We talked to Paweł Seweryn of Daftcode about managing the venture-building process of new tech startups, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Paweł Seweryn: These are unprecedented and difficult times – but luckily, my close family members and I are in good health. That’s what truly matters. Despite the lockdown, we manage to connect regularly, and these close private relations help me function normally and stay focused.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Daftcode.
Paweł Seweryn: I studied at INSEAD in France, Wharton Business School, and the University of Birmingham. My background is mainly consulting, as I’ve spent more than 5 years as a consultant at BCG. Three years ago, I joined Daftcode as a VP of Venture Building, and after a year, I became the CEO.
I chose this path because I needed more risk and fun than a corporate life offered me. I thought about building startups on my own, but at that time, Daftcode offered me a chance to build a well-oiled startup studio. This is how and why I became engaged in developing Daftcode as a Venture Builder. The company takes the risk, but at the same time, it derives from the experience of previous tech ventures; thus, I have both: the creative tension and unpredictability of the startup world and the wisdom of the whole portfolio of startups and their founders.
As Daftcode’s CEO, I manage the venture-building process of new tech startups. I’m responsible for creating strategies and business models, launching new ventures to the market, and building teams for them. I also manage our internal teams, finance, and investments, as well as relations with investors and key partners.
How does Daftcode innovate?
Paweł Seweryn: Daftcode innovates by doing. We watch the market, talk to startup founders and investors, and – above all – we search for solutions that may help solve the actual problems of our clients. We build startups from the ground up, transforming bold ideas into user-friendly products and solutions. Our ventures use top-notch technology to make lives easier – I’d say we’re right where innovation meets real business.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Paweł Seweryn: Our portfolio companies are diversified: we operate in many industries, and each of them had a different battle to win in 2020. For example, our fintech Straal had to keep up with the growing number of online transactions caused by the e-commerce boom during the lockdowns. They did pretty well and almost tripled their volumes. Edtechs were also busy in the past months – our startup Skriware focused on remote education is a great example.
On the other hand, we also have businesses in the travel industry and food techs, which had to downsize or pivot. Fortunately, looking globally at the whole portfolio of companies, there was no drastic change for Daftcode during the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Paweł Seweryn: Some of our startups had to react fast and completely change their structures – that, unfortunately, meant letting some people go and cuts in budgets, including pay cuts for employees. Other portfolio companies had to quickly build new products to fit into the new reality COVID-19 served us. Another challenge was to keep staff motivated and dedicated, especially during the remote work.
We did have to make difficult choices, but this is what startup business is all about. Even if our decisions are not always perfect, it is important to draw conclusions and turn mistakes into life lessons. The key lesson drawn from 2020 is that fast reaction is the key. Collecting information quickly and making brisk, clean-cut decisions can save a startup in these crazy times.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Paweł Seweryn: There are not too many venture builders in Poland. We compete with the Heart and Tar Heel – mostly for C-level candidates with previous startup experience and investors’ money. To stay in the game, we plan to increase the number of startups in our pipeline and make market implementations even smoother and quicker—the brighter ideas for new startups, the better. At the same time, we’re focusing on the smallest operational and creative details that later translate into the success rate of our startups.
Your final thoughts?
Paweł Seweryn: The pandemic year was challenging. However, I believe that if you’re determined enough, you can do well in any situation. 2020 gave me tones of hope – if our company, and the startup environment in general, are doing just fine in this crisis, we’ll be fine when it comes to an end, too. If you can make it in the pandemic, you can make it whenever and wherever you want. Those who can adapt will survive.