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Meet the team: Rickard Carlsson - From elite skier and management consultant to startup CEO

June 7, 2017

When Rickard accepted the position of CEO at Detectify three years ago, he was looking forward to new challenges. Little did he know that the company, then consisting of 4 people, would grow to 25 employees, launch a global network for ethical hackers, receive numerous nominations, startup awards, and attract customers like Trello and King. He probably also didn’t know that he would assemble IKEA furniture, help Detectify employees configure their VPNs, and learn how to dance Fuego at internal afterworks. It takes someone who is humble and ready to put the team first to make a company grow – at Detectify, that someone is Rickard, whose tasks as a startup CEO are incredibly diverse. This is the story of how a former elite skier and management consultant ended up as CEO of one of the security world’s most talked-about startups.

Rick Carlsson Detectify 2016

How it all started

Rickard Carlsson has lived in the USA and India, but his early years were spent in his childhood home in the country outside of Jönköping, Sweden. With the closest neighbour 200 metres away, Rickard spent a lot of time on his own building cabins, exploring the surroundings, pottering about in the garage and fixing things. As a child, he already had a solution-oriented approach and was eager to tackle problems and solve them. Seeing his mum move the carpet every time she vacuumed, 5-year old Rickard wanted to help, so he went to the garage, took out the toolbox, and nailed down the carpet so that his mum wouldn’t have to move it anymore.

Skiing at elite level

Maths and physics were Rickard’s strongest subjects at school – but it was skiing that was his great passion during that time. He started competing at elite level as an 11-year old and had to balance skiing and school, switching to a reduced schedule in high school in order to compete every Thursday. However, his skiing career was brought to a halt when he was 18 and had an accident that forced him to pursue skiing as a hobby instead.

From engineering physics to McKinsey

When it was time to pick a university programme, Rickard was choosing between mechanical engineering and engineering physics at Linköping University. “Someone said that engineering physics was the toughest, so I chose it,” he smiles. “I remember the crazy robots that we built – and my exchange studies in the USA and India.”

When he was done with his studies, Rickard moved to Stockholm and started working as a management consultant at McKinsey. “The culture there was very stimulating, half-baked solutions were never good enough.” An eye for detail and undivided commitment to projects, both big and small, is something Rickard brought with him to his role as a leader at Detectify.

“The best thing about working at McKinsey were all the talented people I worked with. McKinsey managed to recruit the top 5 percent from various educational backgrounds, many had double degrees or had previously run successful companies.”

How he came across Detectify

When a former colleague told him about Detectify, Rickard was not on the lookout for a new job. The company was in an early stage of development and the founders were looking for someone who could turn their vision into a business. “I met one of the early angel investors who told me I could jump on board an idea backed by some of the world’s best hackers. I could not say no to that,” Rickard explains.

It has been three years since he joined Detectify and in that time, he has brought in multiple investment rounds, took care of recruiting, got the business up and running, and built an organisation. His work has not gone unnoticed – in 2015, he was named one of the year’s Supertalents by Veckans Affärer. What drives him is learning new things and helping people develop. Much of his time is spent working with product development, client meetings, and initiating strategic partnership, but he is also involved in the daily work at Detectify and coaches his colleagues.

Key role in recruiting

In a startup, the CEO’s role revolves around building the organisation. Making the wrong recruitment decisions is expensive and it is crucial to bring in people with the right attitude and knowledge. Meeting Rickard is a common thread in the Detectify recruitment process and his enthusiasm for the company has a way of rubbing off on new hires. In her Meet the team interview, Detectify’s backend developer Natasha explained that it was Rickard’s trust in the internal competence and business model that made her decision to join the team final: “Rickard made me feel like Detectify was building a service that really creates value for the user.”

The future of the company

When asked what Detectify will be in 5 years’ time, Rickard (of course) answers “The best,” but quickly adds: “We will have broadened our scope in security and will, at that time, be around 1000 people working with Detectify across the globe. The next 5 years will bring big changes.”

Although Detectify will scale, Rickard emphasises that he wants the company to retain its honesty towards its users, an important part of the founders’ vision that he aims to protect.

Q&A with Rickard

iPhone or Android? Android
Mac or PC? PC.
Favourite security resource? Detectify’s blogs, but I mostly talk to people at work and learn from them.
#1 security advice? Use a password manager and Detectify!


Want to learn more about the people behind Detectify? Read up on our Meet the team-interviews!