Happy Birthday Janus Friis – For Whom Microsoft Skype Is Not The Limit

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Apart from being one among the 100 most influential people in 2006 in Time Magazine’s list and being awarded the prestigious award “IT-prisen” (“The IT Prize”) in Denmark, presented by the Danish IT industry and IDG, for his work and innovation, Janus Friis has quite-a-few products using peer-to-peer technology, including Skype, now owned by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), to his credit.

The foresight of having to self-sustain an environment, where every user shares the space and resource burden, and not depend on buying more server, is certainly a plausible thought to strike so early in life. And building an entire lifetime of achievements on it warrants a standing ovation and the title of a visionary.

Born26 June 1976
Net WorthUS$1.3 Billion

The duo, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, always lived on the edge and seemed never tired of relentlessly creating revolutionary (even when legally translated, thanks to the so many lawsuits that were filed against them for different violations) products and IPs until a stealth break up, around November 2010, shortly after they raised a second fund of $165 million for Skype in 2010. Even, after that Janus has been active in investing, supporting and creating innovative products and product-based start-ups.


Apart from the niche, he carved for himself, Janus, with a net worth of $1.3 billion today, should also be credited as one of the very few entrepreneurs who sold his venture twice and yet was on its board. Yes, we are talking about Skype here. First sold to eBay and then to Microsoft, both times having a secure stake, Janus was still on the board of the new Skype, though owned by Microsoft.

Some strangely interesting and probably less known facts about Janus Friis are:

1. Friis, a high school dropout who taught himself computer skills on his first job, was hired by Mr.Zennstrom to head the customer service at Tele2, a Swedish telecommunications firm. That’s where they first met.

2. Janus’ first venture along with Niklas was Get2Net, an ISP and Everyday.com, a web portal, started on December 1, 1999, in Sweden and now jointly owned by Modern Times Group MTG AB and NetCom AB.

3. Kazaa, his second venture with Mr.Zennstrom, started in March 2001, which was a peer-to-peer file sharing service, was sold to Sharman Networks following a copyright lawsuit in October 2001. Lawsuits caused Sharman, Friis, and Zennström more than $100 million in settlements. Finally, it shut down in August 2012 with a declaration on their website “no longer offer a music service”.


4. Janus has also invested “a bit” in Last.fm, the music streaming service.

5. In 2001, the duo who owned the FastTrack protocol started Joltid, a provider of traffic-optimization and network-management software and the holder of the pair’s networking patents, and Altnet, a P2P wholesale network. Joltid was also the backbone technology for Skype which followed a bit later.

6. Altnet, the network that sold commercial music to Kazaa users, was adware and caused legal problems for Kazaa and its founders Janus and Niklas.

7. In 2003, the due founded Skype – a VoIP based solution offering free calls between computers connected with the internet.

8. Skype was sold to eBay, as a result of a turned negotiation with eBay to use Skype to facilitate negotiations between eBay customers on more expensive items. Though Skype was sold to eBay for $3.1 billion, in 2005,  Janus and Niklas retained the technology behind it owned by Joltid.

9. When eBay announced plans to sell Skype, the duo expressed their interest to buy it back and declared that the technology behind Skype was leased by Joltid which they did not plan to renew. This brought them on the negotiation table once again, where they took 14% ownership and sold Skype to Microsoft on May 10, 2011, at $8.5 Billion.

10. On August 3rd, 2010, Janus along with Niklas started Rdio, the ad-supported music streaming service. Seeing its success in over 60 countries, Rdio launched Vdio on April 2, 2013, a pay-per-view style movie and television show streaming service and soon after, was shut down rather abruptly on December 27, 2013, without allowing users to back up their favourites or use their promotional credits, as they ” were not able to deliver the differentiated customer experience they hoped for“.

11. Mr. Friis also backs and mentors Futureful, a predictive discovery engine that bridges “the space in-between serendipity (read Stumbleupon) and relevancy (read Google search)”.

12. In early 2013, Janus Friis was secretly getting ready to start a company, which was not an incubator,  that would employ engineers to build products that could be spun off as individual companies. The crux of this initiative was reusable code, as according to him, writing of similar pieces of code is what startups wasted a lot of time in. Reinforced by a best-in-class infrastructure, he wished to “change the industry standard model of how start-ups are created“.

13. In 2014, Janus Friis co-founded Starship Technologies, a company developing small self-driving robotic delivery vehicles.

At the young age of 37, Janus has done what most of us would never would could fathom. We wish him even more wonderful years of his life with innovations that can change the way the world would think of possibilities.

Have a wonderful and productive life ahead, Janus Friis. We love you for what you do.

The post is a part of a B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayor, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian AssangeSir Richard Branson, Sergey Brin, by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.


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