“As a child, I didn’t like going to school,” he says. “I was more interested in traveling around the world.”
And Johannes Larsson not just fulfilled his wish, but his globetrotting has also led him into the world of startups, or rather the world of uncertainties.
A Swedish by birth, Larsson stumbled upon online marketing when he was just 15 years old. He started learning about it and building websites. He sensed a huge opportunity in this space. This is when he felt there was no point wasting time studying in school and college when he could make money at a very young age.
“However, it was hard to make any money out of this business, but I was intensely curious and continued to experiment with different methods,” he recounts his story for e27. “I worked hard but I couldn’t still earn enough money until I turned 18. The money was still considerably less than a thousand euros per month. However, I was happy and this small amount kept me going,” he goes on.
Larsson continued down on this path for one more year. When he turned 19, he started making enough money to meet both ends. It was this year he moved to Malta and decided to work full-time on digital marketing.
“Although it was hard to get by with less than EUR1,500 per month in Malta, I enjoyed this new life. I lived cheaply and spent most of my days working,” he says. “But what was more important was that I got to meet new entrepreneurs, who had many more years of experience than I did. I learnt a lot from them.”
By the time he turned 21, his business reached a level that he made his first hire. Shortly after, he hired one more person. He also rented an office, which was something he would not have thought about before.
“It felt great having an office, but a year later I started getting bored. I felt a little bit like an office rat, which was the last thing I wanted to become. I decided this lifestyle wasn’t what I wanted. So I closed the office, let go of my employees, and went out to travel the world. At that time, I wanted to build something that could scale without sacrificing my lifestyle,” he shares.
From then, Larsson decided to travel for at least six months in a row, without having a base, home or any plan, although it felt to him like going a bit backwards. He was still running the business. But at one point of time he realised he could not run the business alone; he had over 400 projects (affiliate sites) in hands and didn’t know where to focus. Time wasn’t enough to handle all of it on his own, and he felt stressed and asked himself whether he had taken the right decision.
“This is when I was forced to think bigger,” he adds. “I was fed up with having my focus all over the place, doing too many things at once, but nothing really good. I realised that I needed to create something valuable instead of dividing my energy and resources to complete many half-done projects. So I picked one project that was the most successful, and completely withdrew the focus on the other 399.”
It was a turning point in his life.
Launched in 2016 in Sweden, Financer.com is a finance products price comparison portal. A user can compare different products such as loans, mortgages, saving accounts, credit cards, insurances, and cryptocurrencies. Visitors can find the cheapest loan, or the highest interest saving account currently on the market according to their needs.
As the business was picking pace, Larsson realised it would be impossible to grow and scale the business without a team. However, he could not imagine going back to the 9am to 5pm office work culture, monitoring employees. Larsson decided to find a way out.
“I hired my first freelancer, who I call intrapreneur today. The idea was that instead of telling your employees what to do, you hire people with the entrepreneurial spirit to help you steer the ship and to build the business together,” he says.
“It was a success. I loved working remotely with him because it allowed more flexibility in my life. After a while, I continued to hire more freelancers, as it became apparent that it was more of a win-win, both for me and the person who I worked with,” he adds. “We built performance-based payment models that motivated the intrapreneur, and it made them inspired to push harder. They were given heavy responsibilities and were rewarded accordingly.”
As of now, there are more than a dozen intrapreneurs in the company; everyone having a stake in the game and being responsible for their own markets. As revenue grew, the company hired more people and improved its product marketing faster.
“I feel this intrapreneur model will become more popular in the years to come, as it promotes growth and development in the company because everyone in the team wants to give their best,” he sounds confident.
Now, with a team of 45 people– all remotely working — in 26 markets across Europe, America and Asia, Financer is a massive success. The company has presence in Indonesia, Kazakhstan The firm generates millions of revenues annually, and in 2018 alone, Financer generated around US$1.69 to US$2.25 million in revenues.
Financer.com plans to expand to more markets in the near future, including China, India and other Southeast Asian countries.
Larsson still keeps on globetrotting, seeking new opportunities for his business and for himself.