David speaks with Sondre Rasch, Co-founder and CEO of SafetyWing, a global social safety net for remote workers and companies.
They talked about:
🌐 Conceptualizing digital countries
💼 Sondre's early entrepreneurial experience
🌱 Formative experiences and aspirations
🎯 Choosing the right problems to solve
🤔 Exploring intuition and judgement in decision-making
🚀 Journey of building two YC-backed companies
🎙 Listen in your favourite podcast player
📹 Watch on Youtube
👤 Connect with Sondre:
Twitter: @SRasch | https://twitter.com/SRasch
Website: Safety Wing | https://safetywing.com/
📄 Show notes:
00:00 | Intro
02:27 | Conceptualizing digital countries
05:31 | Sondre's early entrepreneurial experience
09:58 | Formative experiences and aspirations
13:26 | Choosing the right problems to solve
21:17 | Exploring intuition and judgement in decision-making
27:41 | Journey of building two YC-backed companies
🗣 Mentioned in the show:
Lauren Razavi | https://theknowledge.io/laurenrazavi-2/
Balaji Srinivasan | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balaji_Srinivasan
Safety Wing | https://safetywing.com/
Plumia | https://plumia.org/
Superside | https://www.superside.com/
Ethereum | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethereum
Eliezer Yudkowsky | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Robin Hanson | https://theknowledge.io/robinhanson-1/
👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
🌐 Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com
📽️ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/davidelikwu
📸 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/delikwu/
🕺 TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@delikwu
🎙️ Podcast: http://plnk.to/theknowledge
📖 EBook: https://delikwu.gumroad.com/l/manual
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Career Hyperdrive is a live, cohort-based course that helps people find their competitive advantage, gain clarity around their goals and build a future-proof set of mental frameworks so they can live an extraordinary life doing work they love.
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[00:00:00] Sondre: I am a big fan of like, using multiple types of reasoning, multiple ideas. So if I discover something in multiple ways, that increases its likelihood of being real. So I think you can really trust your kind, there, there are some signals in your heart that I think are good, or maybe they're only good when they're trained. So a bit of caveat here, but I find that my like, whatever I'm interested in or is cool or even fun, that's somehow, that's a pretty good signal actually. When I think it's real, I'm not saying that I wanna be seen doing something like, what creates this like in the public conversation, this fad rollercoaster.
This week, I'm sharing part of my conversation with Sondre Rasch. Now, Sondre is the co founder and CEO of SafetyWing, which is a startup that's building a global digital safety net for remote workers and companies.
So, first of all, We had to split this conversation into a few parts.
Sondre was such an interesting guest. I think this was a really fun and wide ranging conversation. So you will definitely want to tune back in for the next parts of this. But in this part today, you're going to hear us talking about conceptualizing digital countries. Then we talk about Sondre's early entrepreneurial experiences, his formative experiences and his aspirations.
Then we talk about, as a founder, how do you choose the right problems to solve? And then we talk about exploring intuition and judgment and taste in decision making, how crucial they are and how to develop them.
And then we talk about Sondre's journey of building not one, but two Y Combinator backed companies. So before becoming the co founder and CEO of SafetyWing, Sondre was actually also the co founder of Consus, which became SuperSide.
So he's been on a really interesting journey, and you're going to hear us talking about some of the different facets of what it's like building YC backed companies, and generally how to develop as a founder and entrepreneur.
So, you can get the full show notes transcript and also read my newsletter at theknowledge.io. And you can find Sondre on Twitter @Srasch and on his website Safetywing at Safetywing.Com. If you love this episode, please do share it with a friend because it helps us tremendously to find other listeners just like you.
[00:02:27] David Elikwu: I was speaking with Lauren Razavi, there was a lot that I'd previously thought from listening to Balaji speak that I didn't fully conceptualize. I didn't have the, didn't have it fully modeled in my mind like, okay, what's it going to look like to be able to have digital countries and this idea that people will autonomously gather together and start to create things.
[00:02:51] David Elikwu: And you know, he talks, I think more recently he started talking about kind of like the gray tribe and the red tribe and the blue tribe, and how these different tribes will coordinate together. And actually, it's his idea of the gray tribe that becomes this autonomous, digital thing that can become separate from, you know, technocrats in San Francisco or in whatever place that you are physically.
[00:03:11] David Elikwu: And yeah, so it's only more that I've thought about actually what you guys are doing that's actually helped me to bridge some of that gap.
