Startup Story: Sebastian Gabor, CEO Digitail
Sebi is pat of the Rubik Hub community since the beginnings! He believed in our vision and he jumped into our mission, happily playing the mentor role! The stories of Digitail and Rubik Hub are somewhat similar, as they began at the same time and, in similar contexts. In the last 3 years, we both experienced a lot, with ups and downs, with accomplished milestones, with great energy and ideas, a growing team and many more!
Although he is always in between flights, meetings and calls, it was not hard to convince him to share a great dose of inspiration with us!
Enjoy the interview!
Sebastian, please tell us a few things about and about the startup you manage!
Do what you like and you’ll never work a day in your life 🙂
I do spend most of my day with Digitail in mind. The moment when I don’t do this, you’ll find me training for a triathlon – IRONMAN (mostly during mornings or long biking sessions at the weekend), catching up with friends or doing my best to be a good partner to my better half.
I started my first company – an outsourcing company – in 2012, in Iasi, after coming back from doing a business school in Barcelona. This experience enabled me to learn a lot, grow my network, start 2 other startups (Colegu and Cocomanda) and live in more cities – NYC, SF, Berlin.
In 2017 I fully switched to Digitail from ITGambit. One year before, I was also taking a decision of moving my personal Headquarters from Iasi to Barcelona.
I also teach from time to time at local business schools – helping the next generation avoid making the same mistakes we’ve made.
To wrap this up, the items I want to be defined by (definitely not born with them but working on making them a reality) would be:
- Resilience (never giving up)
- Taking on difficult challenges and going out of the comfort zone (always learning)
- Impact driven (working for a higher purpose)
Digitail is one of the Romanian startups that has had rapid growth. Could you tell us a few things about the acceleration experience and what you appreciate the most from it?
It definitely takes you out of your comfort zone. And there are a lot of bets you need to make. Some of those bets can risk the entire company and everything the team worked on. Unfortunately, there’s no right and wrong but mentors can help you avoid mistakes and keep on track.
Digitail was part of Fast Track Malmo 2019. It was an amazing experience where we got our first external investment. However, what helped us more was the know-how we got from mentors with incredible experience and vision. The fact that they believed in us, gave us wings.
As far as I know, the Digitail team is divided: part of it is in Iași and the other part in Barcelona. We are talking about 2 different ecosystems. Could you name some of the definitory characteristics for each? What would “borrow” from the Spanish entrepreneurial ecosystem to be implemented in the Romanian one?
Our goal is to be a distributed co-located team. In other words, we want to be able to work with the best talent around the world but still keep some of the advantages of working from the same place as your colleagues.
Even though we are mastering remote quite well, we haven’t found a way to simulate the exhilarating experience of face to face meetings, spontaneous discussions, and watercooler debates.
Going back to the question — from the perspective of entrepreneurial ecosystems, I would rather say we sit between the Romanian one and the Swedish one.
In Romania, we don’t have yet the appetite for “global and big” and we do not have yet many examples of the startups that “made it”.
Sweden does have this, plus an extremely well-built mentorship and financial structure to support the growth of startups.
Romania does have an awesome taxing system for startups and the advantages of lower costs compared to other ecosystems. In other words, it’s easier to start with lower capital. But if you target to “conquer” only the Romanian market, you will remain an “Eastern European” or “nationwide” company which won’t be appealing for international VC’s.
All-in-all, I feel everything is moving faster towards a direction that enables Romanian startups to go for global growth. We were extremely lucky to receive the help of the Romanian ecosystem and this wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the entrepreneurial hubs and great leaders that are making it happen!
If you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?
A few of the mistakes I identified:
- We definitely didn’t build an MVP and went with building the whole things we dreamed of
- Instead of talking with customers we talked with people that knew the industry. Great advice, but they weren’t the people who would have paid for the solution – big difference.
- We didn’t focus on one problem, we tried solving more at once.
- We targeted all veterinarians, not taking into account differences between different types of clinics.
- We started part-time – not being fully committed from day 1
- We didn’t take hard decisions fast enough
- The transition from an operational role to an enabler could have been better
Do you have any general advice for the ones who might consider entrepreneurship as a career opportunity?
Brace! It will be the most emotional rollercoaster you will ride. The best part is that it won’t be in vain. At the end of it, or even during the journey, you will see the results of your efforts, you will meet amazing people (that share your dream or have their own), grateful customers, happy team members and a better version of yourself.