Article translated from the Swedish original that appeared in it-finans.se.
After a turbulent time and a lot of media attention, one of the company's most experienced and loyal servants has stepped forward into the extreme spotlight as the business's new leader. In the role of new CEO for ICT Group, we have a person with broad business experience and a long solid career in Multi Level Marketing (MLM) at Oriflame as Managing Director for Sweden, as CEO of a Beijerinvest company and as a trained officer in the Swedish armed forces.
Meet ICT Group's new CEO Johan Westerdahl who plans to take the fast-growing marketing network Crowd1 to new heights by implementing new work processes and a clearer set of rules for members.
Q: There have been a lot of comings and goings with different brands and company names in the business. What does the company structure look like now, what is the difference between Crowd1 and ICT, and what do these respective companies do?
A: Crowd1 has all the members while ICT is a company that concludes agreements with suppliers of products that Crowd1 members can recommend or choose to buy themselves. ICT also helps Crowd1, especially with marketing services. It can be said that ICT is a service company for Crowd1.
Q: Who owns these companies and why is Crowd1 based in Dubai and ICT based in Spain?
A: The original idea behind Crowd1 was real estate investments and since Dubai is one of the world's most expansive places for real estate in particular, it seemed natural to register the company there. When the predecessor to ICT, TIM was set up, Johan Staël von Holstein was the CEO and he lives in Spain, so it became natural to create the company there. Now that Johan is no longer with the company, it is instead desirable for the company to have a stronger Swedish base because several of the founders and the majority of the employees are Swedes. Many companies start by establishing offices based on where key people live and then possibly choose a path that is better suited for the business, so it is not entirely unusual. Right now we are in the middle of a move of the corporate sphere that also affects the ownership so I will have to get back to you on the ownership issue when everything is set up and ready in Sweden.
Q: But you are stationed in Sweden and you have an office in Stockholm so where do you pay tax?
A: Yes, I am Swedish, live in Skåne and commute weekly to the office in Stockholm, even though I have chosen to work at home a bit under the prevailing circumstances. I get my pay in Sweden and of course pay tax here as well.
Q: Why this seemingly strange corporate structure? What are you trying to hide?
A: Seemingly is a good way to put it. We are a young company that has grown incredibly fast. Like so many others, we have changed direction in different ways during the journey. We have nothing to hide but it is a result of natural business changes.
In retrospect, it may look a bit messy, but business building is not an exact science that follows a straight line. Now we think we are starting to get most things in place, but we will always launch revolutionary ideas and then the business can go in a new direction again. In this industry, it is important to be agile and creative. In addition, we are a bold company that is happy to break new ground.
Q: You have received a lot of criticism for not having any real products to sell. What are you actually marketing and selling?
A: We have many products, both physical because in some countries we have to have it, but above all digital. All our products fall into one of four categories: Travel, Lifestyle, Education and Entertainment. We are always looking for and evaluating fantastic products to offer members to market and recommend.
Q: You claim that these are third-party products, but in fact many of the people behind the products are the same people behind Crowd1 and ICT - why is that?
A: All products are third party products. Neither Crowd1 nor ICT have any products of their own. However, it is true that some of the people involved in the business are entrepreneurs and understand the strength and potential of Crowd1, which means that they have also wanted to be on the product side.
Q: Why have you chosen the product categories you have chosen? And do you think it is ethically right to market e.g. gaming?
A: We have selected broad categories that we know are in demand by Crowd1 members and that are successful. Mobile gaming, for example, is a popular form of entertainment in many parts of the world. Candy crush saga is a good example of a fairly simple game that has entertained many millions of people.
Q: How does it actually work? How much can a member earn from selling products? Can it be invested in Crowd1 as a member?
A: You cannot invest in Crowd1 but you can participate in different ways. You can simply be a customer and buy one of the products or you can become a member and get commission on recommending products.