[00:03:17] David Elikwu: But does that resonate with you? I don't know, you met with Balaji recently. How do of the connection between your ideas?
[00:03:24] Sondre: You know, since the beginning of SafetyWing he's been like the only other person that I know of that seems to have had this like sa, there's also one sci-fi author, but like kind of had this like same intuition that, oh, we're about to enter the age of internet countries. And he has this particular approach to it.
[00:03:44] Sondre: It's not the same as ours, I would say, like we have a particular, I would say we have a slightly more pragmatic approach or slightly more friendly to the existing order. I would say, Balaji is more of a value in his words, like he has voice in exit. We're a little bit more friendly to the existing order, or we're very right. So that's our uniqueness, but that also makes our approaches very complimentary, I think.
[00:04:09] Sondre: You know, we're trying to, you know, our internet country project is this, well, it's Plumia and it's SafetyWing, right. And eventually they emerge together as this internet country with a passport. And the MVP is coming next year, the kind of nomad border pass sort of shein for digital nomads. And with that, we have all these, you know, these approaches illustrated in that, because we have 80 countries have implemented these nomad visas. And then we we're making this like Chang as I said, like for countries with nomad visas.
[00:04:37] Sondre: And, yeah. So, so that's, that's one difference. But when I say like, similarities, similarities, I think it's just the logic that this is sort of inevitable. And that I am not exactly sure what comes from, yeah, I think it's just a, if you're in this kind of realm of maybe the knowledge space or the internet economy, it just seems obvious.
[00:04:57] Sondre: I mean, logically, I think the strongest point is just that the social institutions will follow the reality that you're in, the constraints that you're in.
[00:05:06] Sondre: So in that sense, the fact that we have the internet, we're all living on it. You and I are talking, you don't know where I am. I don't know where you are, but we can cooperate. And then you have this growing internet economy.
[00:05:17] Sondre: And all the infrastructure has to be rebuilt, you know, in that area. You know, when you go, like throughout history, you see that, when technology changes, the scope of the social institutions changes with it. So I think that's probably where the intuition comes from.
[00:05:30] David Elikwu: Sure. That makes a lot of sense.
[00:05:31] David Elikwu: So I was thinking maybe let's go back a step just because there's gonna be so many questions that I actually want to ask you. Some philosophical, some very practical in terms of what you're working on and how you see it being built out. But I am really interested to start from, I think when you were 12 or 13, you started a business, you had a server in your room and you were selling like not internet service. You were, you were selling like server space
[00:05:59] Sondre: Mm-Hmm. . Yes.
[00:06:00] David Elikwu: to a bunch of companies. So tell me, first of all, how do you get the idea of doing that? I think from hearing you speak before. You had met someone while playing an online game, so actually, first of all, what kind of games were you playing at 12 and 13 that would lead you to, to finding the kind of people that at that age, you're gonna start selling service space to people in Norway?
[00:06:21] Sondre: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I can tell you that exactly. So the, the game was called Planetarion. I don't know if it exists anymore, but it was very much a game of its age. So it's, it's like a, MMORPG, multi, massive multiplayer role playing game. But you kind of have your own planet. It was browser based. So in your browser, you log into your planet, there's like hundreds of thousands of people each with their own, and you're gathered in galaxies and they're from all over the planet and you sort of build out your planet and your armies and whatever.
[00:06:55] Sondre: And this was a really good base to cooperate with people. And like this is like, what is it? 99, 2000. So you're, you're cooperating in these alliances over IRC, which is Slack. It's the precursor to Slack. It's what Slack was modeled on.
[00:07:10] Sondre: And in doing that, you then we, I learned to build some things. So one bots, IRC bots that would interact with web scripts to basically we, we build this battle calculator to calculate in advance or if we're gonna win or not.
[00:07:26] Sondre: And then we would have like bots that would sort of pinging people to like, wake up, Hey, you gotta react to whatever send your fleet this way. And so it's such a good practice. Everything we did in this game.
[00:07:38] Sondre: And I think a lot of these things are relevant for modern companies. Running those lines looked a lot more like running modern companies. In fact, they were better even than modern companies. They, they were so much better at harnessing mythology and story and like aesthetics than modern companies are like really poor story. But that it can, you can get so much motivation from that.
