Motown hits by Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Stevie Wonder, soul tributes to Huey Lewis and some funky jazz…
Mats Ekelund does it all! He has been playing the saxophone since he was eight. And now you’ll hear him hitting all the high notes on stage with local bands. It’s his happy place – and an impressive side gig when he’s not showcasing software for the transit industry.
Based in Jönköping, Sweden, Mats is a Group Leader for Modaxo in Europe, a role that has him overseeing a growing number of Modaxo companies, including Imperial, Binary, Systemtechnik, Elgeba, Signature Rail, and Taranto, all with their own mark on solutions for reliable and efficient people transport.
“I’m never bored. I’m learning a lot every day,” Mats says of coaching the CEOs of leading business units, helping them with product strategy, marketing and leadership in a competitive field.
“I have a very strong team. If we have a business with aviation or another type of transport, I can integrate them easily. It’s a good role, because I can jump in as needed to support our businesses.”
Europe has a well-established public transportation model where public transit accounts for 10 to 20% of all trips. In North America, that same ridership statistic falls to 2%. Many Europeans drive their vehicles from home to a city’s outskirts where they park and then commute by to the city centre, reducing congestion and emissions.
“We are doing a lot of good for people,” Mats says. “It’s everything from ensuring that people can get from point A to B in a safe and timely manner, to saving the planet by helping people make environmentally conscious decisions when they travel. We can use software to support that. So that’s pretty cool as well.”
Mats’ musical talent and ability to improvise have served him well in his professional life. Early on, he had to choose between professional musician or engineer, and enrolled in a few computer science courses. After completing compulsory Swedish military service, he decided to continue as a semi-professional musician and supplement his income working in IT sales.
“I started in a company that was selling everything from paper clips to computers, and I was in the computer department,” he says. “I was 22-years-old when I started and learning on the job.”
As it turned out, he thrived selling MACs and PCs, doing everything from installation of the hardware and software to delivering products to his clients. He had to have expertise in all areas and was learning fast and on the fly.
This is a guy who clearly rises to a challenge. He also likes running and playing Padel tennis doubles with his wife.
So, after a few years soaking up as much knowledge as he could, Mats embarked into the world of entrepreneur, starting his own company, along with four colleagues, at the tender age of 24.
This new venture not only sold computers, but networks and complete Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. And he continued in ERP until 2010 when he moved to vertical software sales.
“I worked with horizontal ERP systems, CRM and business critical systems in Sweden, then spent two years in the U.S. and then back to Sweden. I was responsible for operations when I was 30 and I thought that I knew everything,” he laughs. He also experienced first-hand the short-term thinking of venture capitalists after selling his company to one of them.
“I also thought I was the best salesman until I moved to the U.S. in Orlando and saw a whole different sales methodology.”
In 2015, Mats was brought in as CEO of communications software developer, Netadmin Systems, a sister company to Modaxo under Constellation Software. He was lured by the financial stability and structure of the company combined with its entrepreneurial culture where he could be an active participant.
Now with Modaxo and its focus on people transport, Mats is using his years of experience in sales and marketing strategy – and his great sense of timing and musical harmony – to help strengthen European group operations.
“I saw the opportunity for Modaxo to become something on its own. It’s a new start with a strong framework.”