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Following the passion: Creating entrepreneurial opportunities

23.08.2019Comments are closed.

Dean Habuš,

SEB LU Alumni, entrepreneur and co-founder of start-ups OptiBar and Coffee O’Clock.

As a passionate entrepreneur, a recent SEB LU graduate, Dean Habuš has contributed to several start-ups. As a co-founder in two start-ups, one as finalist for the Slovenian Start-up of the year 2017 competition, his main job is to discover and develop new opportunities. As a SEB LU alumnus, he preserves close ties with the school while participating in events and giving back to the community as a mentor and a motivator.

You describe yourself as a passionate entrepreneur. What is the most inspiring part of entrepreneurship for you?

I could answer in a cliché way, telling you the answer is creating value for other people. But I think, what inspires me the most is getting from no to yes. All the beauty is in the game, in the process, not in the end result. You know, finding a real problem on the market, creating hybrid business models, testing solutions, cooperating with awesome people, and learning something new every day is really exciting. But again, if you don’t love the process, you probably won’t be inspired.

As a recent SEB LU graduate, to what extent did studies at the SEB LU help you to start on your entrepreneurial path?

It actually helped me a lot, even though there are people who do not agree with me. In my opinion, saying that dropping out of college and starting a business will make you rich like Gates or Zuckerberg is like saying that driving on the wrong side of highway is a good idea – you know, maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t crash. But there’s quite big chance you will crash (read: fail). You know, entrepreneurship is not only about taking high risks, it’s usually quite the opposite – mitigating that risk.

You have been a part in a few start-ups, of them the start-up OptiBar made it to the finals of the Slovenian Start-up of the year 2017 contest. Your passion for coffee led you to found the start-up company Coffe O’Clock, a tricycle coffee bar with a special service and a smile behind. Please, tell us more about these businesses.

Let’s start with Coffee O’Clock. I started this story with my good friend Tomaž, and I still remember the days when we rode that tricycle from my garage to the railway station every morning at 4 a.m., whether it was sunny, rainy, or even stormy. We got to the point where we had a few locations and we signed a strategic partnership deal with the biggest coffee producer in the region. Concerning OptiBar, we created the first comprehensive mobile and web platform where we use several new data sources to deliver exclusive analyses to help optimise the business processes of all stakeholders in the food & drink sectors. As you mentioned, we were selected as finalist for the best start-up of the year, and as well we were invited to Pioneers 500 (top tech companies around the world). Right now, we are making the right small steps that will enable us to reach our vision in the long run, and bring value to all stakeholders in the industry.

What is your advice for young generations aiming to start their own business, what steps should they take in order to succeed?

If you conduct some in-depth research on me, you will see that I am also trying to help others with the Lean Startup Methodology implementation (as a lecturer, mentor, etc.). So a few principles which I follow are:

  • Look for problems (Idea = solution; if the idea/solution does not solve any problem, you won’tbuild a business around it);
  • Get out of the office (Talk with people about problems and ideas. You do not have the answer,the customer does.);
  • Don’t be in love with your idea (Similar to the first. Maybe you will find, that there is a bigger problemon the market that you didn’t see before. Have open eyes for that and don’t be afraid to pivot.);
  • Find a mentor who failed at least once (Ask him what not to do);
  • While you test your product, look for negative answers (Example: why you wouldn’t use my product).

You are not immune to experiencing business failure. The point of failure is an end of the entrepreneurial path for many individuals. How painful is it for entrepreneurs when their businesses die, and how can they continue creating new opportunities?

The first time is really, really hard, and usually, you don’t want to admit to yourself, that it is over with that “chapter.” But I believe that you are not a true entrepreneur until you face failure. Also, you can comfort yourself, that you learned something from it if this makes it any easier. Anyway, the next time it will be easier and there will be a next time for sure. I think that this is the moment where it is shows what kind of a person you are. If you are like me, you will search for problems and opportunities all the time, and you’ll test them and see which one is worth solving. Search for problems (what kind of problems are people faced with), not ideas or solutions. If you create a solution for a problem that does not exist, you won’t be able to build a business around it.

Would you say that not giving up when you face failure and continuing to search for new opportunities, and constantly producing new ideas is an important characteristic of a passionate entrepreneur? 

I would say yes, but with a few remarks. You have to know when the right time is to take a break. It’s great if you can think about new ideas or solutions to the problems you face, but you don’t want to get caught into it – running in a circle. I usually prefer “smart work” instead of hard work. When I work, I work, that’s it. But again, when I come to a point where I feel overwhelmed or stressed about problems, what helps me the most is actually “turning my head off.” I love spending time with family or going on a hike or a bike ride. I accomplish much more when I am in the right work/life balance compared to only working hard or hustling, like we call it nowadays.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now, my main focus is on OptiBar, which is in the phase where we found a new problem on the market worth solving to bring us closer to our vision. Apart from that, we also started a few other start-ups in different industries where we are testing different business models and value propositions.

What would you vote for as your best learning experience this past year?

Marriage and my first born. Having a child especially sets your priorities straight and boosts your productivity. You soon realise what is the most important stuff you have to do during a day. I thought I was productive before that, but right now my motivation to spend as much time with him as possible is forcing me to come up with solutions to problems faster.


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