[00:07:59] Sondre: So yeah, that was when I met someone. So I basically learned to make a website, learned to do some PHP thing for the game. And I just got curious because I got into, you know, hots script as I was learning the things, you know, I, I came across the idea of a setting up your own website. And you know, I had to set up like a Linux computer C panel just to host my own website and I don't know exactly, I'm probably, I'm an entrepreneurial band.
[00:08:23] Sondre: I can't remember the exact moment. I was like, oh, I'm gonna start offering this. But anyway, somewhere along the line, that idea came into my mind and I made this website with this, yeah, Romanian and Dutch guy I met on that game.
[00:08:35] David Elikwu: That's awesome. And then you later sold it, right? Or at least you sold your customers to internet service provider.
[00:08:40] Sondre: Yeah, exactly.
[00:08:42] David Elikwu: What was that process like? Was that a, a very simple thing or did you have to learn anything to go into that?
[00:08:48] Sondre: So computers back then, I don't know if you recall this, but it was like it was a frontier. It was a little bit wild westy. I mean, some of it still is, but it was definitely back then. So like someone had like servers or were like a hacker. They were like super badass.
[00:09:03] Sondre: So there was someone in the, in the neighborhood who had this like I don't know, like internet service provider, but kind of hacky one, like they've been able to get in this cable and, and they were offering, and and a friend of mine worked there and they had a web hosting service. It was through a friend of mine, that, you know, essentially this introduction was made and.
[00:09:23] Sondre: And this was during a time when things were kind of going well in the internet economy, so you had a lot of these offers right and left. I, I wouldn't say like, what did I learn from that experience? I did learn something, you know, how did I get customers? I would go in these forums where people would say, hi, I have this and this hosting need. And you would kind of like just suggest, oh, we can host, we can host you for this and this amount.
[00:09:46] Sondre: And you really notice that when you just offer the same as anyone else. You end up bidding down to your kind of marginal cost. So after that definitely learn the lesson that you wanna have some kind of unique product to offer.
[00:09:58] David Elikwu: Fair. Okay. That makes sense. Fast forwarding to now you, you've ran two YC backed companies. What do you think in some of these early days was probably the most formative experience? I think you ran another business in maybe around 2007, 2008. When you were 14, you said that you had this vision of, okay, you wanna move to San Francisco and build a Silicon Valley company, like, first of all, where did that aspiration come from? Did you have entrepreneurs in your family or something like that? And what would you say is probably the most formative experience that you had that was like a trigger point of, okay, it's not just a vision or an idea or something I'd like to do, but this is actually something that I can definitely do.
[00:10:37] Sondre: Yeah, I appreciate the well researched episode as most formative experience, the most formative experience for the sort of direction change. I mean, I felt like I grew up on the internet a little bit. I remember one very formative experience was just that I, I think I was searching on asks what's the meaning of life? And one of the top answers was this blog post by this kind of strange rationalist personnel called Eliezer Yudkowsky which is, by the way, there's a long thread from him to Robin Hanssen, which is why I knew about that when we talked earlier.
[00:11:11] Sondre: And that was, that was really formative. I mean, it's funny because it's so opposite to what he's saying now. I mean, he has this reasoning there that essentially the purpose of a being is to make a higher state of that being. So it was, it was a pro AI, it was pro let's make AI article, which is funny because now it's the exact opposite.
[00:11:29] Sondre: That was really formulated because I discovered this subculture. And I think probably through there, this sort of, these subcultures that are very prominent on the internet are usually in the Bay Area for some reason. I think the Bay Area is kind of the center of the internet. And, and it was back then. So yeah, that was probably the most formative experience.
[00:11:46] Sondre: But when I, yeah, the second it was never a company, but like kind of business thing, was this recruiting platform that was with the same Romanian guy. The EU was about to be expanded, I was about to start college and we had this idea that, hey, there's a lot of great engineers in Romania, maybe we could deliver that to Norway and have this idea of delivering them to staffing companies, which was a good idea, but I didn't realize that it was a pro-cyclical idea. So we were able to get a customer, and then the kind of global financial crisis issue 2007, happened and that market just went to zero immediately because selling two staffing companies only exists in like the top of a bull market.
[00:12:25] Sondre: So yeah, that was my top lesson from that time was you know, it, it's just as hard to make an enduring, solve an enduring problem than a, like a timely temporary one. But they go away. So that's another hard learned lesson.
[00:12:38] David Elikwu: Okay, sure.
