Christian Von Koenigsegg: Swedish Automotive Entrepreneur Legend (Part 1/4)
As with my previous #blogposts, I wrote about Pagani and his journey to fame. Now in this, you’ll be reading about Koenigsegg’s journey to building and revolutionizing the automotive industry. From a country famed for the Vikings, Koenigsegg is a car company like no other.
With no background in automotive trade or any heritage in the field, Koenigsegg set about doing the impossible - to make a car that is both outstanding in terms of practical, simplistic design and above all else, a car that performs. And he did it in just a short amount of time.
As with the previous post, I’ll discuss his success by breaking down the blog post with the following topics in this blog:
- Origins and Background
- Early Days and First Steps
Lutold Von Koenigsegg takes off the armour of his fallen opponent after he won the duel. He buries and honors his enemy and prays for his well being in company of Hans Talhoffers as a witness. Taken from the book of Luold Von Koenigsegg about fighting in the middle of the 15th Century.
Credits to Artur Kempf for providing the translation.
Christian Erland Harald von Koenigsegg, was born on 2nd July, 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden. Unlike Pagani, Koenigsegg has roots with the royal family. The name Koenigsegg originated in Germany in the 11th century where the Von Koenigsegg ancestors fought in the Germany army. It was in the 15th Century, when Lutold von Koenigsegg was honored the ‘Coat of Arms’ by the queen. This Coat of Arms was carried down the ancestral roots of Koenigsegg as his family crest and later would become the company’s logo.
At the age of 5, Koenigsegg watched a Norwegian stop motion animated movie called the ‘Flåklypa Grand Prix’ (pronounced Pinchcliffe Grand Prix in english), in which the bicycle repairman builds his own racecar and wins against the established brands in a race, giving Koenigsegg an inspiration to start his own car company. His day out driving a go-kart is what he describes the best childhood experiences of his life.
In 1979, at the age of 7, he got his first soldering kit from his father and built his first radio-controlled car. Was also pulling apart take recorders, VCR’s and anything electronic & mechanic to see how it worked. A year later, Age 8, his parents bought a small motorcycle which Christian tore apart, rebuilt and then went on to sell (along with a few more like it). Already the business man.
In 1984 at the age of 12, he would get his first moped – a Suzuki K50 and learns how to tune it. Using this knowledge he’d buy a moped, “make it look good, make it go faster, sell it and buy another one”. By age 15, Christian becomes the local moped tuner with a stable of 12 mopeds. The next year, he gets a tiny 2.5 metre long boat called Spitfire which has a 5-15 horsepower motor. Christian goes and puts a 35 motor on it (and a stereo…and some lanterns…and a horn). Sells that too.
Around this time Christian starts drawing cars on the two computers the family owned, a Commodore 64 and an Amiga 1000.
Ever since Christian Von Koenigsegg saw the movie “Pinchcliffe Grand Prix”, his curiosity to explore and look into how things worked grew. He would dismantle stuff such as old cassette players and toasters just to see how they work and how can he make them better. In his teenage years, he was good at tuning mopeds and became a well known moped tuner in the area. By his 18th birthday, Koenigsegg became serious about the technical innovations as he foresaw a potential future and came up with some ideas. One of the earlier ones were what he’d called it a “Chip player”. He believed that one day, computer memory chips would be able to store an entire CD’s worth of data and that it would probably be a cheaper way to buy and store music. He conducted some patent searches for a musical device that would play chips instead of discs… he even showed his ideas to some people but no one seemed interested in his idea. In the end, Koenigsegg gave up and moved on not realizing that one day, his idea would become the norm today.
In 1991, Koenigsegg visited his father-in-law in Belgium who ran flooring factory. Curiosity caught him and he wanted to know how the flooring boards were made - wood cut into pieces, placed parallel lapped to one another, glue and adhesives applied in between them and nailed down with a hammer. This was the method to bond two pieces of wood as his father-in-law showed him around… which to Koenigsegg seemed very primitive. He went off and using nothing but paper and scissors, he came up with what he called it “Click”. This would join two floor boards together without any adhesives or nails and would be easy to disassemble when needed without any damage or tools required. He showed this concept to his father-in-law who asked him if he looked up this idea from somewhere, to which he said no. Ultimately, he wasn’t interested as he stated that someone else could have come up with this idea long time ago as it is too simple and viable. Koenigsegg went off and showed his concept to several floor manufacturers who dismissed his idea. He would join the Scandinavian School of Business in 1991 where he’d meet his future wife to be, Halldora.
In 1993, Koenigsegg walked into a flooring shop in Stockholm and stumbled on his patent which was on display in that shop. He went back home and conducted a search on the internet for the patents and found that his very idea was already patented by a Belgian and a Swedish company… they even called it “Click”! The idea was already patented 3 months prior to when he conducted his search and believed his idea was stolen from him. It was sold allegedly for $2 billion, 6 years after Koenigsegg found out back in the day and today, that innovation turned into a multi billion dollar industry. Koenigsegg felt disappointed and cheated as he lost one of his biggest opportunities but decided to carry on.
Koenigsegg wandered his time looking to make things better rather than concentrate on his studies. He realized that being just 19 years of age, he was young and active to be a successful person in life. He started out by setting up a ‘frozen chicken’ trade which he’d buy it from USA and sell in Estonia, which turned out to be a very successful business for Christian and alongside that were some mislabeled and upside down printed plastic bags which were also needed in that region as there was a fall of the iron curtain and people needed things to get their errands done. They didn’t care about the misprinted label, they just needed the bags. But being innovative and realizing that coming from a family of entrepreneurs, he decided that it was the right time for him to make his move and start his own car company… a vision which he was chasing since childhood. And so, later in 1993, he focused on establishing his brand.
In the next blog post, you’ll be reading about Koenigsegg’s journey into establishing his brand.