How a modern-day tech company innovated to grow 150 years of heritage

What if I told you that a modern tech company was founded in 1869? My guess would be that your brain serves up a non-compute. Because in a world defined by Silicon Valley, tech unicorns and venture capital that fuels the rocket of today’s tech utopia, heritage is not a word we associate with the pace of innovation needed to be an industry leader in 2019. And while companies like AT&T and IBM were founded in 1901 and 1915 respectively, you need to go back a full 150 years to get to the beginnings of the Great Northern Telegraph Company.


You’ve probably served up a second question if you’re still with me; what massive tech company that still holds its own today, laid its roots with a history of telegraphy, because I’m willing to bet it’s unlikely you’ve heard of the aforementioned business. The thing is, while Jabra might be ubiquitous in the office productivity and true wireless spaces today, the roots of its parent company, now known as GN Store Nord, trace back quite some time, unified by the same underlying communications mission.


If Danish founder Carl Frederik Tietgen had bet on something else in 1869, the world might look a little different today. By laying the first telegraph cables that connected China, Russia, Japan and Western Europe, Tietgen set out with the belief that global development is dependent on communication. While the technology and ways in which we communicate have changed, the daily need for communication is something that will always be with us.


Having cut communication time between east and west from weeks to minutes, the precedent of global communication was set, and the Great Northern Telegraph Company continued to research and develop in the communications field, moving beyond cable networks to wireless signals in the ’40s, payphones in the ’60s and then onto radio telephones. In the late ’70s we introduced the first headset for call centers, and then at the turn of the millennium, we were behind the world’s first mobile Bluetooth headset.


But while all that followed was innovative, the focus that lead to such longevity was around engineering products for daily life. Today, our software engineers will tell you that our AI-embedded products are created around what could help human behavior, not what could change it. And throughout our 150 year history, the focus has been on what will help make someone’s life better each day. For taxi drivers, that meant the first car radio telephone in the 1940s, and for John Lennon, that meant a custom car phone in his Rolls Royce. For hospitals, fire stations and police, it meant more responsive and quicker communications.


Today, as with most things in Denmark, function leads form, and everything we do is engineered for purpose. Jabra’s engineers, R&D and product managers develop projects that build on this extensive experience in order to create products for tomorrow. Open-office distraction killers, in-ear audio for all-day augmented experiences that buy back your time or intelligent video connecting businesses and people around the world – these are some of the solutions we’re working on in response to today’s cultural changes. This is why we develop products to cater to these needs. And it is with our heritage in connecting the world that we seek out new opportunities to better connect people, both personally and professionally.


If you look at the world’s most valuable startups from the last two decades, from Uber to Slack and Facebook to Whatsapp, they are all focused around connections. For as much as people movements, urbanization, remote work and globalization are affected by technology, the one constant we will always have is the need to connect with other humans. At Jabra, we’re building off of 150 years of heritage to create the technology that supports human connection and communication, guided by values in order to develop technology that is both responsible and enabling. And while we might be excited by the next year, five years and the ten after that, what the next 150 years will bring is where the real innovation lies.