“GN was founded on sending out ships without knowing exactly what they would encounter along the way. I like that this company is willing to support innovation and possible disruptors, even if the leadership don’t fully understand these new technologies themselves yet. It is one of the things that has attracted me to GN for so long.”
Andrew Dittberner, VP, Research, GN Hearing
Right from the start, GN was founded on a grand and daring project: laying telegraph cables in deep oceans and across continents, to build the world’s first telegraph connection from Asia to Europe. There were high seas, difficult trade negotiations, and big risks. From the very beginning, the stage was set for a bold adventure.
"GN was founded on sending out ships without knowing exactly what they would encounter along the way." A drawing of the Tordenskjold ship, which set out to lay the first submarine cables in Hong Kong
After the First World War and Great Depression, British and American companies took market share and overall telegraph volumes decreased, leaving GN’s revenues dwindling. The board had to seriously consider whether the company could be viable in the future.
Then, when Nazi troops invaded Denmark in 1940 and the Soviet Union in 1941, all of GN’s telegraph connections were disrupted, except the line between Denmark and Germany.
Determined to persevere, GN sought to future-proof itself by investing in new industries, including acquiring Hellesens batteries (now Duracell), telephone manufacturer GNT Automatic, and venturing into a new technology from the United States: FM radio.
In a meeting we might imagine between entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley today, two Danish engineers, Erik Petersen and Svend Falck Larsen, presented to GN a proposal for a new Danish radio manufacturing business. Storno was born, and GN embarked on a new direction into the future of communications technology. Read about Storno’s car radio telephone (including the one made for John Lennon) and mobile radio telephones in Celebrating 150 years publicly listed, and every day making life sound better [Article].
Hellesen's battery factory in Køge, Denmark
GNT Automatic's coin operated telephone
By the late 1960s, Storno had acquired 30 per cent of the European market, established subsidiaries in Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and become the world’s fourth largest producer of car telephones.
GN embarked on a new direction in the field of communications by establishing Storno, a leading producer of car radio telephones and mobile radio telephones
The Nasdaq exchange in New York celebrated GN's 150 year anniversary in May 2019, but things have not always been so rosy
“At GN everything seems very integrated together. You have top management in this building, just over in that building you have production and test facilities, and they’re working right next to the engineers. It seems like the path from making an analysis to testing that prediction is very short. I get the sense there is a willingness to take some chances and pursue new and developing technologies,” Alexander said.
GN Audio’s acquisition of Altia Systems’ PanaCast is one recent example of this, as is GN and Cochlear’s partnership with Google to enable direct streaming from Android to hearing aids, and the list could go on.
GN’s history has been far from smooth sailing, but this daring and determination has enabled the company to persevere and succeed for 150 years. The willingness to take risks and tread new paths has been an element in every chapter of the GN story, and will carry it boldly into the future.