In his early years Johan spent a few seasons in the Alps. He was dreaming of a career as a professional mogul skier and making a career in the travel industry holding positions as hotel manager, resort manager and regional manager (Costa Brava). After a car accident he was unable to ski and was convalescent for a year. Johan therefore went back to Sweden and started to study information technology at Lund University in the south of Sweden.
In 1989, at the age of 25, he started to study at the Stockholm School of Business, Stockholm University in Sweden, where he majored in marketing management. He also attended Harvard Business School and took two MBA courses, “International Business” and “Doing Business with Pacific Rim Countries” during a summer session, and also spent a semester at Lynn University in Florida.
He began his career within the media and finance conglomerate the Kinnevik Group as the apprentice of one of Europe’s most renowned entrepreneurs within the telecom and media industry, Jan Hugo Stenbeck. As one of Jan Stenbeck’s most trusted co-workers, Staël von Holstein excelled rapidly and in just seven months he had worked his way up to his first CEO position at start up ITV (Interactive television), having initiated as a marketing director of Z-TV, the Kinnevik Group’s flagship TV channel for young people. He grew InTV to become the largest teletext company in Europe with offices in six countries. Staël von Holstein was vice president of Inlux, in Luxemburg, he then went on to become responsible for banque Invik’s sales and credit card operations.
At the end of 1995 Johan left the Kinnevik Group to found Icon Medialab International together with Jesper Jos Olsson, Erik Wickström and Magnus Lindahl. The company grew to employ over 3500 people, holding 35 offices in 21 countries; unprecedented achievement accomplished in only four years and in the year 2000 Icon Medialab began its expansion into the Asian Pacific region. During this time, Forbes and Advertising Age awarded him the title of “Global Media Innovator”. IconMedialab was ranked “technology pioneer” by the WEF and positioned as one of the best small companies in the world by Business week.
Icon Medialab was one of the pioneering companies of the early global IT-era. It is today named LBI and considered the largest independent Internet consultant in the world.
Between 2001 and 2003 Johan enjoyed three seasons with his family in Verbier, Switzerland before moving back to Stockholm, Sweden to start his next venture, IQUBE. Founded in 2004 by Johan Staël von Holstein, IQUBE quickly grew into becoming one of the largest private incubators in Europe with more than 100 companies in the portfolio, a model with the mission to create the world’s best infrastructure and ecosystem for entrepreneurs in early stages.
Apart from the numerous international awards and acknowledgements that Staël von Holstein received for his pioneering work as a serial IT-entrepreneur, not only with Icon Medialab but also as co-founder and chairman of LetsBuyIt.com and as co-founder and board member of Speed Ventures, his greatest success lies in fundamentally changing the entrepreneurial climate in Sweden. No OECD- country spends as much per capita on research and development as Sweden, yet the country’s record as a producer of entrepreneurs and growth companies is dismal.
Staël von Holstein’s accomplishment lies in raising the status of the entrepreneur in Sweden, where most students dream of top-jobs within the bluechip-companies such as IKEA, H&M or Ericsson.
Staël von Holstein is also an author, public figure and controversial debater. He was ranked as one of Sweden’s top 50 most influential persons during the years 1997–1999, and voted best speaker in 1998.
The World Economic Forum ranked him “Technology Pioneer”, Forbes International & Advertizing Age ranked him “Global Media Innovator”. Staël von Holstein was ranked as the Internet Guru of the year in Sweden for three consecutive years.