Most students who can’t find decent accommodation either call their parents or go drinking. Fabian Dudek therefore, is what you might call an overachiever.When he struggled to find somewhere to live in Rotterdam, he resolved to overhaul the system.
Before he even turned 22, he founded nestpick, an accommodation rentals site that attempted to solve the problems he had faced. The company is currently in a large expansion phase backed by Rocket Internet. He talked to us about his entrepreneurial experiences, the problems of the rentals market and how whippersnappers can hold their own in business.
What was important for you when turning your idea into a company?
The first to use nestpick were students, followed by expats and then people within the same city who needed this service. As we grew, technical features such as scalability and customer value naturally fell into place.
More than having a perfect and structured plan from the very beginning, it was important to think strategically and [to have the] skills to adjust. Part of work comes with testing and learning from all of the challenges you have to face. You need to know what you are doing, and not lose sight of the end goal.
What advice would you give to someone who has a company concept in their head?
You need to learn quickly that you will not be able to control everything. However, there are two things you can do to make your company become a reality.
First, you need to make sure to have as much fun as possible in the process and then you need to learn as much as you can. If you persist in these two, a lot of other things will fall into place naturally.
How do you deal with the pressure of being a young founder?
The difference between me being 22 or 32 years old lies in how I am perceived by the outside world and the way I perceive others. When it comes to hiring, if the potential team member is in his/her 20s or 30s, it doesn’t play much of a role in my final decision. I usually look at people’s skills, approach and knowledge. Probably the most important aspect is the cultural fit.
When companies evolve this way, you don’t feel the pressure of being judged because of your age. People should instead look at how much value you can add. In my view, being young has many advantages. For instance, if you do not know how things are supposed to be done yet, you naturally end up challenging every status quo.
How do you keep your confidence levels up when you’re facing challenging situations?
Instead of pulling apart the situation bit by bit in every circumstance, I try to find a good balance basically by focusing on the positive. It could be that KPIs were particularly high that day, that we had a really good interview, a new person joined the team or promising talks with investors. For me, positivity is the key and sometimes it needs to be self-reinforcing. If you have already experienced being part of the startup rollercoaster, you know about the ups and downs. Success means to keep on following your plan, avoiding any drastic decision when things are really great or a bit more challenging.
How can young founders hold their own when talking to potential investors who are sometimes more than double their age?
I compare this situation to that of job interviews. The purpose of an interview is for both parties to bring their best to the table, questioning and challenging one another, in order to figure out if they share the same values. By doing this, you have the chance to see if there is any potential to have fun working together and to understand if the person in front of you has the character you are looking for. It is very much about finding people that share the same vision about the future and not arriving with the attitude of just really needing the money. That won’t be an advantage to anyone. If they also have to work to convince you of being a value adding component that supports the vision of the company in its whole, then you run less risk of just being in the inferior position of just needing the money.
What personality traits are important not only to found a company, but to manage it and the team, and grow it beyond a startup?
I want to create something in a way no else has ever done before. Creativity is the key. Moreover, creativity is usually closely related to being passionate about what you are doing. These two features come along with being straightforward and focused on your goal. These are crucial in order to state if either you are going to be a successful entrepreneur or not.
What do you think are the most interesting developments currently growing out of the startup scene?
Culture. The whole concept of working has changed in the last ten years. People stopped selling their time and they started rethinking the whole concept of work hours. Startups in general seem to have a commonality in that the people within are working towards a common goal. Those working in the startup scene can feel proud of what they are doing. If you think about working in a startup now it is closely related to being part of an overall culture. The kind of culture where you share the same values and a vision about the future.
Are there any books, or online resources that you would recommend for young entrepreneurs?
There are a couple of books that have shaped and continue shaping the way that I think. “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh is a book I really enjoyed reading.
Also, I am recently into trying to figure out the concept of ‘flow’. I mean, performing at your best, while not having to discipline yourself at all. Instead, loving what you are doing, losing the connection with the world – no time and space – and make it happen. Here’s a clip about it.
What does the future hold for you and for nestpick?
To me, we can call nestpick a success when everyone will have fun when looking for a new home. It will positively affect our culture and the way we view moving. I am really excited to see what kind of change we can make in this world. We want to make cultural exchange easier. If we succeed, I would like to stop depending on money.
As Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”