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

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Apart from being one of the 100 most influential people in 2006 on 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 self-sustaining an environment where every user shares the space and resource burden and does not depend on buying more server, is certainly a plausible thought to strike so early in life. To build an entire lifetime of accomplishments on this idea truly deserves applause and recognition as 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 actively invested, supported and created 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 customer service at Tele2, a Swedish telecommunications firm. That’s where they first met.

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

3. Kazaa, his second venture with Mr Zennstrom, was launched in March 2001 as a peer-to-peer file-sharing service. However, due to a copyright lawsuit in October 2001, the service was eventually sold to Sharman Networks. The legal battles associated with Kazaa resulted in settlements totalling over $100 million for Sharman, Friis, and Zennstrom. Eventually, in August 2012, Kazaa ceased its operations and made an announcement on its website stating that it would no longer provide a music service.

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

5. In 2001, the entrepreneurial duo who owned the FastTrack protocol started two ventures: Joltid and Altnet. Joltid focused on offering software for traffic optimization and network management while also holding networking patents owned by the pair. This technology served as the underlying framework for Skype, which was developed shortly thereafter. Additionally, Altnet was established as a peer-to-peer wholesale network.

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, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis founded Skype – a VoIP-based solution offering free calls between computers connected to 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 in repurchasing it and declared that the technology behind Skype was leased by Joltid, which they did not plan to renew. This again brought them to the negotiation table, where they took 14% ownership and sold Skype to Microsoft on May 10, 2011, at $8.5 Billion.

10. On August 3rd, 2010, Janus and 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 similar pieces of code is what startups waste a lot of time. 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 47, 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 how the world thinks 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 the Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators, or renewed leaders who moved the industry with their 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, and Sergey Brin, by following this link or subscribing to your daily newsletter.


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