The next level is that you become an entrepreneur and then you build your own crowd with people who recommend products. And at all levels, different commissions are distributed. How much someone can earn depends entirely on how much time and commitment the person spends on their business. Some have it as a small side business while others spend 100 hours a week building their business and then of course they have the opportunity to earn accordingly.
Q: How many people use your products, and are they not actually useless in practice?
A: We have many millions of users and several of the products are included in our packages, so this is a question that is not entirely easy to answer. The products, on the other hand, are absolutely excellent. Miggster, for example, is a mobile gaming platform where players can play against each other and also participate in various tournaments and win various great prizes. Not so long ago, the prize was a diamond that a guy won to give to his fiancée. We also have a training for entrepreneurs that we are very proud of where new sections are added all the time. We are often contacted by product suppliers who want to collaborate with us to gain access to Crowd1's huge number of members. We are always looking for good products that fit into one of our categories - Travel, Lifestyle, Education and Entertainment.
Q: What do you say about the criticism that you are cheating people of their life savings? Is Crowd1 a scam and a pyramid scheme?
A: We are, of course, very concerned about these allegations. This is of course something we distance ourselves from and we work hard and continuously to find and shut down the members who market Crowd1 incorrectly. The definition of a pyramid scheme is that you can only make money from new members coming in and that is not the case with Crowd1. Members have access to a library of different products that are replenished continuously. We run a legal business and work hard to create the best possible environment for our members to build their businesses in.
Q: Some countries consider your business to be illegal, why is it so if you are a legitimate company and why are you targeting developing countries?
A: Different countries have different laws and regulations. What is legal in one country can be considered illegal in another. It is an art and a challenge to run a global company and we work hard to meet the requirements of each market. Our business model and products are genuinely global and work worldwide. However, it may be that we are more welcome in certain markets, for example in countries where it is more common for citizens to have side activities than is perhaps usual in the Nordic countries.
Q: Why did Johan Staël von Holstein leave, was there any kind of conflict within the company?
A: As both he and we have mentioned several times, he resigned due to health reasons.
Q: What happens to members and employees who do not behave according to your code of conduct and your rules?
A: Members risk being suspended if it comes to our attention that they are misbehaving in our name. We do not comment on individual cases, but we continuously shut down members who break our rules. As far as our employees are concerned, we follow the labor law rules that apply in each country of employment.
Q: How much does the average Crowd1 member earn and do they pay taxes on their income?
A: We are very clear when a member joins that they are responsible for all applicable taxes because they are not employed by us. How much someone can earn depends entirely on how much time and commitment the person spends on their business. Some have it as a small side business while others are completely dedicated and spend 100 hours a week building their business and then have the opportunity to earn accordingly.
Q: How much have the founders earned from Crowd1?
A: These are figures we do not share publicly, but it costs large sums to build a global business and we invest a lot into building the best business we can.
Q: Why do you use cryptocurrency for your members? Is it because cryptocurrency payments used to be able to fly under the authorities' radar?
A: We use cryptocurrency because we are convinced that it is the future. Given our large number of members, I think many agree with us.
Q: How many members does Crowd1 have? We have heard that the 26 million you have communicated is an inflated number - what is true?
A: We have 26 million registered accounts, but not all of them are active at the same time. Some have been active but may have taken a break while others have not yet started. And others are continuously active. Much like on Amazon - I registered an account there a few years ago, bought some products but have not done anything since. I suspect, even though I do not know for sure, that I am still counted as their customer.
Q: Who is a typical Crowd1 member, and if someone signs up now, is it too late to actually make money?
A: There is no typical member but they have some common denominators, for example, they work hard and spend the time required to get supplementary income. It's definitely not too late to make money, everyone is welcome and everyone has the same opportunities to be successful with Crowd1.
Q: Finally, what is your main message to the market and those who question you and why should we believe what you are now saying?
A: I think the business and our many members speak for themselves. We are here to stay and we are growing at a tremendous rate. The opportunities are too great for us to ignore - we offer opportunities for members and product suppliers who want to reach new markets through Crowd1.