What I've Learnt: Oliver Kaltner, European CEO at ROOM

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo

Oliver Kaltner is the European CEO of fast-growing startup ROOM, which was founded in 2018.

Kaltner has more than 25 years’ experience growing international brands, having held leadership positions with some the biggest tech businesses in the world, like Microsoft, Sony, EA and Sky.

ROOM has the goal of creating a better working environment for companies of all sizes, providing a soundproof, modular phone booth which is already used by clients including NASA, Samsung and Google.

We found out the lessons Oliver's learnt in his life.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

The first cup of coffee - strong, black and without sugar - is a really important moment in my daily life.

What's been your luckiest break?

When I decided not to extend my CEO mandate at Leica I gave myself some time to think. It was during that time that I finally decided to actively invest in and support startups.

Changing course in that way was a very important and lucky break.

What's your best failure?

I am known for my forecast accuracy. However, there was a moment in my career at EA where I was wrong. I estimated that a new game (at the time), The Sims, would sell 5,000 units in the first year.

The Sims ultimately sold 1.6 million units within the first year. It felt like a failure, but the best possible kind.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

I invested in Microsoft just before the firm launched Azure in 2010, and, during my six years working in management roles at the company, I was able to help ensure that this paid off significantly. It was one of the best investments I ever made both in terms of time and financial payoff.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

I am lucky to have a job that appeals to me both intellectually and emotionally. This means that my work/life balance is always quite imbalanced.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

One of my favourite books is 'Who Moved My Cheese?' by Spencer Johnson. In the digital world, the constant search for solutions and something new has become our reason for being.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Keep your ambition, your energy, and your will. But just relax.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

I'm sure he doesn't realise this, but Phil Knight. He gave me a job at Nike and showed me that 'Just Do It' is more than just an advertising slogan. We had the right to be brave and creative. We were allowed to make mistakes. And we were given the confidence to be smart enough not to repeat mistakes.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I love all genres of music and I like to sing. The surprising thing is that I can't sing at all, but I tend to do it anyway.

What does success look like to you?

True success does not consist of sales and profit size. Real success is when you've identified and fostered as many talents as possible.