I talked to Angry Creative’s founder Jimmy Rosén to learn about his founder’s story, mission and what he believes lies ahead for Angry Creative.
About the author
David is responsible for Angry Creative’s marketing department
This interview with Jimmy was part of my background research into the Angry Creative brand for some marketing strategy work. It turned out to be pretty interesting so we decided to write it up and release it too. Read more to find out how Jimmy was inspired by old Swedish coins, why he thinks we should all be more like Roman soldiers and how his childhood of playing SimCity set him up well for business.
Why do you do what you do?
I want to build a company that stands for sustainable open source and practices it. I think that open source software is something great, it’s a powerful incentive to humankind, the idea of it is valuable.
I want us to get paid for everything we do. That means the staff and the business. Open source often has expectations of working for free but someone has to pay the bills.
Originally it was about doing high quality work. Open source has that transparency so you can’t get away with doing bad stuff because people will catch you doing it, meaning that open source evolves.
When I first started working with the web I would see a lot of non-standards-compliant code, generated by proprietary software. So I rebelled against using this proprietary software that had bad implementations of standards by proposing open source and helping people understand that open source can be valuable, that it can give a lot of business value.
Because they were accessible to me with the knowledge I had at the time and I could pick it up. I wanted to make money with installation art but it turned out that this would be almost impossible whereas building websites was profitable and in demand.
Then I found that many websites were bad so it was easy to make a difference for other people. I was already passionate about open source and now had the ability to help clients and to use my creativity. The money just made it sustainable.
A fluke. Because it was there and easy to get started. It had a very low barrier to entry.
I still use it now because it has a lovely and vibrant community with lots of things happening all the time. It’s not without its problems but that’s true for everything. It has its own gravity now so you can’t escape it.
Why focus on ecommerce?
Marketing is fluffier. Marketing Automation makes it easier to measure stuff but ecommerce is easier still as you can see the actual money coming in. Seeing the money come in means that the results are more tangible and people like to see tangible results – it makes it easier to assign value. Attribution for marketing is a big grey area.
What I wanted to do with Angry Creative is to create the SaaS feeling without using SaaS. The biggest question in open source is ‘who is responsible’. The answer is ‘everyone and no one’ so it makes it very difficult to assign responsibility. This is the whole idea of our maintenance service. We take care of everything so that clients can rely on us. We make sure we are responsible.
CMS work started well but as the market became flooded it became a race to the bottom and only some clients were sophisticated enough to make non-price-based decisions about partners. Angry Creative wants to be in the middle lane, where we can look like heroes. We need to have expertise and experience so that we will look good to our clients. Some people want to work with clients that always push the envelope but they are expensive to work with because you jump from project to project. So we need to sell more “boring” services to make sure we are sustainable and have the resources to do fun stuff for ourselves.
Ultimately we realised that in order to maintain standards, be able to live up to our responsibility and deliver increasing value to our clients, we would need to productise our offering. That organic process is what became Qala which is our enhanced WooCommerce platform. The word “Qala” means “Start” in Zulu
What sort of business do you want?
I want a business with strong standards where everyone is aligned and we work as one business with strong opinions about how things should be done.
A company that people can look at and see that we give away stuff that favors the little guy. We want all of our work to be open source except for just enough ‘secret sauce’ to ensure our business success. That’s always a hard balance to find.
If we can deliver projects fast and profitably for both us and the client we can win lots of clients. By hooking clients in, we can then generate revenues to fund our internal R&D which will make us look increasingly amazing to clients and the community.
What does Qala mean?
What it should be is the ‘proper’ way of doing ecommerce with WooCommerce. Where it’s stable, it’s nice and you can leverage the best things from the WordPress community. Basically an open source ecommerce SaaS that let’s people own instead of rent.
Doing things the ‘proper’ way is the best way of delivering value to clients. It’s about pride, honour and legacy. The same reason why Roman warriors fought for the empire. For the greater cause.
What is the greater cause?
Helping people to create a sustainable future for themselves.
Why is that important to you?
The fundamentals of our society is solving problems and doing our part. I’m very Lutheran in that above all I have a strong sense of duty and honour. Old Swedish coins had ‘duty above all’ engraved on them and this had a big impression on me.
What is your moonshot?
I would like for Angry Creative and our people to have a big say in what goes on with WordPress core and the internet. To get that power, we need to grow. To grow we need to do a great job for our clients, build a nice organisation and be able to nurture the best of our team to become ‘politicians’ who influence the future of the web in positive ways, advocating for our values. To do this we need to be an international brand.
You’ve talked about a lot of virtuous values but so far you haven’t mentioned money. Is money not important to you?
I want to have a really comfortable life but beyond that money won’t make me happy. Money will be transformed into freedom. Running a business can be extremely stressful and I’d like to suffer less at work in the future.
If you had a million dollars a year passive income, what would you do?
Stop taking a salary, work on the stuff I love doing – e.g. overseeing the product and helping clients. I would work remotely, somewhere warmer, buy a nice house and be a family man. I would work maybe 4h/day (instead of 12!) and spend a lot more time playing sports and being out in nature. But I would still be working to create the best possible WooCommerce experience because it’s a rather fun challenge. It’s important to be challenged mentally and physically.
I would also love to set up an ecommerce incubator where people would give me part of their business in exchange for me and my team working for free to get them off the ground and then build up an empire of companies that we part own.
Reflecting on all this, what is your personal mission?
To build a creative business that helps clients to create sustainable futures for themselves using open source ecommerce.
As a kid, I could play SimCity for days. Running a company is like playing SimCity but in real life the stakes are higher. I love creating a system and seeing if it works. That’s why Angry Creative has rules and strong opinions about how things should be done. Because when we see that something works, it becomes a rule. The rules help us to win the game.
What’s a final thought that you’d like to leave people with?
If you’re an SME who wants a SaaS-like experience but with open source technology that’s easy to use and feature-rich and comes with a world-class team of experts to help you make the most of it, we’re here to help you on your mission so please contact us.