If you’re 18 years old and, throughout your teenage years, you had a glittering football career ahead of you but an injury sadly shatters your dreams of winning the World Cup, what do you do? If you’re Lucas Otterling then you start your own ‘motivational quotes’ company and gain almost instant success. The Swedish sports prodigy, who just visited Hong Kong and toured Sai Ying Pun, Kennedy Town and theDesk, is the brains and brawn behind QuoteNow – The Inspiration App. He may not have tasted footballing success but he is becoming a star in the business world.
Otterling, who is still at school in England, was a semi-professional goalkeeper at Fulham Football Club in London, working hard to become a full professional. But he broke his fingers so badly while saving a shot that he was forced to write that dream off, spiralling into depression as a result. However, he picked himself up, dusted off his shirt and came up with a business idea that’s become an instant success across the globe. QuoteNow has been downloaded by thousands of users worldwide, from the US and UK to India and Hong Kong, only a few months after its official release. Originally from Stockholm in Sweden, Otterling, who was called up for the Stockholm county all-star team, now calls himself an app developer, entrepreneur and social media influencer, as well as being a former professional footballer. He meets with us in Hong Kong and tells us his story…
Welcome to Hong Kong, Lucas! What brings you here?
Just because I’ve never really been to Asia, apart from Thailand. I’ve been stoked by the size of Hong Kong. All the skyscrapers and the tasty food…
Yes, we love it here too! So, what happened to your football career?
Basically, I was chasing my childhood dream of becoming a professional footballer in Sweden and I was fortunate enough to get the chance to move to London as a 16-year-old. Things started out well and I decided to quit my part-time education so I could ‘go pro’. But the day after the decision, it was wet and cold and the football pitch was slippery. I made a quick reflex save with my left hand. After the practice I had problems removing my glove because a finger had swollen up. I thought it was just a sprain, so I taped it up and didn’t think any more about it. But when the swelling hadn’t gone down after three days, the team physio told me to get it X-rayed. I remember how one of the nurses came into the room and told me to sit down with a glass of water. She then shocked me by saying it had been broken in several places and that surgery was necessary. A month later, the operation failed. And then, after 10 months of rehab, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to play at that level any more.
What was this like dealing with this crushing news?
Well, as you can imagine, I took it hard. My teenage years were spent working tirelessly to become a professional goalkeeper and, as soon as I was almost there, it was all taken away from me. During the 10 months of rehab I couldn’t even watch football on TV. I felt betrayed by the universe. I went into a serious depression during this time had an identity crisis. In short, it was a dark time.
So you became depressed?
Yes. When you’re in a depression, you just feel sad and miserable some days. And on others you feel hatred towards the world. But one day I woke up and decided that enough was enough and that I had to move on with my life and try something completely new. I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t chase my biggest dream any more. So, I basically started from scratch in October 2015 and googled how to programme and code apps. One and a half years later, I managed to release the first version of QuoteNow – The Inspiration App.
Actually, I used to listen to a lot of inspirational music and speeches when I was a footballer. But after I got injured and the dark times began, I really needed the daily pep talks and inspirational quotes to keep up with it all. I read books, went to motivational events and watched inspiration videos which helped me overcome all those negative thoughts. When you’ve decided that something bad is the way it is, it’s really hard to get out of that situation unless someone else comes and gives you a fresh perspective or reminds you of how things actually are. It was really my escape out of the depression…
Was there a specific moment when you decided to get motivated?
Well, I think the specific moment when I decided that I had to stop feeling sorry for myself was that morning that I decided to become an entrepreneur instead of a footballer. After that moment, I’ve remained motivated and determined to not give up. I know now that the tough times will never last unless you let them – so just keep working on yourself and your dreams.
So what exactly is QuoteNow?
