Year 1996: Four friends found Icon Medialab

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.

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An Internet Company Legacy: Icon Medialab

Icon Medialab is a company whose story has been largely lost in the IT bubble. It was a very ambitious. See these links for more information on the company:

This is one example of where Open Source could have left a lasting legacy – much more than the immediate monetary value.

Year 2000: Icon Medialab Asia is founded

Icon Medialab begins the new century by expanding close to home and achieving international recognition. In January we acquire Multimedia Productions Nordic AB, a Malmoe-based Internet consultancy and inFebruary we are cited by the US trade magazine Adweek as a rising star of the interactive industry. At the same time Forrester Research ranks Icon Nicholson among the top 10 providers of e-Business strategy.

Continuing our strategy to buy only the best in each field, in February we acquire Mijada AB, one of Sweden’s most advanced technology oriented Internet consultancies.

The world is becoming increasingly mobile and solutions to mobile problems are more in demand than ever. In March Sonera Zed chooses Icon Medialab as a global partner in developing worldwide marketing solutions for corporations interested in mobile marketing, mobile advertising and mobile commerce.

International strategic alliances are crucial to our business and in March we form two very significant alliances, with HP, a leading global supplier of IT solutions, and with Intershop whose product range includes electronic payment systems as well as customized systems. These alliances combine leading edge competencies to design, develop, supply and support complete Internet-based e-commerce solutions.

In March we also announce our plan to create Asia-Pacific’s first integrated network of e-services specialists with an investment of $US 70 million, one of the biggest Internet investments yet made in the Asian region and one of the largest single investments ever in the e-business consulting industry. Icon Medialab Asia’s goal is to establish offices across at least 10 key markets throughout the region before the end of 2001.

Adding to our already strong presence in Western Europe, we acquire the award winning Spanish firm, Nexus Information Technology S.A.in April. Together with our pioneering operations in Madrid and Barcelona, Nexus makes Icon Medialab the largest e-Business consultancy in Spain.

Working with the most creative and forward thinking people has long been a hallmark of our operations, and in May we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Ivar Jacobson, the renowned UML creator and process technology innovator, as an exclusive consultant to Icon Medialab. Dr. Jacobson will spearhead proprietary intellectual process development within the company worldwide and, together with Icon’s industry experts, create and implement the next generation integrated e-business development process, providing unparalleled benefit to our clients globally.

June is a month filled with various kinds of recognition for Icon Medialab. The Interpublic Group of Companies, Icon Medialab’s largest shareholder, investor and strategic partner, exercises certain of its rights to invest further in Icon Medialab International with an investment of 96.5 Million SEK resulting from the conversion of a debenture and the exercise of related warrants.

Business Week highlights the rapid international expansion of the company and TIME magazine describes Icon Medialab as one of the 50 “hottest” companies in Europe. TIME also pays special attention to our rapid expansion outside Europe and the launch of Icon Medialab’s Asian venture earlier this year. In addition, two of our projects are recognized with prestigious awards:

  • LetsBuyIt is awarded the New Media Age Effectiveness Award as the best e-business site in Europe 1999. LetsBuyIt also won the Grand Prix for having demonstrated the power and effectiveness of digital media and the Internet economy.
  • The Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) site wins The Scandinavian Interactive Media Event (SIME) Award for best Scandinavian design 1999.

Furthering our expansion plans in the US, we acquire Insight Technology Group, a high-level Internet systems analyst and consulting firm, with clients ranging from AT&T and Citicorp to Celera Genomics and Boeing, as well as the American development company Site X3. These acquisitions enhance our technical capabilities in the US and move us closer to our goal of creating and implementing the next generation integrated e-business development process based on the Rational Unified Process (RUP).

Customer demand and new market potential have always been driving forces for Icon Medialab’s growth, both organically and through acquisition. In August we respond to our clients needs in Vienna, Austria and Lisbon, Portugal by opening offices in these locations and further strengthening our position in Europe. At the same time Icon Medialab Asia signs an agreement to acquire Fluid Digital Pty Ltd (Fluid), one of Australia’s leading strategic Internet solutions providers. Fluid is significant to our vision for comprehensive coverage of the Asia Pacific Region and is our first strategic step into the important Australian market. The acquisition of Fluid brings us closer to our goal of establishing offices across at least 10 key markets throughout the region before the end of 2001.