[00:13:26] David Elikwu: What you were saying earlier just took me back to those early days of the internet. I mean, not, not the very earliest days, but my earliest days. Just thinking about all those old forums and yeah, you're right, it definitely was just this wild west kind of time. You have ask Js, even like Yahoo answers, all these like random websites where people would just onto things and you'd find your way onto some weird blog or some random forums with hackers and different people like that and, and that was really a big part of how I learned a lot of things about the internet and things like that.
[00:13:57] David Elikwu: Because I think actually the precursor to that, for me anyway, was just, okay, learning about websites, wanting to learn to make my own websites. There was a library not far from my house. I went there. You just get books on how to do PHP and MySQL, how to write, you know, C++, just basically from books. I have no idea how any of these things fit together. I dunno what the best coding language is. I don't have any, oh, Python as well. All of those, I forget the name, but somethings for dummies, right? So you have all these C++ for dummies. I would just take all of those out of the library and just sit at home, just trying to figure things out. And then that's how you suddenly start getting into these spaces.
[00:14:35] David Elikwu: But something that you mentioned right at the end there that I thought was interesting is just this concept of, okay, choosing the right problems to solve and how, you know, depending on what you're working on, depending on how the market conditions change, suddenly you could be working on the wrong thing, suddenly you could be working on something that is not as useful.
[00:14:52] David Elikwu: I'd be interested to know how you pick the projects that you work on throughout your career and even now, and how do you choose to work on things that are enduring rather than things that could end up being a market fad. ' Cause I think sometimes, just this idea that sometimes people try to forecast into the future and try and build things in the future, but actually there's a little bit of a trap there where, for example, let's say just a year or two ago with NFTs, right. There is definitely a future world where NFTs are actually a legitimate part of many people's lives, but it might just not be what it was in 2021. It, it might not look exactly like that, but that is probably somewhere in there. The same thing with Bitcoin, the same with a lot of cryptocurrencies. There's absolutely a future where a lot of people interface with, with crypto as part of their daily lives, but it just might not look like exactly what it looked like when there was a peak in the market and money was freely flowing and everyone could start a crypto exchange and you could start all kinds of companies in the space and obviously all of those companies got washed away and so, yeah, I'd love to know how you think about some of that when you think about building an enduring company.
[00:15:58] Sondre: Yeah, I love this question. It's one of my favorites. So I really appreciate you asking it. I wish a lot more people were, were reflecting on this question.
[00:16:08] Sondre: So the way I think about it, I think is what's real? So if you think about how we define real one approach to it could be something like what's enduring, right? If something just, you know, this is just a flash, it's just an illusion, right? It's, it's real in the sense that exists in that moment. But something that just like endures that's very real, like, you kind of have to contend with that.
[00:16:33] Sondre: So how do you tell what's real? And I certainly find that the, the global eye, the public conversation is really poor at discerning what's real.
[00:16:42] Sondre: And a lot of the time just comes across as this, like, rollercoaster of fashion. But even the critics don't sound that good, right? So it's like you have these like, people who roll on the rollercoaster fashion and then you have these like very boring critics who it's just like, don't believe in anything.
[00:16:59] Sondre: And I don't find, so that's how public conversation. And it's not great because it is really important to choose what problem to work on and to solve a real problem to not waste your time.
[00:17:09] Sondre: So how do I tell? I am a big fan of like, using multiple types of reasoning, multiple ideas. So if I discover something in multiple ways, that increases its likelihood of being real. So I also really, I think you can really trust your kind, there, there are some signals in your heart that I think are good, or maybe they're only good when they're trained. So a bit of caveat here, but I find that my like, whatever I'm interested in or is cool or even fun, that's somehow, that's a pretty good signal actually. When I think it's real, I'm not saying that I wanna be seen doing something like, what creates this like in the public conversation, this fad rollercoaster.
[00:17:50] Sondre: I think it's because people are too concerned with what something looks like to others. And then you get this, it's like a Ouija board, or do you have they seen that thing where people stand around a circle and they hold some, some, some thing and it kind of moves on its own. But it's not, right. It's just like an emergent movement from the crowd. But if you just aren't, you shouldn't be concerned with what, what other people think about it. That's not a good model. That's all, that will almost always lead you to fashion because there are way more unreal fashions than there are like real enduring problems to solve.
[00:18:25] Sondre: So yeah, so, I like economics game theory. But I also like, I like idealism. Like I really like this kind of mode of thinking, like what should be is a really good guide. Yeah, economics, meaning like eastern economic opportunity.
