Founder Series: Tigerhall

December 13, 2023

Our Founder Series is a collection of written interviews with our portfolio’s founders, in which we shine the spotlight on the businesses they’ve come to build on the base of disruptive innovation and get to know more about them as people.  

The next instalment features Nellie Wartoft, CEO and Founder of Tigerhall - a leading social learning platform that displaces LMS tools.

Tell us a little something about yourself!

I grew up in a quaint Swedish village surrounded by more cows than people. Eager to break free from the small-town life, I made the decision to move to Singapore when I turned 18 with a one-way ticket on Singapore Airlines, figuring the worst-case scenario would be a return flight home.

My entrepreneurial spirit has been a part of me since a young age. At 16, I started my first company under the Junior Achievement program, where I taught senior citizens how to navigate the digital world, including social media and smartphones. I brought this business with me when I relocated to Singapore and began offering consulting services to startups, focusing on enhancing their social media strategies.

While pursuing my education, I also delved into the world of recruitment, working full-time for Michael Page for four and a half years. It was during this period that the idea for Tigerhall began to take shape. I recognized a significant gap in the market, both from the perspective of candidates and clients, for more engaging and effective talent development solutions.  

Outside of work, I am a national champion in skeet shooting, once selected for the Olympic team before my move to Singapore. It is a thrilling and skillful hobby I enjoy.  

What is one book that has shaped your perception of life?

David Brooks' "The Social Animal" deeply impacted my perspective on life. It is about the intertwined stories of Erica and Harold, who hail from contrasting backgrounds. Harold, born into privilege, and Erica, facing adversity, experience contrasting life trajectories. Their life paths take unexpected turns as Erica rises to become Vice President of the United States, and Harold grapples with incarceration and substance abuse. Their narratives blend fact and sociological analysis as they meet, marry, and start a family.

"The Social Animal" challenges conventional wisdom by emphasizing the interplay between internal and external factors in shaping one's path. It underscores the importance of personal discipline, resilience, and external influences. For Erica, a pivotal moment occurs when she receives a scholarship and transitions from her challenging neighbourhood to a more supportive one, altering her life's trajectory. This resonated deeply with me, as I am passionate about social mobility, particularly the role of education in shaping one's future.

This book is a reminder that success is a delicate balance between personal commitment and societal support.

What sparked your passion for entrepreneurship?  (Being a serial entrepreneur, you have founded multiple companies prior to Tigerhall. Any stories to share?) 

What I find most invigorating about entrepreneurship, beyond the opportunity to tackle issues that resonate deeply with me, is the boundless sense of freedom it offers. In entrepreneurship, as they say, "you are the queen of your own destiny." But, of course, with great freedom comes great responsibility and accountability.

As for what sparked this passion, I believe it's something innate. My mother often tells the story of how, just two days after my birth, I displayed an independent spirit, lying there and giving a look that said, "Don't touch me, I can handle this on my own."  

This self-reliance has been a part of my character from the very beginning. I started working when I was 12 and landed my first proper job at McDonald's at 15, where I believe the spark for my deep interest in commerce and sales began.  

This experience, with its focus on real-time numbers, revenue flow, organizational strategies, and team dynamics, fueled my fascination with business. It wasn't just about commerce but also about optimizing processes, strategizing, and structuring.  

What is your journey into founding Tigerhall?

The origin of Tigerhall stems from my frustration with the current state of education. From high school to university, I felt that traditional education failed to equip me with practical, real-world knowledge. This feeling intensified during my tim at Michael Page, where I realized even professionals from top-tier backgrounds struggled with essential career questions.

The turning point was my interaction with senior leaders during my recruitment work. These conversations provided invaluable insights, far more practical than my formal education. I envisioned a platform that bridged the gap between thought leadership and actionable advice, making it accessible and engaging.

Tigerhall initially launched as a B2C platform, emphasizing practical learning. The high user engagement showed the demand for such content. Realizing the potential to assist companies in engaging and developing their talent, we expanded into the B2B realm in 2020.

Navigating the balance between deep content and short attention spans is achieved by creating highly specific, curated, and concise content. Our videos are typically 1 to 5 minutes long, podcasts last from 5 to 15 minutes, and Power Reads are approximately 5 minutes. We've found success in delivering relevant, niche knowledge that professionals can apply immediately.

As CEO and Founder, building a great team is one of your biggest responsibilities. What is one trait that you always look for when hiring at Tigerhall?

My top quality in people might seem unusual, but it's a sense of humor. Humor fosters a positive work environment and makes collaboration enjoyable. In startup life, where stress is constant due to too much work and too few hands, humor is a relief.

It helps us see the fun in challenging situations and navigate them with a smile. I firmly believe that humor drives collaboration, reduces stress, strengthens team unity, and shapes a company's culture.

Tigerhall has experienced exciting growth over the past few years. How has your role as CEO evolved over time?

My role as CEO at Tigerhall has indeed evolved. We've expanded into 12 markets across Asia and the US, which has made time management more complex. The team has grown and taken on more responsibilities. With higher revenue targets and increased pressure due to our growth, my role has become more administratively complex.  

However, I continue to dedicate a substantial portion of my time, about 60-70%, to engaging with customers, just as I did from the beginning. So, while there have been changes, the core of my role remains the same.

What do you envision as the future of corporate learning, and how does Tigerhall fit into that vision?

Companies and corporations start to integrate learning into daily activities and reconsider treating it as a separate event or thing. I believe organizations should prioritize knowledge sharing, open communication, and the exchange of best practices, creating opportunities for employees to learn from top performers, whether inside or outside the organization. Learning should be a customized, on-demand experience based on individual needs.

I see a future where we move away from traditional L&D practices that involve organizing uninspiring workshops and tedious presentations. Instead, employees should have the flexibility to access the knowledge and insights they need when they need them.

In my vision, learning becomes an integral part of the organization, like widely used communication tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. It should seamlessly blend into daily workflows, nurturing a culture of continuous learning and improvement without relying on ad-hoc long training sessions that do not drive the business forward.

We should be learning every day, all the time, wherever we are. It should be part of the lifeblood.