’s like we, if there are five people in the group. If five people don’t agree than we’re not going to do it. And then here was this guy who was you know what, all those ideas they’re really bad. Here’s what we’re going to do instead. And he often got his way. And learning to make the decisions for the product, not necessarily always finding consensus is one of the big things for me back then. But then also is how do we treat one another when we disagree and how do we create a culture that is able to tie break when you end up in that kind of lock was definitely something I learned there. The other thing I certainly learned from CO Daniel was just being incredibly bold and his vision. Just the-at the time it’s like being a successful tech company out of Sweden and competing with all these US giants and in this-in the industry of music, what a challenge. It’s obviously somebody else is going to join this industry. Is going to join this, solve this problem. And today you have, I think every large tech company probably has a music app with Google, Amazon, and Apple obviously all do and then so you certainly taught me that. Going out and negotiating all those label deals and all those things. Certainly appreciate it there and have been trying to emulate, so.


Jamin: And already a material incumbent with Pandora.


Jonatan: Yes. For sure. And look at them today. They’re at 270 million users and I think 160 are something paid subscribers, 160 million which is fantastic. And every week, every month it would be like we have to grow because this market’s not going to exist forever. Let’s go get it. And we had several years but at the same time he was able to beat that trial continuously. And that for me was very new. I was very young when I joined Spotify. I was 21. But basically my first not-my first job not being where I wasn’t the founder myself. But that was very inspiring to kind of be part of that. Let’s do it. Let’s go get them. This whole movement of doing that every day sounds great.


Jamin: GosuGamers. That was first. That was your first company. That was, you were there before Spotify. Is that correct?


Jonatan: That’s right. Exactly. In my teenage years basically.


Jamin: Well all teenage boys like two things, one of them is video games.


Jonatan: I guess that’s true today.


Jamin: I think it’s been true for at least my generation.


Jonatan: You’re right.


Jamin: And so circa Atari 2600 for those that are wondering my generation’s go to. So that was a very big-it’s a very big EA Sports Web site. What was the founder market fit and then product market fit? story?


Jonatan: Well the founder market fit was my brother was great at playing the game and I wanted to be part of it but I wasn’t as great at playing. So I was what can I do. And I started writing about my brother when he was playing games. And published those posts online. And I was 11 years old. And then two years later those writings ended up being added to the site originally called the Star Cut gamers. And I just kept writing and writing about my brother and all these other players and it was basically like a fan site and because I loved the game. So I kept playing and I kept writing. And then that-I think one key difference I did compared to some, the few other sites that were out there was that they were in Swedish and mine was in English although I couldn’t even spell. And that just gave me a lot of, a much bigger market. And so I think I copied a lot what the other news sites were doing. But I just did it in English and that proved to be the successful recipe because it ended up growing and growing. And we had millions of gamers on that site and staff of 50 people just writing and covering gaming events. And so it’s really, I think my-it’s a good fit for because I liked the game but also I wasn’t good enough to be all-


Jamin: All in on the gaming side?


Jonatan: Yes, to spend all my time gaming itself. Exactly.


Jamin: Unfortunately, it seems more fun than writing, especially for teenage boys.


Jonatan: Well I got to be the manager of the national team because I started a national team. There wasn’t a national team so I said we’re going to start one and who did I put on a team? Well I put my brother on the team.


Jamin: Inside recruiting.


Jonatan: And then I had some tryouts and then eventually he couldn’t be a part of the team anymore but it was a lot of fun and then in terms of product-go ahead.


Jamin: If you would’ve had one for pong I swear to God I would’ve running man-nobody knows what those are. I would-dominated that space. But anyway-sorry. Then you’re saying product market fit.


Jonatan: And that’s what product market said. I think-I was thinking about it in those terms but essentially a lot of people wanted to read about the gamers. And I think today it’s-each person’s a billion-dollar industry and a lot of it is driven by your fans to these fantastic gamers or these fantastic teams or winning all this prize money. But back then it wasn’t an obvious and I like doing what you’re doing now is interviewing a lot of people and writing about them and posting their photo. And then people would write about-or come and read about that. So the product market fit was really good from that perspective. We had forums and we had match videos and all of that. So it’s a lot of gamers just hanging out reading about that. It’s pretty easy from that perspective. It’s here’s what I would want to read or want to have as content and then that’s what we made. So it’s back to the idea that you got to be able to know what’s valuable for yourself. That makes it away easier.


Jamin: What is your personal motto?


Jonatan: My personal motto’s probably if I had to pick one. I have a long list, but probably to know your dream. Sounds cheesy but I think we’ve lost dreaming to some extent. And by dreaming I mean I think of it as the act of creating visions but visions have this feeling that it’s very clear and it’s exclusive and the visionary can think of vision and that’s now everybody has to follow the vision. If you think about dreams it’s more accessible and approachable. Everybody has some kind of dream. We can –and they’re-dreams are somewhat fuzzy so that they can, your dream can join with mine and they can overlap and they’re not as exclusive. So the people that I know that have been really successful entrepreneurs they have a dream of what they want the world to be or how they want to change. And if I say what’s the one thing that you would change about the world those entrepreneurs certainly have thought about a lot about that. But the interesting thing is I think all of us really have a deep understanding of what we would want to change for ourselves in our own lives but also about the world. But it does take a little bit of effort to sit down and be like what is the highest dream that I can come up with. What is a better version than the dream I just made up? And you’re going to find, at least I found that there’s actually a threshold to how big you can dream. It is hard at some point to be like if I made my own life 10x better what would it look like. And then have 10x better than that, what would that like. And then you’re like, I actually can’t think of what would be better. And daring yourself to do that and go through that exercise really being clear about what those dreams are. Being able to communicate those. I think greatly enhances your ability to get there and to get there not just for yourself but for others as well. I think so much of our society today is about accepting the world around us as it is because the fact that we end up living in houses, driving cars, and going to work, those are not necessarily the only way that society could’ve been built but we all are that’s the way it is and that’s the way we’re going to do it and we just accept it straight up. But I think instead remodeling that and thinking about here’s the way I want it to be. Think it’s so important and I think just in friendships, in families, at work, shared dreaming and going through those exercises together I think is so important and has been a big motivation and joy for me to do together with people.


Jamin: My guest today has been Jonatan Littke. Successful technology entrepreneur. Jonatan thank you so much for being on Happy Market Research podcast today.


Jonatan: Thanks for asking me Jamin.


Jamin: Everyone else, if you find value in this episode I hope you will share it on social media Twitter, LinkedIn. Screen capture. Tag me. I will send you something special. Have a wonderful rest of your day.