[00:18:39] Sondre: I don't really like the expression of arbitrage, but I'll give you one example, like when in my previous company it was a freelancer platform.
[00:18:45] Sondre: I knew about that market, I knew about companies. So I thought, hey, there are agencies that charge like 10X this and they like super bad. Could you just somehow improve the consistency and quality of like the freelancer marketplace to make a product? And that became company Superside.
[00:19:03] Sondre: And that was like an economic realization. And then there was like a game theory reasoning in there, which was this idea which we had in our Work Combinator application video, which was this thing called COIs Ethereum, which is like, why do companies exist?
[00:19:15] Sondre: And Ethereum says, well, they exist because it's cheaper to coordinate within a company than between the companies. And so if you were to reduce that down to zero, then in theory you could, that would be smaller in companies and you a lot that is previously done inside the company will be done without.
[00:19:33] Sondre: So here I'm just not dropping three, these are three kind of like widely disparate reasoning ideas. Oh, there was also an idealistic one in there, right. Which is that I, I personally really liked the idea of the freedom that came from working on the internet, right? I was really attracted to sort of digital nomad idea and this sort of being able to live wherever. And I saw that having income on the internet, unlocked all those doors and can become this escape hatch.
[00:19:58] Sondre: Yeah, so then you had like multiple layers here, right? It's like opportunity, there is this like logical game theoretical reason for why my work, there is this idealistic reason to do it. So yeah, multiple good reasons and it sticks with me for a while and then I just know it's good. And then I will also air it with people who have a good judgment.
[00:20:20] Sondre: And yeah, with Safetywing even more so right, then I also knew, I had the problem myself that I la later found to be really good and, but that's like, give her that a hundred times, but it definitely is a good point. She knows something is real if you had the problem yourself and had a really mediocre solution to it. That's a really good evidence.
[00:20:38] Sondre: I also have this thing that I think I do naturally, but which is really helpful, which is that I start a project and then I just turn the kind of ambition up to 11. So with Safetywing it's the same thing. So it's like, I noticed this problem where the freelancers didn't have access to sort of income production social safety net, and then they're like, okay, we've gotta make that and that has to be global and digital. And because I had this policy job, I thought we could make it. And then you just turn that knob of ambition up to 11, like what's the ideal future version of this? And that's the kind of internet country that kind of emerges at that point.
[00:21:13] Sondre: Well, thanks for bearing with me on that. I'm just exploring my own mind there. I.
[00:21:17] David Elikwu: No, I love it. I love it. I was actually, I was taking notes. I have so many notes from well, first of all, preparing for this conversation, but even what you were saying, I think you mentioned a lot of really interesting things, and I love the, the Ouija board analogy. It's something I haven't thought about before.
[00:21:31] David Elikwu: I'll probably need to spend a little bit more time thinking about it, but I think it's really an interesting model for how ideas can emerge. It's kind of like just the emergent properties of people standing around or having some intense focus on a particular thing or particular area can almost like manifest some strange properties. But it might not always be directionally correct and it could be misleading. Sometimes it's accurate and sometimes it's useful. But sometimes it can be misleading, as you say. And that, that's a really interesting analogy.
[00:22:01] David Elikwu: I think one other thing that you mentioned a few times from a few different angles that is something I've been thinking about I need to write about, is just this idea of induction or judgments you mentioned and like your guts and the extent to which you can trust your gut. And I think it's, it's something a lot of people will mention, particularly you'll hear maybe founders or investors talking about, okay, I did this because I trusted my gut or investors will say, you know, I invested because I trust my gut. And I think this can also be incredibly misleading to people. Although it is one of the most important things that you could have. So taste and judgment are probably two of the most highly useful traits that you could develop. But I think one key thing with intuition that a lot of people overlook, and I don't mean the successful people, actually, it's probably the inverse in a sense.
