What have you learned about the risks of being a young entrepreneur, William Wolfram?

William Wolfram founded his first company at the age of 13.

Katja Alaja, 31.01.2013

He is now 20 and heads DealDash, a fast-growing e-commerce company. DealDash auction site encourages bidders to interact and compete against each other to buy products at a fair price. If a bidder fails to win a product, he can buy it at a fair price and his bids will be refunded. Between 2010 and 2011, the turnover of the company grew by over 300% to 6.2 million euros. Wired magazine has featured DealDash as one of the leading European startups.

Did You Think About the Risks When You Started Out As a Young Entrepreneur?

No, I was naive and jumped straight into the most competitive market in the world.

What Was the Biggest Risk Your Company Took?

We did not talk enough with our customers and we developed DealDash based on too many assumptions. Our typical customer is a reasonably affluent retired female who lives in the countryside in the USA. Developing a service for her is different from what intuitively makes sense to me. Based on customer feedback we have, for example, developed No Jumper auctions. They differ from regular auctions in that new bidders are not allowed to join the auction once the price goes over 5 U.S. dollars. This makes winning easier. We also test every DealDash feature on 5–10% of users for a couple of weeks before deciding whether to roll it out to the general public.

How Do You See Your Company's Risks Now?

There are a lot of risks, but we have a solid and open approach to dealing with them. We have internal auditing processes which follow our key numbers on a daily basis and detect any major changes in customer behavior or procurement patterns. We tackle and follow up risk factors at board and audit committee meetings. We have grown our cash reserves as a buffer in case unexpected difficulties arise.

What Have You Learned About Leadership from Your Mentors?

I try to embrace a data driven approach to being a leader. It is up to me to give targets and facilitate my team in achieving them. However, one has to realize that not even the opinions of a hundred experts or CEOs are worth as much as one test using accurate data.

PROFILE MAGAZINE 1/2013 page 7
TEXT: KATJA ALAJA

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