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Founder of successful startup fires himself – and sails around the world


This post is also available in: Danish

“Right now we’re anchored off the Society Islands in the Pacific Ocean, so I have plenty of time to respond between snorkeling with sharks, rays, barracudas and all sorts of other adventurous fish.”

When you get a message like that, it’s hard to hold back the envy. Especially when it comes with a series of images from the tropical paradise islands far out in the Pacific Ocean.

But our interview, which for practical reasons takes place in writing, is not just about the adventure Christian Markedal is currently on. He is also a successful entrepreneur who, over the past eight years, has made DigitalGuest the biggest player in digital guest communication in the hotel industry in Scandinavia. The company has 600 hotels as customers in 25 countries and a turnover in the “double-digit millions”.

For most entrepreneurs, this means that their startup is a success. For Christian Markedal, this means that he has fired himself to sail around the world in a sailboat.

“It can be a hard realization to realize that your time is probably over in your own business – after all, it’s your identity. But if it’s what’s best for your business, then you have to eat it and move on – and rejoice in the people who can take it from here,” says Christian Markedal.

Has outplayed its role

With Christian Markedal as founder and CEO, DigitalGuest has grown through both corona lockdowns and recession. He doesn’t quit the company because things are going badly – quite the opposite.

As an entrepreneur, he is at his best in the early stages, when everything is new and chaotic. Where the idea needs to be boiled down to a concept. It’s what he’s good at, passionate about and thrives in. But that’s no longer the phase DigitalGuest is in. It has become an established business, so he came to the realization that the business would be better off with a new CEO.

“And I was also getting tired, to be honest. It’s one thing to be too long in something that doesn’t feel 100% right anymore – I think everyone knows that from both jobs and relationships etc. Another thing is that it’s just exhausting being 1-to-1 connected to your business and all the worries and thoughts that come with it to survive and do well. For me, it’s been going on for almost eight years,” he says.

Fortunately, he has managed to find talented people to join the team who are better than he is at the part of the development the business is entering now, which is much more about stability, long-term decisions, financing and operations.

DigitalGuest has grown as a business and so has the team behind it Here with Christian Markedal on the floor in front before he stepped down as CEO

A radical change of scene

Handing over the helm of DigitalGuest to a new captain is one thing.

Another is to become a guest on a 40-foot sailing ship on a circumnavigation of the globe, cruising the Pacific – French Polynesia to Tonga and on to Fiji. But for Christian Markedal, a significant change of scene was necessary.

“I get involved with my whole being, which also means that it requires a completely different environment to let it go – at least for me. This environment is pretty good for that. Here I and the rest of the six-man crew don’t have to think about much more than the basic needs. Sleep, eat, hydrate, socialize and sail towards the goal,” he explains and continues:

“And then one of the scariest things I’ve ever imagined is the open sea at night in total darkness, with no land in sight. And I’m so wired that I like to face my fear and be with it. It’s rarely as dangerous as the mind says, and that particular experience is golden – no matter what I end up doing next.”

He is completely out of operations at DigitalGuest, which has been led by a new captain for almost a year, and Christian Markedal continues as a board member and owner after the sailing adventure. However, he is still confident that the company has great growth potential.

“My hope is that we land deals with the big chains and become even more dominant in the Nordics. For the business, of course, but most of all because it makes me so damn happy to see that we have created a product that can improve the digital guest experience so much in hotels. That’s why we started in the first place.”

Ahoy ⛵️

Founder and owner of DigitalGuest has fired himself and traveled around the world 2

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