[00:22:46] David Elikwu: So even you mentioned, you know, trying to think about like what parts of intuition are useful. So I would probably split it into, there's two parts of it in my mind. One part of intuition is your data. So how much data have you encountered? How many things have you tried in the past that you've learned from? Or how much data have you gathered from watching other people try things or just from, you know, research or seeing things out in the world? That's kind of how your brain works. It's a prediction machine, but it works based on just data points that you've gathered over the entire course of your life. So a super easy example is when you are eating, I was actually just thinking about this the other day. You know, the part of the reason why people might say it's better to eat slowly is because if you eat quickly, the feeling of being full is your brain predicting how full you are going to be once it's actually processed the food. Your body hasn't processed the food yet, so it hasn't extracted any of the nutrients from the food. So the feeling of being full is a hundred percent just manufactured by your brain to stop you from eating too much. And it's just guessing that based on, it's getting the sensory data of you are looking at the plate, you are looking at all this stuff, and based on everything you've eaten before, all the portion sizes you've had before, it can make a very quick influence about, and also how quickly you're eating and how much you're eating. You know, it can make an influence about, okay, when is enough? How much have you had? When is enough? But if you eat too quickly, by the time the signal, so Ghrelin is the neurotransmitter that's responsible for it or the hormone responsible for it. But that signal hasn't even reached your body, right? And so you can very quickly eat too much before your brain has had the chance to, to send the signal to your body and say, Hey, that's enough.
[00:24:18] David Elikwu: So I know I've just rambled and gone off on a tangent, but the point of that was, you know, data points are power brain works, and then you combine that with the other side of intuition, which is your pattern matching ability. And that's like the innate, the actual part. And I think that you can actually train, but some people are definitely just born way better at that than others. And so I think it's a function of those two parts, and I think that's the part that people miss, is that, you know, how do you know the extent to which you can trust your gut or trust your intuition? I definitely think for a lot of people, there's some people that just say, oh yeah, I'm gonna trust my gut, but like, how much data have you actually gathered? There's no point trusting your gut if you don't actually have enough data points to make a useful inference. All intuition is doing is just making like a, a super quick, you are skipping, it's like an abstracted version of if you had spent a long time thinking through this thoroughly, where would you come to? You're kind of almost guessing that in advance. So instead of taking the time to think through something and follow the precise logical chain, you are just abstracting it up and saying, you know, here's the summary that's what my gut's gonna tell me, just based on here's what I know. Here's how quickly I can pattern match, or how useful I compare to match.
[00:25:24] David Elikwu: And so I think that's just an important factor is that, when people try and pick what they should do, when people look at projects and things like that, I would definitely urge a lot of people to actually try and get some data points.
[00:25:36] David Elikwu: And you've been gathering data points your entire life, right? You've tried loads of different things and so your judgment, your intuition is going to be very strong. You've been working on your pattern matching ability, not necessarily with intent, you might not have known that's what you were doing, but you've definitely done that. You've come across loads of scenarios, you've come across loads of data, and the combination of those two things is gonna, you're gonna have a very sharp intuition for finding some of those opportunities. And being able to differentiate between the opportunities that are useful and the opportunities that are just, you know, memetic, right?
[00:26:06] David Elikwu: Lots of people are building something in the NFT space. Maybe that's what I should do, and I think I saw a lot of people doing that in the last few years, not in a disparaging way. So it's not, there's nothing wrong with that, but just, I don't know, I think this actually goes to the other point that you are making, which is about idealism. And I think the heart with which you come to a project with can kind of, in a sense determine the outcome, right? If you are just doing something and the outcome is, I just wanna make as much money as possible. The way that you analyze certain businesses that you may or may not get involved with, the nature of that changes, right? If your primary objective is just making as much money as possible, it actually doesn't matter if it's an enduring idea, it doesn't matter if it's going to last very long. It just matters, you know, how quickly can I make as much money as possible? And so, your value stack changes accordingly.
[00:26:54] David Elikwu: Whereas if you are thinking idealistically, what do I want to bring into the world? What ideas are gonna last for a very long time? How do I see the world changing and, and what should the world look like? Then that immediately, you know, there's some easy low hanging fruit that you could have been chasing after that you might have to put aside and say, I don't have the time to focus on that.
[00:27:14] David Elikwu: Okay, so to turn all of that into a question I was interested to know, I mean, you had these two YC backed companies, you worked on Superside and then you, you're working on SafetyWing. Very often, sometimes when you see someone has worked on two companies in a short period of time, it's because the first company hasn't worked and so maybe they pivoted or they started again. Superside is still going strong. I think it was originally conscious, but I know someone that works at Superside, so it's definitely still happening.
[00:27:41] David Elikwu: So I'd love to know, you know, first of all, how did you come into that business? What made you decide to start doing that, especially with the co-founding group that you had? And then what made you then go on to start SafetyWing?
[00:27:52] Sondre: Yeah, I'll answer that. Can, if I could just briefly comment on the, the things you said. So I loved all by the way, and really appreciate your line of thinking. Like I, you're mentioning exactly the kind of thing that I, in my heart feel is like, is the most underrated enduring subjects.
