A tale of two startups
Successful developer von Tetzchner now supports a Boston-area innovation house
The idea behind the startup Vivaldi Technology is to make a really fast net browser that can be run on limited hardware. The browser was launched a year ago and already more than two million have downloaded it. According to founder Jon S. von Tetzchner, Vivaldi is for people who want more from their browser. Many browsers are made to be simple to use. Vivaldi on the other hand wants to help the users be more efficient and allow them to tailor-make the browser according to their own needs. It is more for the technical users and customers who demand more. Vivaldi was founded in late 2013. The company is headquartered in Oslo, with offices in Reykjavík, Boston, and Palo Alto.
Jon S. von Tetzchner grew up in Iceland and received his master’s degree in computer science from the University of Oslo. He started working for the Norwegian state phone company. There he and Geir Ivarøy developed a software browser. After four years the project was abandoned by Telenor. The two friends obtained the rights to the software and started Opera Software.
In April 2005, after launching Opera 8, von Tetzchner said that he would swim from Norway to the U.S. if they had more than a million downloads in its first four days. The target was reached, and he had to keep the promise. He entered the freezing Oslo fjord and started swimming towards America. His public relations manager was rowing an inflatable boat alongside him. After a fortuitous puncture in the escorting dingy, the swim had to be abandoned.
In 2010 he stepped down as CEO but continued to serve as a strategic adviser. He sold his shares and left the company a year later. Today the Opera browser has more than 350 million users worldwide. The company is headquartered in Oslo and is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. They have offices in Sweden, Poland, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Russia, Iceland, Singapore, Taiwan, and the U.S. Their vision is to deliver the best internet experience on any device.
After cashing out, von Tetzchner moved to Boston where he bought a former motel and made it into his own innovation house and worked as a business angel. He now invites young entrepreneurs from Iceland and Norway to visit. Here they will meet other entrepreneurs and gain access to Boston-area venture capitalists.
After he left Opera, the company changed direction. They focused on acquisitions of companies in different areas, such as the advertising industry. As a result von Tetzchner decided to move on to Vivaldi. Recently a consortium of Chinese internet-focused investors led by the private equity fund Golden Brick Silk Road put in an offer to buy the software and advertising player Opera for USD 1.2 billion.
This article originally appeared in the March 11, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.