The idea of QuoteNow came to me during my depression. I used to google different types of inspiration for the specific moods that I was in. For example, on the days when I was angry I wanted some specific uplifting inspiration for changing that angry and negative mindset. So I looked for easier ways to get this type of instant mood-based motivation. Googling was difficult and I rarely found anything good. So I came up with the idea for QuoteNow, an app that offers instant mood-based inspiration. It lets you pick any possible mood and gives you as many inspirational quotes as you want for that moment. They come with editable and beautiful images, and you can design and edit the text, colours and image as much as you want and then save and share it directly through the app. If you want, let’s say, a ‘Monday morning quote’, you can also set a reminder for that time on a weekly basis. The user also has the chance to get to know hundreds of famous and infamous ‘quote authors’ through simply tapping their names.
It’s gone international really quickly. There are people downloading it here in Hong Kong! How does that feel?
Obviously it feels great! I can’t say I expected any of this. When I first started working on the app and the idea of spreading the inspirational messages, I couldn’t even visualise that QuoteNow would spread this much. Wow. The fact that QuoteNow has users in Hong Kong, which is basically on the other side of the world to where I live, is absolutely amazing. I only hope that it will continue and I will remain humble and grateful for it all.
How does this ‘give back’ to those who’ve helped you after your injury?
The QuoteNow app has thousands of quotes from hundreds of different authors who come from different countries, speak different languages and have lived different lives. Being able to give them all a personalised page in the app, with links to their websites and such, feels great since many of them have helped me through my own depression. They have been extremely important to me. I also like to think their quotes were meant to inspire people. QuoteNow can help these authors continue to inspire as it shares their quotes.
We at theDesk like to inspire others too! We’re also home to young startups working in technology and similar industries. What advice do you have for these new companies?
I think the most important thing for any entrepreneur, regardless of age or market, is that you have to believe in yourself. No-one else might do but you have to believe in your own ideas first – and prove them all wrong! You have to be willing to take criticism and accept the fact that you may be alone with your vision. It’s difficult being an entrepreneur and trying to change the world in some way. But always remember why you started and never give up.
How can companies use ‘inspiration apps’ to aid their business?
I started following a lot of inspirational Instagram and Facebook accounts when I was depressed. Now, since I founded QuoteNow, I’ve noticed that this trend of posting inspirational content has continued to expand to all sorts of companies who are trying to engage with their audience. This is because inspirational quotes and images seem to be really relatable and enjoyable on social media platforms. So I think that all kinds of businesses can post and inspire their audience using the power of social media. They can, for example, use the QuoteNow app to find quotes and edit their own images. The app actually started out as a B2B service as well – helping these accounts to find and post inspirational content.
Being a globetrotting entrepreneur at 18, do people take you seriously?
I’d be lying if I said that being an entrepreneur at 18 wasn’t harder than, say, being an entrepreneur in your 30s. Some people still see you as a child. They don’t take your ideas and business seriously at first. But this is motivational. It’s just another reason to prove people wrong! Bill Gates was the same age as me when he founded Microsoft. It’s obviously possible for anyone as young as me to start a company and get instant success. My advice here remains: believe in yourself.
It can be depressing for some people who work all hours in Hong Kong. How can people put a smile on their face, despite the pressures of work?
I believe that if you’re depressed in your job, if you feel stuck or just have other dreams which you can’t stop thinking about you really have to start taking them seriously. You can’t go to the same boring job every day feeling miserable until you die. You are in total control of your own life. You decide if you want to be optimistic or pessimistic. So, if you’re sad in your job change it. Change the circumstances and once you find the real thing, your passion, then the so-called ‘job’ won’t be a job any more. You will be working on yourself instead.
What does the future hold for you and your company?
I’m graduating from school in June, so it’s very exciting. I’m then off to an internship for the summer at an online marketing firm in Germany. I hope to learn a lot about company organisation and infrastructure. After that we’ll see what happens. Regarding the app and the business, I want to continue to expand and develop it. Then I want to find more co-workers and collaborators who want to help us spread our inspirational message. I’ve also started working on some new branches of the company which will be revealed soon. It includes inspirational videos and speeches on, for example, YouTube and we’ve also been working on merchandise, since a lot of requests for ‘quote T-shirts’ and ‘quote hoodies’ have been made. It’s all good!