[00:28:08] Sondre: And you know, I agree with you the overall point about like, look, you need reason and, and observation. And within that observation pattern match you know, you have subsets of taste and judgment. So underrated skills and I think of taste as like knowing what's good and judgment is like kind of knowing what works ish. And they can be honed, and taste is such an underrated concept. People associated with pretentious people. Oh, like I have such a good taste in whatever wine, so I can show off. I'm like, yeah, okay. So that's true, that is also taste. But you can have like, taste in products or companies or even attitudes. You can just know what's, what's good. And if you don't know what's good, your intuition is gonna be much poorer guide. And same with same what works. It's just if you've seen things trying and fail, trying and fail, you kind of build this judgment and it's one of the greatest skills.
[00:29:01] Sondre: So anyway, that was just to quickly reflect on that.
[00:29:04] Sondre: So yeah, so I started the first one, Superside. My friend Frederick from college. You know, it was such a great time. It was first company. I have no idea how, what I'm doing. But really glad for the approach we took, which was this like extremely gung-ho approach. So we were very fast, like we didn't have any expectations of success, we were kind of playing around almost, but acted really fast. So we were able to kind of run through everything that doesn't matter and all mistakes super fast.
[00:29:30] Sondre: And so we got to work Y Combinator. We had a period of hypergrowth, like absolute explosive growth, which I've also had one point in SafetyWings history when we launched remote health, which is an interesting time. I mean, it's, it's a luxury problem, but. it's nevertheless a problem. And yeah, that was during work coming until we, we were growing 20% a week. And then we made some mistakes and that kind of flatline, and then we had to spend like a year to figure out why? Turned out we had basically figured out how to get customers before we had made a product people wanted. And so it was also where I discovered in during Y combinator the problem that became SafetyWing.
[00:30:06] Sondre: So and I discovered from multiple angles, I discovered myself, I was the digital nomad. I live abroad, didn't have the social safety net. I discovered with the customers, they keep saying freelancers don't have access to the social safety net income, variation is a huge problem for them. And I had also like tons of other observations that solidified this point.
[00:30:25] Sondre: So it was actually already in March, February, 2016 that I thought of, in a way SafetyWing.
[00:30:33] Sondre: And I realized immediately that like I couldn't sleep all night. Like when I went back, like it was, I realized immediately like this idea is enormous and so important and so awesome. It's weirdly well timed despite being super early.
[00:30:47] Sondre: So, but I couldn't do it obviously because we were doing Superside, which went well and was amazing. So, it will go another two years before we really start SafetyWing. And what happened during that time was, yeah, that the sort of pull got stronger and stronger and it actually, we started first SafetyWing almost like, in the beginning, Superside actually owned part of SafetyWing and then we later kind of made a swap of stocks. So, when we realized that it's some company. So it was this kind of gradual start in 2017, that caused it to happen. So I still have a very good relationship with my co-founder at Superside Frederick, who still runs Superside.
[00:31:23] Sondre: Superside is doing great. You know, they, they've built, I would say they now, because, it's been so many years, but they've built a really enduring company there. And yeah, it's a really solid foundations, you know, that's a company that's gonna endure and become big eventually.
[00:31:37] Sondre: Yeah, I mean, not that they aren't, I mean they have like a thousand employees. But yeah, so, so that was that. So it was this pool and kind of dipping the toes in, and then it just had legs, you know, SafetyWing in a big way. And so I started that with Sarah and Hans, co-founders, lawyer, programmer, just two of the smartest people I knew essentially. Yeah, like from the beginning, SafetyWing was very idealistic leaning, like you said, I also really appreciate that line of reasoning. I completely agree. Also, one of my favorites, underrated things like in the world is the sort of the, the pragmatic utility of idealism. And it is exactly what you said it is because when you have that perspective, you choose, you're more likely to choose enduring large real problems.
[00:32:24] Sondre: So yeah, SafetyWing is exceedingly idealistic. But still, you know, with enough of the feet on the ground so that we were able to, you know, structure our roadmap to say, okay, what's our, what's the first little tidbit of value we're gonna make that will give us the money and the know-how to, to kind of get to the next stage?
[00:32:44] Sondre: And so it's, it's worked out. They're both pretty lovely companies actually. I really, I'm really grateful that ended up the way it did with both of them.
[00:32:52] David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.