Serafin Lion Engel’s first memory of entrepreneurship was at age 4 when he sold strawberries from the family garden in front of his house. In High School at age 17, he created a site called ‘Homeworker Helper’ that would allow students to submit their homework to an A+ student in the respective subject who would help with the required research and give suggestions on how to complete the assignment.
At 20, he founded his first ‘real’ company, Shoutbox, with the aim to make voice the primary means of communication on the Internet. It was the toughest 2.5 years of his life, navigating from one obstacle to another, putting all of the money he had saved into the business, turning down lucrative job offers, and taking time off from college.
“Although Shoutbox failed, I learned what it means to be an entrepreneur and knew that in order to really progress and take the next step, I had to stop trying to only teach myself and reach out to learn from the best entrepreneurs in the world. And this is when I came to Draper U and that changed my life.”
Serafin had the idea for his startup a couple of days before he descended on Draper University. His girlfriend at the time studied fashion, and brands were always trying to figure out what was currently trending among her and her friends, what they did, what they bought, what they talked about. They were setting trends and brands were trying to understand them. At the same time these highly indemand, school going kids are all broke. He thought – ‘What if my friends could simply sell their data?’ Then brands would know what to produce and these kids would get paid. And this is how the idea of Serafin’s data marketplace started.
DataWallet is a C2B data marketplace that allows Internet users to control and monetize their online data anonymously by selling it directly to interested companies. With this platform, Serafin and his team are taking on the scary world of Data Brokerage. It is an industry making north of $260 billion each year made up of companies that sell personally identifiable information without consumer consent and not giving people the chance to intervene and stop the data from being sold. DataWallet turns the data marketplace upside down and puts the personal user in full control over their data, making data brokerage completely transparent, giving back ownership of personal data and paying consumers for what they rightfully own.
Serafin Lion Engel loved the weeks he spent at Draper University. One line of the oath changed his life: “Fail and fail again until you succeed”. For him this mantra perfectly sums up why the greatest entrepreneurs were able to do what they do.
“Draper University helps you liberate your mind from the bizarre concept that the rest of the world is ruled by, which is trying to be perfect all of the time and allowing absolutely no failure. This creates a destructive pressure of such magnitude that it stifles creativity, eradicates innovation, and even keeps people from simply trying something even without putting everything on the line. When I first came to Draper U, I tried to do everything like I had done it in college practice like crazy to get everything right and never fail. I was trying to protect my downside. But at Draper U, you don’t get points for protecting your downside. You get points for either winning by 10x or failing dramatically.”
Serafin landed in 1st place on Pitch Day and raised money from Tim Draper, Marc Benioff and the Alchemist Accelerator. He has built a great team, a great platform, has thousands of people signed up to use the service, put together a “kickass” marketing campaign and will be ready to launch this September.
“I attended the Rotterdam School of Management, one of Europe’s best business schools. I maintained a 4.0 GPA and only had six months left before graduating and being able to take a high paying job, but I decided to take a leave of absence and focus solely on entrepreneurship. Draper U is experimental. It’s hands on. It’s about exploring and coming up with new ideas and trying them out, instead of learning old concepts and being able to recite them like a machine whenever asked to do so. Sometimes, Draper U is even silly. But that is exactly what you learn there, being comfortable trying out new things, being comfortable feeling uncomfortable, stepping outside of your usual self, and just going with it. It’s about liberating yourself.”