Johan Staël von Holstein, Erik Wikström and Jesper Jos Olsson came from the Kinnevik group with backgrounds in media, marketing and interactive television. Magnus Lindahl came from the banking sector.
Together, they had a vision of creating an Internet company that was a little bit more corporate and had a more grown up approach than the “cool” design shops that dominated the business at this time. From the beginning, Icon Medialab was conceived as a one stop shop for Internet development bringing together strategy, design and technology skills.
Johan Staël von Holstein calls this approach “the Cube”. A traditional IT consultancy is very good at technology, an ad agency excels in communication. Most design shops try to fuse these two competencies, but Icon Medialab adds a third “human” dimension to create the full cube: behavioural sciences, copywriting skills, management consulting, interface design, analysis of site statistics. All the ingredients that are necessary for creating a truly functioning web business.
Since day one, this is what Icon Medialab does: We build cube-based web solutions that actually deliver.
In March 1996 four hopeful entrepreneurs moved in at a former garment company’s office in Stockholm Harbour. They had five employees, some seed money and Björn Nordstrand, a former CEO for Sweden’s biggest private TV-channel as chairman of the board. The cube-building was about to begin.
The first clients were stockbrokerage Erik Penser Fondkomission, Canon and Sweden Post, which still is one of Icon Medialab’s most important clients. In April Icon Education was founded and in July, Icon Content was launched with a mission to build and run content-based websites.
From day one, expansion outside Sweden was a top priority. The opportunities were too good to be missed. The Internet market in Sweden was almost as mature as the markets in New York and The San Francisco Bay area. The idea was to use this opportunity by taking a dominating position in the important European markets as they matured, and reusing knowledge and experience from Sweden.
In August 1996, Icon Medialab Madrid was established, and in December the same year Icon Medialab opened an office in San Francisco.