PROFILE: Louise Tingstrom, antfactory - Creating the perfect incubation environs. Fledgling antfactory will profit from the dynamism of Louise Tingstrom

She was born in Sweden, calls France ’home’, spent two years in California and gave up BA to throw in her lot with a new player in the dot.com market. She speaks four languages, is happy conversing in a few others, collects modern abstract art and would probably lose a personal PR account with Jeffrey Archer on day one. Louise Tingstrom is not your average Josephine. More of the former Tory peer later.

She was born in Sweden, calls France ’home’, spent two years in

California and gave up BA to throw in her lot with a new player in the

dot.com market. She speaks four languages, is happy conversing in a few

others, collects modern abstract art and would probably lose a personal

PR account with Jeffrey Archer on day one. Louise Tingstrom is not your

average Josephine. More of the former Tory peer later.



Last month Tingstrom became director of marketing and communications for

antfactory, a six-month-old company which funds and helps internet

entrepreneurs. In the peculiarly bacteriological language of this

burgeoning sector, antfactory is the incubator, its charges are the

incubatees. She had been head of international communications at BA for

just a year before making the jump. From big corporate to small

start-up: on the face of it, a bold move. But Tingstrom has made this

sort of journey before.



Moving to Paris and the International Automobile Sport Federation in

1985, she found herself keeping 300 journalists happy at 16 grands prix

round the world. In 1988 she joined Charles Barker in London. The

country was coming to the end of its love affair with a never-ending

property boom; she saw the highs and she saw the crash when corporate PR

meant explaining redundancies and not much else.



Back in Paris in 1993, she freelanced, until she and a girlfriend

decided to set up their own agency, AKKA, in a loft in the 17th

arrondissement.



A banking federation and a utility signed them up almost

straightaway.



In the next couple of years they took on South African Airways, moved

office and were courted by other consultancies keen to buy the

agency.



Visa International, meanwhile, wanted to know if Tingstrom would be

interested in a move to California to be senior vice-president of

corporate communications.



It took some thinking about, but she sold her share of AKKA to her

partners and went.



Looking at the most recent stages of her CV might it be fair to conclude

that she gets bored easily, moves on with a haste some might balk

at?



Two years at Visa, one year at BA? For the first time her fluent flow

falters. So, is it fair comment? Screwing up her face, she says: ’It’s

not fair. I don’t think I would have left Visa if the chief executive

hadn’t gone.’



And BA? You could perhaps make a case for that, she agrees honestly.



But being head of international communications was a fantastic job, she

insisted. But more than once she has said she is entrepreneurial, and

antfactory certainly fits that bracket in a way BA does not. One former

colleague at BA recalled: ’She is a real dynamo and very good at

motivating her team. They all loved her. She’ll make things happen.’



Perhaps not surprisingly she says, unprompted: ’I want to make things

happen. I have a very, very high energy level’. Involvement appears to

be what excites her at the moment. And with 100 staff at antfactory,

involvement is what she is getting: in branding, positioning, direct

marketing, on-line and off-line advertising and web site design for

starters. ’There is a much wider spectrum here. It is much more of a

complete marketing role than just PR, which is exciting.’



She says she is also a risk taker, and encourages her teams to take

risks in the knowledge that mistakes will not be punished. Does she ever

shout to get what she wants? ’It has happened. I’ve learned that it

isn’t productive.’ This does not mean she has acquired shrinking violet

status, however.



’I always rock the boat,’ she says quietly.



A huge, New York-based international media event while at Visa came into

this category. With the senior management team from the US, Asia and

Europe gathered at the Rockerfeller Center at 6am for a pre-match

briefing, it occurred to her that things could go pear-shaped. An

expensive, bold project that had taken a long time to push through the

organisation now rested entirely on her. ’If it hadn’t worked I’d have

lost my job there and then,’ she says. It was tense, but she was

confident. It worked.



There may need to be more such leaps of faith if antfactory is to

prosper in what is already a competitive market. And she likes a

challenge, so back to Jeffrey Archer. When asked to speculate on her

approach to this purely hypothetical post she says she would persuade

him to stay out of the media limelight for a while, and concentrate on

writing, making a grand comeback when people have almost forgotten

him.



The strategy would be fine - were it not for the fact that the master

storyteller is about to star in his own play and seems as much a media

player as ever before. This makes it just conceivable they may not have

seen eye to eye. Tingstrom laughs in agreement. Some you win.





HIGHLIGHTS



1993: Founded AKKA, Paris



1997: Senior vice-president of corporate comms, Visa International



1998: Head of international communications, BA



2000: Director of marketing and comms, antfactory.



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