Running a business, coming up with knock-out innovations and leading teams to global success are all very impressive achievements. Even more so when these milestones are hit by people in their late teens and twenties.
Launching a business as a young person can bring about additional challenges, especially in current market conditions – from being taken seriously by investors to finding a healthy work-life balance – and it also requires a lot of grit, guts and sacrifice.
Across Europe, there are many young innovators who are already taking the startup space by storm. Bringing digital-first approaches to businesses in a range of sectors, it’s the next generation that is leading tech development for generations to come. GenZ and younger millennials are not only known for their tech proficiency but, also for being more impact-driven, pursuing purpose and passion first in many cases.
Travel influencer-turned-startup founder Sebastian Haugeto is a young entrepreneur making waves in the fintech space. At 24 years old, Seb launched Dealflow in 2021, a copayment app for creators where you can send an invoice to a brand and receive payments that very same day. Sebastian was inspired when he was on his world travellers, making it as an influencer and living the Gen Z dream.
We chatted with Seb to learn more about what it takes to run a healthy startup in times of uncertainty, how to motivate and inspire happy teams and what’s to come in the future.
What inspired you to launch Dealflow?
I was a travel influencer in 2019 and really struggled to get paid by the companies I worked with. As a small creator, I had nothing to say against these big companies, so they let me wait a long time for my payment. That financial stress actually forced me to stop my travels. We’re now solving this for future generations with our instant payment app. We’re giving them the financial muscle they need to really focus on their craft. In a sense, we’re funding the future of art, which is what Dealflow is all about. Unleashing human creativity.
Over the past year, Dealflow has grown pretty steadily – despite market turbulence. Can you tell us how you’ve experienced this past year?
It’s been a year of extremes. On one side I’ve had the best moments of my life happen in 2022, while at the same time experiencing the worst. It’s really taught me a lot about persistence and the importance of just showing up. The last part is why our numbers are looking so good right now. My team and I are just incredibly persistent.
What have been the core challenges?
Building a company amid war, inflation, pandemics and the upcoming recession has definitely forced us to think outside the box. In times like these, people are scared and will always look for the safest bet. That goes for both customers and investors. Penetrating this layer of fear has been the biggest challenge for sure.
You’ve managed to raise cash, grow userbase and brought on more creators and influencers – how have you achieved this?
Operationally, by waking up every single day and starting like it was day 1. This mindset really helps you tackle every problem with a fresh attitude and forces you to take one day at a time. Life will come to you soon enough, so no need to stress.
But more strategically, by really centring everything we do around our customer’s needs. All of our decisions eventually come back to this.
Often, during times of market uncertainty, founders can panic and try to raise as much money as possible. What do you think about this approach?
If you’re able to rise from a position of power, it’s a very smart thing to do. Cash is king these days. However, if you go into the battle as a desperate founder in direct need of cash, you’ll be shot down relatively quickly. Investors are looking for signs of strength and stability right now, so it’s important to optimize for this. Overall I think it’s a good strategy if you really know why you need the money and believe in the model you’ve chosen.
As a young founder in your twenties, do you think you’re better suited to deal with current market uncertainty?
Yes, I do think so. I’m way more flexible than older executives, which helps a lot in a world of constant change. I also don’t have a wife or kids at the moment, which just adds to the time I can spend on the company now in the early years. The experience I might lack due to being young I make up for by surrounding myself with incredible mentors.
How do you keep your mind healthy and stay resilient? And how do you motivate your team?
You know the scene in Captain America where he gets his superpowers? The serum that usually kills people turned him into the most elite soldier the world has ever seen. Being a founder is all about making sure you survive that serum because then the world is yours.
In our case, the serum is the daily stress we face. I typically manage this through daily exercise, meditation, good food, having fun with friends, going to therapy often and making sure all my relationships are healthy. Doing this correctly will create an energy that just inspires the rest of the team to do the same. Then you can create an anti-fragile system, which only gets stronger when pressure is increased.
What’s your feeling about the next generation of young entrepreneurs and founders?
I actually think we’re going to see a change in the type of business that people want to build. We’re going to see smaller teams, more stable revenue models and less risky products. At least the next 2 years. The younger generation that’s coming up now has seen 2 years of pandemic, war and now a huge recession, which most likely will impact their need for high-risk ventures. The winners here will be the ones that are able to utilize AI in new and creative ways to get ahead. AI won’t replace you, but a person with AI probably will. So yes, being dynamic and forward-thinking will definitely help a lot.
What do you think 2023 will have in store for Dealflow?
2023 is going to be the first breakout year for Dealflow. By the end of it we’ll already be firmly in place in the UK, have tens of thousands of € in monthly revenue and work with thousands of creative talent all over the EU. We’re also going to start preparing our US expansion by that point. I’m especially excited about how we can really help the overall industry thrive with the new financing tools that we’re pushing out. Dealflow is not only for creators, it’s also for companies. Think of it as an ecosystem for the creative world.