Startup Setbacks Can Be A Good Thing - Toti Stefansson of Mobilitus

We here at Startup Chronicle are beginning to suspect that nothing fires up mass innovation like an economic calamity. The quality of new products and services streaming out of Iceland since the 2008 economic “unpleasantness” have been remarkable. Mobilitus is no exception. We got to talk with Mobilitus CEO Toti Stefansson at Startup Iceland.

“We started this company in the midst of a financial crash,” says Toti. “Shortly after, we were burdened by currency controls and volcanic activity.”

He explains that these hurdles slowed things down at first; however, it turned out to be a “blessing in disguise.” Forced to bootstrap the company, they avoided an early pitfall of many startups: selling too much equity too soon. “We did not seek capital actively enough to raise it, but once we overcame the issue of being the brokest startup in town, and started to have nice growth and income, we ended up with a company that’s profitable and growing. And we own it!”

He’s got some advice for entrepreneurs who would like to replicate Mobilitus’s success: “Give before you get!”

“We actively participate in the startup community in whatever region we happen to be in,” he says. “It’s really interesting to see how quickly karma finds you, if you participate and talk to everybody and try to connect people and build bridges.”

Their success has brought them to a crossroads. “We have the choice of continuing doing what we’re doing and continue having fun building the business that we’re building,” Toti explains, by seeking “a better partnership with our biggest partners.

“The other option is to seek financing and grow faster,” though he admits half-jokingly, “we don’t want to grow up.”

Toti has been involved with startups since he was 18. And despite the fact that mobile smart devices hadn’t been invented yet, he always had the vision that someday, mobile devices with “things to do” apps would be ubiquitous. “We’ve been in the mobile Internet space since before there was a mobile Internet space. We had services running on the first demo that took forever to load and didn’t do anything useful as far as anyone could figure out. …And it took 7 years for Steve Jobs to get up on the stage and show us the device where you can do all this stuff.”

What’s Toti’s motivation? “Fun.”

“I’m inspired by the fun part. I’m basically lazy, and I’m willing to spend a lot of effort to avoid work and have more fun. That’s what keeps me going.”

You can find them on Facebook here, and on Twitter @mobilitus.

Underwriter: Promogogo

Interviewer: Thubten Comerford
Article: Eric Inman
Producer: Hrefna Helgadottir
Video Editor: Jacob Curtis

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